How to Answer Negative Interview Questions

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Job interviews can be among life's trickiest moments. You wouldn't be there if you didn't really need or want the position. At the same time, your potential employer is more or less looking for reasons not to hire you. They want to prevent problems down the road.


At least some of the more difficult interview questions that will be asked of you will be designed to prompt you into divulging something that you wouldn't ordinarily share. Negative interview questions are also intended to reveal how you react in difficult situations. But it's not a lose/lose challenge. That recruiter is going to hire someone, and some preparation can increase the odds of a positive outcome for you.

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How Do You Handle Criticism?

This question is aimed at determining how you react when you're told you're wrong. You don't want to imply that this has never happened to you. Denying that you've ever been criticized can be a red flag because virtually everyone has been at some point in time. Yes, you're admitting that you've made a mistake along the way, but you can turn this to your advantage.

Consider explaining what you did to rectify your error and stress a positive outcome. Give it plenty of thought before your job interview so you can select a circumstance that puts you in the best light. Mention something good that came out of the situation. Go into detail, but don't give too much detail. Address the question succinctly, then move on. Do ​not​ say anything negative about the individual who criticized you.


You want the interviewer to know that you're the best candidate out there and your demeanor should emphasize this.

What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?

Yes, you'll almost certainly encounter this one on your job search, too. Don't respond to that job interview question by saying you can't think of anything in particular because everyone has at least one shortcoming. Dodging the question will make you appear less than honest. And, a good answer will show that you have some self-awareness.


Choose a flaw but don't focus on it. Move immediately ahead to what steps you take to contain and correct it.

Why Are You Looking for a Job?

You're either attending this interview because you're out of work or because you want to find a new job and move on. In either case, this question is fraught with pitfalls. It can be especially tricky if you've held down several jobs in a relatively short period of time. The hiring manager is most likely looking to determine if you're a quitter when the going gets rough or if you get bored easily.


But this is a negative question that you can easily turn to your advantage. Maybe you're moving on because you're looking for more of an opportunity to use your skills. Again, do ​not​ say anything negative about your current employer if you're still working and you're looking for a change, or about your previous job, either.

But feel free to mention if you were laid off through no fault of your own, maybe because your employer was downsizing, or if you had to leave for personal reasons that have since been rectified, such as because you were caring for a sick relative.


Master the Finer Details

It's your stage, so own it. You want the interviewer to know that you're the best candidate out there and your demeanor should emphasize this.

Don't answer these or other common interview questions too quickly. Yes, you've practiced them, ideally in front of friends, family or a mirror. You've thought about them and you know exactly how you want to respond. But give the appearance that you're seriously considering them. Wait a beat before you answer.


Always keep your tone calm and professional, and keep a grip on your facial expressions as well. The best answer can be derailed if you scowl fiercely while giving it. And as for those weaknesses and criticisms, don't repeat them word for word as you're replying. Perhaps your weakness is that you're a workaholic or a perfectionist who stresses over the impossibility of tight deadlines. Avoid repeating "stress" and "tight." Repetition will implant them firmly in your interviewer's head.

Consider also:Interview Etiquette Musts