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How to prepare for tough interview questions

Rich Hein | May 9, 2014
We spoke with industry experts to get the advice that will help you craft better answers to what are some of the most common, and difficult, interview questions.

Question #3 - What is your biggest weakness?
"No one is perfect, everyone has weaknesses but how those weaknesses are dealt with and improved upon separates candidates during the interview process," says Matthew Ripaldi. Whether we like to admit it or not we all have areas where we need improvement. The hard part is figuring out which area to discuss and how best to frame it. In the end, the interviewer is trying to get a feel for how well you know yourself and what you are doing to learn and grow.

"On the weakness, be equally frank and offer examples where you recognized the weakness and also how you mitigated it in a particular situation and I would equally want to know how you are working to improve that weakness," says Houston Ross, Vice President, COO and CIO of ING Life Insurance Company, Ltd. (Japan).

Scott Saccal offers this last piece of sage advice, "&share a story from your past with examples of how you have been able to successfully take a weakness to a strength that was valued by your previous employer."

Question #4 - What was your biggest career failure?
Just like any of the other questions here, how you frame your answer is what's important. You always want to try to highlight the positive. "I would first share that I've never had a career failure, but that, I've had career learning opportunities that have resulted from adverse situations," says Saccal.

Houston Ross offers this as a possible template for your answer, "In a rush to deliver on a major initiative I failed in leading my team. There was a major system rollout that had been underway for over two years. Toward the end when success was in our sights I stretched the team too much and we skipped what seemed to be unimportant steps and those very things came back to haunt us as we went live."

One great tip is to have a story that demonstrates to the interviewer that learning from that particular failure helped save the bacon at a future date. "Most of us have heard this question before; it is not that we should be afraid of sharing this, but the key is in sharing how we learned from this failure and applied this learning in the future. IT professional's need to focus on the learning rather than the failure itself," says Batra.

Question #5 - Why are you leaving/left your last position?
This question, according to experts, presents the interviewee an opportunity to tell their story. "It's crucial to articulate your career mission and to highlight in a positive way your accomplishments in the previous position and how these contributed to your development as a professional. This allows you to then transition into speaking about the new role, and how it not only capitalizes on your pre-existing capabilities, but permits your continued growth and development," says Saccal.


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