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April 2009
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Tricky Interview Questions
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:54 pm

“In one of my interviews, I was asked the following questions:

  • What are the qualities that “you think” your collegues like in you?
  • What are the traits that “you think” are disliked?

  • I just wanted to know how should we answer such a question and what is the purpose of such a questions?”

    These are just a variation on the standard “Strengths and Weaknesses” question, couched in terms of traits, and given some appearance of objectivity by framing it around what others would say. You need to have given a lot of thought in advance as to what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you would answer questions about them.

    The purpose is to get you to share things that you might not have been inclined to share otherwise, and perhaps to trip you up around the ‘dislikes’ question. You might share some serious weaknesses that will make my hiring decision easier.

    And you might reveal any of these:

  • That you aren’t very self-aware; you don’t know what others think about you.
  • That you are arrogant, and believe everyone thinks extremely highly of you, and that you like to brag about that.
  • That you don’t have good answers to questions, and can’t think on your feet well.
  • That you get uncomfortable when asked about certain things, or when discussing certain types of things, which tells me that’s an area I should probe more in the interview or with your references.

  • The best way to answer these is to have a clear picture in your own mind of your strengths and weaknesses, and then to:

  • Be very matter of fact about the former, giving key examples / results to back them up, and
  • Minimize the latter, avoiding a discussion of a laundry list of negatives, and showing for any you do reveal: (1) what you have done to work on them, and (2) what you will continue to do, so that (3) they are presented as something I shouldn’t be worried about in hiring you.
  • By the way, never reveal a weakness that is core to a critical job function, as that will likely get you ruled out, unless you can very clearly demonstrate that it is no longer a weakness.

    Interview Tips for Academics
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 8:38 am

    Here’s an insightful article on interviewing for academic jobs, particularly for higher education:

    And for more help in overcoming common issues in interviewing, see these blog entries:


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