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How to ace the 6 toughest interview questions

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After weeks or months of sending out your CV to prospective employers, you finally land that interview. Time to rejoice! Or panic?

Interviews can be tough. You can prepare, but very often you’re also put on the spot to answer a series of questions that have your head spinning. Thousands of people are looking for jobs in Malaysia, so you need to be able to stand out – and being able to answer the following questions well can make or break your interview.

Instead of being intimidated, practise your answers the following questions ahead of your next interview. Good luck!

1. Why is there a gap in your work history?
There are a number of reasons you might have stopped working for a period of time. Perhaps you took a couple of years off to raise your children; maybe you decided to go it alone and freelance, or perhaps you were simply in a position where you didn’t have to work and could take some time to yourself. All these are valid reasons – but you’ve got to be able to justify them to a potential employer and convince them you’ve still got what it takes to jump back into the workforce.

Think about what you achieved during your time off and consider transferable skills or life lessons you can bring to the job. If you volunteered, then perhaps you picked up new skills around managing people and operating on a budget. If you freelanced, you might have gained skills around client management and adhering to strict deadlines. If you were raising your family, then perhaps you’ve learnt a lot about time management and juggling multiple responsibilities. It’s about how you phrase it – but no matter what, don’t say you did “nothing”.

2. What would your previous employer say about you?
This question is a good one for interviewers, because it makes the interviewee self-reflect on how others might see them. What would your previous boss say about you? Would it all be positive things, or would there be some things you need to work on? Be as honest as possible, but if there are negative aspects to discuss, explain why your boss might have thought that and what you did to improve. No interviewer expects you to be perfect, but they do expect to see a desire to perform better.

Sometimes interviewers also like to ask the similar question: what type of person would your friends say you are? Again, this is to encourage you to self-reflect and respond honestly about the attributes your friends would share about you. Both questions are clever, and give a potential employer some good insight into both your skills and personality.

3. Why are you leaving your current job?
Your answer here might be because of career growth, personal reasons, or issues with the management. Whatever your reason, it’s vital that you keep your answer professional and refrain from saying anything negative about your last job (or colleagues, or boss!) You won’t only put the company in bad light, but yourself as well. If you go around bad-mouthing your previous employer, why would a future employer trust you?

This question isn’t so you can rant, it’s so the interviewer can find out more about your goals and what you want to achieve. Think carefully before responding.

4. What is your biggest weakness?
Whatever you do, don’t respond with, “my biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m such a workaholic”. They are cliched, scripted, and probably not true!

The interviewer wants to see that you can pinpoint areas you need to work on professionally, and that you have an understanding of why that is important to the job you’re interviewing for. Nobody is perfect, nor does anyone expect you to be, so don’t be afraid to say something like, “actually, I have been working on getting better at adhering to deadlines. Previously I would not manage my time well, but this is something I’ve actively been working on, as well as communicating early enough to my boss if I think I am not going to meet his deadline”.

5. Why weren’t you promoted at all over the last two years?
This is a tricky one. Employers want to see that you have grown professionally, picked up new skills and gained more knowledge. If you’ve stayed in the same job (even at different companies) they’re going to assume you don’t have a desire to grow.

If you have legitimate reasons for this, explain them. Maybe it took time for you to pick up the skills you needed for a promotion, and now you’re at the stage where you can shift up – but you’d like to explore other opportunities. Perhaps promotions do not happen quickly at your current workplace – so let the interviewer know if the average time it takes all employees to progress is two years.

6. Why can’t you stay in a job for longer than six months?
Many employers dislike job hoppers because the possibility of them leaving the company is high. However, you can still turn this question around. You can tell the interviewer that you’ve been trying to look for the right job, and after all the trial and errors, you believe that their company is where you fit. Express your interest in searching for professional growth, and a desire to find exactly the right fit. Reassure them that your reason for leaving after six months wasn’t simply because you wanted more money – no one wants to hear that (even if it’s true).

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