3 strategies for tackling tricky interview questions

RRuth November 1, 2023 7:03 AM

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially when the interviewer throws a curveball question you didn’t see coming. This article will provide you with three proven strategies for tackling tricky interview questions and help you go into your next job interview with confidence.

Strategy 1: The STAR method

This method involves structuring your answer as a situation or task (S/T), action, and result (A/R). Use this structure to provide a clear and concise answer that highlights your abilities and accomplishments. Here's how it works:

  • Situation or Task: Describe a specific situation or task you had to handle.
  • Action: Explain what action you took to address the situation or task.
  • Result: Share the results of your action, emphasizing the benefits to your previous employer.

By using this method, you can turn a difficult interview question into an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.

Strategy 2: The 'Problem-Solution-Benefit' strategy

This strategy involves identifying a problem, explaining how you solved it, and then stating the benefits that resulted. It's a great way to showcase your problem-solving and decision-making skills. Here's how it works:

  • Problem: Identify a significant problem you encountered in a previous role.
  • Solution: Explain how you solved it.
  • Benefit: Discuss the benefits that resulted, focusing on the positive impact on your team or company.

With this strategy, you can demonstrate how you bring value to an organization by solving problems.

Strategy 3: The 'Pause-Clarify-Answer' method

Sometimes, a question may be complicated or unclear. Instead of rushing to answer, use the 'Pause-Clarify-Answer' method. Here's how it works:

  • Pause: Take a moment to think about the question.
  • Clarify: If you’re unsure what the interviewer is asking, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.
  • Answer: Once you're clear on what's being asked, provide a thoughtful, concise response.

This strategy helps you avoid misunderstandings and ensures you provide relevant answers. It's especially useful for questions that require critical thinking or when you're asked to recall specific instances from your past experiences.

Dealing with common tricky interview questions

Now that we've covered the strategies, let's apply them to some common tricky interview questions. Here's a table with examples of how to use each strategy:

Question Strategy Example Answer
Tell me about a time when you faced a tough decision. STAR Method Situation: In my previous job as a project manager, we were behind schedule on a major project. Action: I decided to bring in additional resources to get back on track. Result: We completed the project on time, without compromising quality.
How did you handle a conflict with a coworker? Problem-Solution-Benefit Problem: A coworker and I had a disagreement about the direction of a project. Solution: We held a meeting to discuss our views openly and honestly. Benefit: We found a compromise that satisfied everyone and improved the end result.
Can you explain why you changed career paths? Pause-Clarify-Answer I took a moment to think about the reasons for my career change. Then, I explained that I wanted to take on new challenges and grow professionally, which I believed the new career path would offer.

Armed with these strategies, you'll be ready to confidently handle any difficult question that comes your way in your next interview. Remember, preparation is key. Practice these strategies, tailor your responses to fit the job you're applying for, and you're sure to impress your interviewer.

Remember, interviewers aren't trying to trip you up with difficult questions. They simply want to see how you handle challenging situations and gauge your problem-solving skills.

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