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40 Difficult Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.


Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be extra careful that you dont run off at the mouth.
Keep your answer to a minute or two at the most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history and
recent career experience. Emphasize this last subject. Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up question.
Dont waste your best points on it.

2. What do you know about our organization?


You should be able to discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals, problems,
management style, people, history, and philosophy. But dont act as if you know everything about the place.
Let you answer show that you have taken the time to do smote research, but dont overwhelm the interview,
and make it clear that you with to learn more.
You might start your answer in this manner: In my job search, Ive investigated a number of companies.
Yours is one of the few that interest me, for these reasons.
Give your answer a positive tone. Dont say, Well, everyone tells me that youre
in all sorts of trouble, and thats why Im here, even if that is why youre there.

3. Why do you want to work for us?


The deadliest answer you can give is Because I like people. What else would
you like? Animals? Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes
from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the
companys needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company
is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that its doing them in ways that greatly interest you.
For example, if the organization is known for strong management, your answer should mention that fact and
who that you would like to be a part of that team. If the company places a great deal of emphasis on research
and development, emphasize the fact that you want to create new things and that you know this is a place in
which such activity is encouraged. If the organization stressed financial controls, your answer should
mention a reverence for numbers.
If you feel that you have to connect an answer to this question if, for example, the company stresses
research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesnt interest you-then you probably
should not be taking that interview, because you probably shouldnt be considering a job with that
organization.
Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you
wouldnt be able-or wouldnt want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, its difficult to con anyone in
an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you dont really want.

4. What can you do for us that someone else cant?


Here you have every right, and perhaps an obligation, to toot your own horn and be a bit egotistical. Talk
about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your resume or list of career
accomplishments. Say that your skills and interest, combined with this history of getting results, make you
valuable. Mention your ability to set priorities, identify problems, and use your experience and energy to
solve them.

5. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?
List three or four attractive factors of the job, and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.

6. Why should we hire you?


Create your answer by thinking in terms of your ability, your experience, and your energy. (See question 4)

7. What do you look for in a job?


Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at this organization. Talk about your desire to perform and be
recognized for your contribution. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal
security.

8. Please give me your definition of [the position for which you are being interviewed].
Keep your answer brief and task oriented. Think in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure
that you really do understand what position involved before you attempt an answer. If you are not certain, ask
the interviewer; he or she may answer the question for you.

9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to meet pressing demands and pull your own weight from the
first day, it might take six months to a year before you could expect to know the organization and its needs
well enough to make a major contribution.

10.How long would you stay with us?


Say that you are interested in a career with the organization, but admit that you would have to continue to feel
challenged to remain with any organization. Think in terms of, As long as we both feel achievementoriented.

11.Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?
Be brief, to the point, and as honest as you can without hurting yourself. Refer
back to the planning phase of your job search where you considered this topic as
you set your reference statements. If you were laid off in an across-the-board cut
back, say so; otherwise indicate that the move was your decision, the result of your
action. Do not mention personality conflicts.
The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue, particularly if it is
clear that you were terminated. The We agree to disagree approach may be useful. Remember that your
references are likely to be checked, so dont concoct a story for an interview.

12.What is your management style?


You should know enough about the companys style to know that your management style will complement it.
Possible styles include: task oriented (Ill enjoy problem-solving identifying whats wrong, choosing a
solution and implementing it), results-oriented (Every management decision I make is determined by how it
will affect the bottom line), or even paternalistic (Im committed to taking care of my subordinates and
pointing them in the right direction).
A participative style is currently quite popular: an open-door method of managing in which you get things
done by motivating people and delegating responsibility.
As you consider this question, think about whether your style will let you work happily and effectively within
the organization.

13.Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you feel that you have top
managerial potential?
Keep your answer achievement and task-oriented. Rely on examples from your career to buttress your
argument. Stress your experience and your energy.

14.What do you look for when you hire people?


Think in terms of skills, initiative, and the adaptability to be able to work comfortably and effectively with
others. Mention that you like to hire people who appear capable of moving up in the organization.

15.Have you ever had to fire people? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the
situation?
Admit that the situation was not easy, but say that it worked out well, both for the company and, you think,
for the individual. Show that, like anyone else, you dont enjoy unpleasant tasks but that you can resolve them
efficiently and in the case of firing someone humanely.

16. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager or executive?
Mention planning, execution, and cost-control. The most difficult task is to motivate and manage employees
to get something planned and completed on time and within the budget.

17. What important trends do you see in our industry?


Be prepared with two or three trends that illustrate how well you understand your industry. You might
consider technological challenges or opportunities, economic conditions, or even regulatory demands as you
collect your thoughts about the direction in which your business is heading.

18. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position.
Whats your opinion?
Emphasize your interest in establishing a long-term association with the organization, and say that you
assume that if you perform well in this job, new opportunities will open up for you. Mention that a strong
company needs a strong staff. Observe that experienced executives are always at a premium. Suggest that
since you are so well qualified, the employer will get a fast return on his investment. Say that a growing,
energetic company can never have too much talent.

19.How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new job?
Mention that you are concerned, naturally, but not panicked. You are willing to accept some risk to find the
right job for yourself. Dont suggest that security might interest you more than getting the job done
successfully.

20. In your current (last) position, what features do (did) you like the most? The least?
Be careful and be positive. Describe more features that you liked than disliked. Dont cite personality
problems. If you make your last job sound terrible, an interviewer may wonder why you remained there until
now.

21. What do you think of your boss?


Be as positive as you can. A potential boss is likely to wonder if you might talk about him in similar terms at
some point in the future.

22. Why arent you earning more at your age?


Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search. Dont be defensive.

23. What do you feel this position should pay?


Salary is a delicate topic. We suggest that you defer tying yourself to a precise figure
for as long as you can do so politely. You might say, I understand that the range for this job is between
$____ and $____. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it. You might answer the question with
a question: Perhaps you can help me on this one Can you tell me if there is a range for similar jobs in the
organization?
If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview, you might say that you feel you need to
know more about the positions responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer to that question.
Here, too, either by asking the interviewer or search executive (if one is involved), or in research done as part
of your homework, you can try to find out whether there is a salary grade attached to the job. If there is, and if
you can live with it, say that the range seems right to you.

If the interviewer continues to push, you might way, You know that Im making $______now. Like
everyone else, Id like to improve on that figure, but my major interest is with the job itself. Remember that
the act of taking a new job does not, in and of itself, make you worth more money.
If a search firm is involved, your contact there may be able to help with the salary question. He or she may
even be able to run interference for you. If, for instance, he tells you what the position pays, and you tell him
that you are earning that amount now and would like to do a bit better, he might go back to the employer and
propose that you be offered an additional 10%.
If no price range is attached to the job, and the interviewer continues to press the subject, then you will have to
respond with a number. You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter. That youll accept
whatever is offered. If youve been making $80,000 a year, you cant say that a $35,000 figure would be fine
without sounding as if youve give up on yourself.
Dont sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the job itself is the most important thing in your
mind. The interviewer may be trying to determine just how much you want the job. Dont leave the
impression that money is the only thing that is important to you. Link questions of salary to the work itself.
But, whenever possible, say as little as you can about salary until you reach the final stage of the interview
process. At that point, you know that the company is genuinely interested in you and that it is likely to be
flexible in salary negotiations.

24. What are you long-range goals?


Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Dont answer, I want the job youve advertised. Relate
your goals to the company you are interviewing: In a firm like yours, I would like to.

25. How successful have you been so far?


Say that, all-in-all; youre happy with the way your career has progressed so far. Given the normal ups and
downs of life, you feel that youve done quite well and have no complaints.
Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but dont overstate your case. An answer like,
Everythings wonderful! I cant think of a time when things were going better! Im overjoyed!
is likely to make the interviewer wonder whether youre trying to fool him.or
yourself. The most convincing confidences if usually quiet confidence.

26. What are your greatest strengths?


This question seems like a softball lob, but be prepared. You dont want to come
across as egotistical or arrogant. Neither is this a time to be humble.
Prior to any interview, you should have a list mentally prepared of your greatest
strengths. You should also have, a specific example or two, which illustrates
each strength.

27. What are your greatest weaknesses?


Be careful with this question! It can be an eliminator question. It is asked to shorten the candidate list. Instead
of confessing a weakness, describe what you like most and like least, making sure that what you like most
matches up with the most important qualification for success in the position, and what you like least is not
essential. Be sure that the interviewer knows that you can think of nothing that will stand in the way of
performing in this position with excellence.

