Why do some interview questions make you nervous and others you answer with confidence and ease?
We’re all human beings and hardwired to size each other up with judgments (positive and negative) based on past experiences, societal cues, and expectations as a way to alleviate the anxiety we feel when we meet someone new.
An interviewer’s question can make you nervous if it taps into a personal insecurity or fear, or raises a topic you may be uncomfortable discussing.
I know this because I’ve been there. When an employer asked me about my sales career, I answered with grace. When they asked me about how I ended up in Portland, I stumbled my way through an answer. Why? Because I was afraid that I would be judged for my life choices (and my mistakes).
So before the next interview, I made a list of questions that might have me weeping on my resume, rehearsed my answers over and over, and told myself that I was still worthy. And I remembered that the interviewer is human too and that they are more concerned with their own insecurities and fears than they are with mine.
Empower yourself for an interview by knowing your insecurities and practice your answers to difficult questions so you can fake it through your fears.
To get you started, here are three hard interview questions:
Why you were fired from your last job?
According to Alison Green of “Ask A Manager”:
“It’s hard to tell you how you yourself should answer this question without knowing more specifics, but one option might be talking about how you ended up in that situation, what you learned from it, and what you do differently now as a result.”
So plan ahead, practice your response, and don’t let your nerves derail you.
Why do you want this job?
This generally isn’t a tough question… unless, during the course of the interview you realize that you don’t want the job.
I’ve actually been here twice! The best thing to do at this point is to be honest. Thank the interviewer for their time, tell them that you’ve decided that this isn’t a good fit, and give them a reason why.
Both times I was complimented for the courage to be honest and respectful of their time. The interviewers (both heads of companies) offered me their business card and suggested I contact them if I ever needed anything as I moved ahead in my job search.
How many light bulbs are there in Portland?
This is the favorite question of a CEO of a major agency in the Portland metro area. Why does it make you nervous? Because there is no right answer.
Why does she ask it? Because she wants to know how you think. She doesn’t care if you know the answer (how could you?) Don’t let these kinds of questions shake your confidence. Go with your gut and say something like, “The number of light bulbs in Rudolph’s nose on the White Stag sign.”
Ultimately, every interview question is designed to understand your skill set, how you think, and if you are a good culture fit. So take a deep sigh and blow out your fear. Then inhale a big gulp of worthiness and answer the question as best you can.