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Answering 9 Common Difficult Interview Questions in Singapore

Tricky interview questions are manageable when you prepare for them. We run through a list of tough questions commonly asked by recruiters in Singapore and how you can answer them.

Most difficult interview questions & tips to answer

Your resume and qualifications may impress hiring managers, but whether you succeed or flounder depends on your interview performance. Recruiters would have a few tricks up their sleeves to find the best candidate possible. This, of course, entails tough interview questions, which could appear as curveballs if you did not prepare for them.

Here are some difficult interview questions often asked by recruiters in Singapore!

Most difficult interview questions & tips to answer

1. What critical feedback do you receive often?

Hirers are looking for candidates with strong self-awareness who can embrace criticism and strive to make improvements.

How to answer?

You could talk about a weakness that is a secret strength. New York’s expert interview coach, Berry Dexler, makes a pertinent point on this — avoid saying you’re a perfectionist. Instead, give it a spin — “I tend to vet my work a couple of times before submission, which slows me down. Right now, I’m trying to limit myself to 2 sets of proofreading so I can spend more time on other tasks.”

Alternatively, you could pick a weakness that does not undermine your ability to deliver the role and how you are overcoming it.

2. Tell us about a mistake you made.

Not all candidates are perfect — recognising mistakes and rectifying them are part and parcel of any career. Recruiters want to see if you can own your mistakes and learn from them. Singapore-based Jeremy Poh, Google’s Staffing Associate Lead, notes this well, “When I speak to candidates, I look out for versatility and resilience to overcome setbacks and a genuine openness to learning.”

How to answer?

Without contradicting your work ethics, share what would have done differently at a previous/current job that would have yielded better results.

3. Why have you been out of work?

Gaps in a resume are red flags for any employer. Recruiters want to be sure if the unemployment gap is not due to a personal weakness like a lack of ambition.

How to answer?

If there are circumstances beyond your control (i.e. pregnancy, parental duties etc.), admit them. Should you have chosen to remain unemployed, explain why and what you have done in the time-being that is helpful for the role applied for.

4. What are your reasons for leaving your current job?

Recruiters want to understand what you find essential in a job that is driving you to make a change.

How to answer?

You can explain your   in terms of your career (i.e. looking for growth opportunities or a career change) or personal reasons (i.e. better work life balance).

5. Why were you fired or let go?

Should recruiters learn you were fired or let go, they want to ensure it was not due to personal incompetencies.

How to answer?

 If you were fired, be honest yet tactical in what you divulge. A good tip from job search expert Mark Anthony Dyson: you don’t have to go into detail. He adds, “You can say ‘Yes, I was terminated but I owned it and it was unfortunate.’” Dyson also advises researching who your interviewers will be so you can better prepare your answer.

If you have to explain further, focus on the professional aspects of the situation (i.e. you had a constructive conversation with your boss before leaving, you admitted you were not fit for the job etc.) and channel it to a positive ending (i.e. more time to look for a suitable position etc.). If you were laid off due to unavoidable circumstances, say so and weave in the quality of work your company benefited from.

6. You’ve changed jobs/careers frequently. Why should I let you into my company?

Employers want to know what you gained from job hopping that would help in the role. While they cannot stop you from leaving the job if you are hired, they can decide if you will be a valuable asset even for the short term.

How to answer?

Think about the cross-functional skills you acquired that would apply to the job, and why you would be fit for the role. Writing in her book titled 301 Smart Answers To Tough Interview Questions, Vicky Oliver provides an apt response: “As a career-changer, I believe that I’m a better employee because I’ve gained a lot of diverse skills from moving around. These skills help me solve problems creatively.”

7. What do you dislike about present/past jobs?

The tone you adopt to answer this question will hint to the employer whether you like to complain or have fair reasons.

How to answer?

Focus on those aspects that prevent you from fully performing your role (i.e. weak IT servers, insufficient funds/budgets, lengthy processes) and what you did or attempted to do to solve the issue.

8. What do you expect from a supervisor?

Employers look for cooperative team members but this boils down to how they preferred being led. They want to know the management style that motivates you at work.

How to answer?

Give an example of a supervisor you truly adored and the leadership style he/she adopted to manage the team. Explain how it allowed you to perform your best in that role.

9. What are your salary expectations?

Though it is a question important to both you and your hiring manager, it can be off-putting if not handled well.  Employers want to know if you have reasonable demands for your salary vis-a-vis your experience level.

How to answer?

Use a ballpark figure based on industry standards and express your willingness to negotiate where possible.

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