Perfectly Imperfect: 5 Questions Hiring Managers Expect You To Struggle With

Picture this: You’ve gotten to the in-person interview process for a job you have been hoping to land for the past couple of weeks. You’re halfway through the interview and things are going great; that is until the hiring manager asks you a question that leaves you stumped. Or you might not even be stumped, rather, you know your answer to the question and you’re worried it could hurt your chances of getting the job.

If you have ever felt this way, remember that you’re not alone. Interviewing for a job and fumbling one or two questions is a fairly common experience, and something the interviewer is prepared for you to do. In fact, this scenario can even work in your favor; seeing how you react to tougher questions and how you handle yourself after you knowingly make a mistake presents a more accurate picture of how you might handle a high-pressure situation in a professional role.

In case you want a heads up regarding where a hiring manager might expect you to trip up during the interview, here are some questions to think about before you head in:

How did you solve that problem you just described?

Bringing up a challenge you had to overcome in a previous role is an excellent way of demonstrating your skills as an employee, but expect the hiring manager to dig deeper and ask how you went about solving that problem. Interviewers know the answer to this question is a long one and, rather than expecting an extremely detailed summary of the problem-solving process, they’re trying to evaluate how you handled it and your willingness to tackle a crisis. While you might be tempted to condense everything into one long, breathless answer, try to take your time so the hiring manager can get an idea of what your problem-solving process is like.

What is something you wish you had done differently at your last job?

While the interview is a time to sell yourself and your accomplishments, you might be asked to go back and talk about a particular failure you had at a previous job. This question is designed to make you slightly uncomfortable and the hiring manager knows this. It’s okay if you struggle with illustrating what and how you would have changed something, just as long as you are open and honest about what it was. The person interviewing you wants to know that you can give yourself an honest assessment and that you are willing and actively trying to improve.

What is something you know you need to work on as a professional?

This is a question you probably know the answer to already, but it’s the kind of question that can make you break into a sweat. We all have things we know we can work on, but we don’t know what a prospective employer is going to see as a manageable challenge and what will raise a few red flags. Whatever you see as your biggest weakness, remember that we all have them and that the hiring manager is only trying to gauge what they’ll need to keep an eye out for should you be hired for the position.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Some people have their entire lives mapped out, while some people are primarily focused on the present. This question isn’t meant to conjure up a detailed outline of how you see your entire career playing out, but rather gives the hiring manager an idea of what you’re looking for and if it lines up with what the job is able to provide. The hiring manager wants to know that your professional values will fit in with the company and can ultimately lead to improvement and innovation within your specific role.

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

This is a difficult question mainly because it’s the easiest one to overthink and overanalyze your answer to. Regardless of your interests, general or specific, it’s understandable that you might be nervous to talk about them because you’re worried the hiring manager might dislike your hobbies or think they’re weird or boring. At the end of the day though, the interviewer is only trying to learn more about you while trying to ease some of the pressure you may be feeling during the interview.  So really, don’t sweat this one; have fun talking about all the things you love, no matter how eccentric they may be.