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How to answer the most hated interview questions


We recently asked you what your most hated interview questions were. Here we share our tips on how to answer them.

1. What’s a weakness of yours that has been mentioned by your colleagues?

In this question, the interviewer could be trying to achieve one of a number of things. Yes, they might genuinely want to know what your weaknesses are, but they are probably also trying to put you on the spot, by veering away from your research about their company and the role.

Be warned: you probably won’t get any points for being overly honest. When faced with this question, never confess to being bad at any of the key prerequisites for the job. Instead, feel free to discuss a weakness of yours which isn’t essential to the role.

Whatever the weakness, it is a good idea to continue on to explain how you have improved on it and are making sure it doesn’t interfere with work. For instance, you might say that you worry a lot about doing everything to a high enough standard. This shows that you are conscientious, but before the interviewer begins to think you are neurotic or under-confident, go on to explain that because you are aware of this flaw, you have found strategies to address it – for instance you ask colleagues and your manager for feedback on projects, so as to gauge whether there really is anything you should be worrying about. If the feedback is good, you tell yourself not to worry. If there is room for improvement, you act on it, rather than dwelling on it.

Some people try to answer this question by picking a ‘fake flaw’ something that could also be seen as a positive. For instance: “some people say I am a bit of a perfectionist, as I like things to be done to the best of standards at all times.” Beware of coming across as too cheesy; after all nobody is perfect.

Think about this question before the interview and take the opportunity to think honestly about your strengths and weaknesses. Choosing something real, but non-essential to the role, and that you have genuinely tried to improve on, will show the employer you are a real person who can be honest and think on their feet.

Stay tuned for more answers to your most hated questions later this week.


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    Clearly this is one of the most useless posts i have ever seen. I will tell you the following: when I was interviewed for my first postdoc, I was 100% honest and some answers irritated the PI and some of the lab members. Still, I got the job and some of those lab-mates who were irritated became my long-term friends and colleagues.

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    Caroline Leopold said:

    Personally, I dislike, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The question seems naive in the modern era mergers, layoffs, sequesters, etc. I know people who stay at the company or university for many years, but I wasn’t one of them. My career was built on lateral moves.

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    Peter Kloehn said:

    I disagree with Alexander’s comment and in fact find this post extremely valuable.

    In an interview situation you will face unexpected questions that will inevitably shift you into a zone of discomfort and it is absolutely critical to be prepared on how to take these questions, before walking into an interview for a job that seems to be tailored for your career goals.

    Catherine’s approach to this question is great, since it gives a positive spin to an identified weakness, thus attesting a positive attitude towards personal development.