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Career & Money

How To Answer The Most Awkward Job Interview Questions

This one is for all my job interview-tired girlies. I see you. You've been on one job interview after another, and every time, it gets more and more awkward—and more and more frustrating. And you're not alone. Unemployment among Black women decreased earlier this year as the number of those looking for work increased, according to reports. A recent survey of more than 1,500 candidates from the staffing firm Aerotek found that nearly 70% of job hunters say their current job search is more difficult than those in the past.


Well, we've got a bit of relief for you. Try this little cheat sheet to boost your confidence and prepare you for yet another round of handshakes, smiles, and repetitive tough questions:

1. "Can you tell us a bit more about the employment gap we see on your resume?"

Maybe you were simply unemployed and couldn't find work. You took off to "find yourself" in Tulum. You were dealing with the aftermath of a major life change like a divorce or a medical emergency. You wanted to be present for the first few years of your child's life and focused on motherhood. No matter what the reason is, it's valid, and, as our favorite auntie Tabitha would say, that's your business. While you don't have to be specific about the reason, experts recommend being honest and focusing on the positive outcomes during the employment gap.

Motherhood? "I focused on being the primary caretaker for my family and practicing my household management skills. After some time off, I'm more than ready to return to the workforce to apply my updated skills in balancing multiple duties."

Got laid off? "My previous employer went through a restructuring, however, I'm grateful for the skills I was able to develop there. My favorite closing project was.... "

Got fired? "While I learned a great deal at my previous company, it simply was not a good fit."

Took time off for self-care or travel? "I explored Europe for a year, making a dream I'd had for a while a reality. I was able to learn more about another culture, immerse myself in service, and push limits I never knew I had."

Woman-smiling-in-job-interview-shaking-hiring-manager-hand

jubaphoto/Getty

2. "We can only pay____. What are your salary expectations?"

Yes, some recruiters and hiring managers simply don't have the proper nuance when talking about salary and money. You'll feel a bit bullied when the question comes out this way. You might even feel like you have to settle. Well, don't. There's always more money or other benefits to offer. And typically, when the question is worded this way, it's a red flag.

Before walking away, respond with the following: "Thank you for that. Based on location, my level of experience, and my commitment to thriving in this role, I'd like a yearly salary of [increase the offer by $5,000 to $15,000 considering the aforementioned]." If they counter that they simply can't pay, ask about a sign-on bonus, more time off, flex work hours, childcare coverage options, or other benefits that might suit your lifestyle.

And if they can't offer any of that, especially if you deserve it, the best answer (at least for me), if they offer you the job, is, "Thank you for your time and for your interest in interviewing me for this position. I've decided to go with another company."

3. "Can you tell me more about a recent project or experience you had at work that you're proud of?"

This can be especially awkward if you didn't quite enjoy the last job you had, didn't thrive, or weren't ever given a chance to be part of major projects. If that's the case for you, again, lean into the positive. Think of at least three proud moments from your current (or previous) job that you can easily brag about.

Were you head of the office transitioning to a new location? Talk about what it took to complete and what aspects of that brought you joy or taught you lessons.

In charge of intake? Talk about the responsibilities of that and the impact it has on the overall function of the company. Handled only paperwork and running errands. That's a major part of project management. Talk about the processes you came up with to stay organized, timely, and diligent. Think about how your role, even if you were made to feel small or were unappreciated, helped keep that company's engine going for the time you were there.

4. "Could you tell us more about how your disability or medical condition might impact your work?"

If this is asked during the interview, it's a major red flag, as most employers should focus on your abilities, training, and experience in the context of the role's duties. And in many cases, this question, as it's worded, opens a company up to questions of bias and potential lawsuits. A company's hiring practices must be in compliance with federal law.

You're not required to disclose a medical condition or an invisible disability to a potential employer during the hiring process, but if you have to take a test and you need assistance due to hearing or sight impairment, for example, the employer will have to comply. In some cases, disclosing a disability in an honest conversation at the onset might be part of the interview process.

And after you've been offered a job, your employer will need to have a discussion with you about accommodations in order for you to thrive in the position. Experts recommend being upfront and confident with your new employer about accommodations that might be needed and talking with your new manager about anything that might impact your participation in certain aspects of the job so that they can be aware and adjust accordingly.

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Featured image by AzmanJaka/Getty Images

 

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