28. Tell me about a situation when your work was criticized.


This can be a tough question because its a cleaver and subtle way to get you to admit to a weakness. You
cant dodge it by pretending youve never been criticized. Everybody has been. Begin by emphasizing the
extremely positive feedback youve gotten throughout your career. However, its important to realize and let
the interviewer know that you realize that no one is perfect and you can always improve your performance.
Then, give an example of a not-too-damaging learning experience from early in your career and relate the
ways this lesson has helped you since. If you are pressed for a criticism from a recent position, choose
something fairly trivial that in no way is essential to your successful performance.

Add that youve learned from this experience too. This will demonstrate that you learn well from experience
and these lessons are now one of the strongest breastplates in your suit of armor

29. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss? How was it resolved?
If you answer no to this question, the interviewer will likely keep drilling deeper to find a conflict. The best
answer to this question would be to explain that you have had conflicts, but that it has never been anything
major. Focus most of your time on how you resolved the conflict, instead of the actual problem. This will
prove to the interviewer that you are a problem solver.

30. What qualities do you feel a successful manager, supervisor or boss of any kind should
have?
There are two key qualities that most interviewers are looking for: leadership and vision. Expand on what you
think the definitions of those two words are. Follow up by giving an example of a box that youve had that has
had both of those qualities and how they influence your work ability.

31. How do you define success? How do you measure up to your own definition?
When defining success, think in terms of a sense of well-being. You should give a well-accepted definition of
success that will lead into your own achievements in your career thus far. Make sure that your interviewer
knows that you are happy with the way your career has progressed. You should paint a confident and positive
picture of yourself for the interviewer. Summarize your career goals and how your achievements have helped
your progress down the path of success. Be careful not to overstate yourself.

32. Looking back on your last position, have you done your best work?
Think twice before you answer this question. If you answer with an astounding Yes! it may appear that your
best work is behind you. If you answer with a confident No, my best work is ahead of me, it can seem as if
you havent given your all.
The best answer should state that you always try to do your best, but that the best of your career is right now
due to several factors. Take a minute to state or to recap those factors and highlight your strongest
qualifications.

33. How would others describe you?


To answer this question honestly, it is important for you to be continually asking for feedback for your
colleagues and supervisors. Stay prepared by keeping track of this feedback as it is given to you. This will
allow you to have a better idea of how you can answer this question. You will also be prepared with a list of
qualities to give to your interviewer if you are asked. It is also wise to be prepared with a letter of
recommendation that can be given to your interviewer. Like previous questions, staying positive is key.
Emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

34. Tell me about your least favorite boss.


This question is asked so the interviewer can understand how you talk about your previous
boss. It may sound like the interview is looking for a negative answer, but doing so will
create problems. Dont complain about your previous boss to your interviewer, even if
what you have to say is justified. Your interviewer will conclude that you either dont get
along with people or that you shift the blame to others. The best way around this dilemma
is to choose an example thats not too negative, touch on it briefly, and then focus the rest
of your answer on what you learned from the experience.

35. What career options do you have right now?


In other words, How desperate are you? Prepare for this question by thinking of how you can position
yourself as a desired commodity. If you are still working, describe the possibilities at your present firm and
why youre looking for something more, whether you need a greater challenge, more responsibility, more
money, etc. If youre not working, talk about other employment possibilities youre exploring.

Speak only of these possibilities in general term. Dont go into too much detail or you may risk the chance of
seeming manipulative or coy.

36. Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?


This question is asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that
may continue to affect your personality and performance. You dont want to give your interviewer anything
negative to remember you by. So, think hard before you answer this question. Indicate that you are a happy,
fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldnt change a thing. However, the interviewer is
looking for a specific answer to this. State one defining moment in your life and what you would have done
differently. Stay positive and let the interviewer know that you are trying to change it into a positive thing for
your future.

37. How do you usually go about solving a problem?


The interviewer is looking for the different techniques you use to solve a conflict, whether you brainstorm
with others, write down all your thoughts, or any other technique you may use. The interviewer is also
looking for the outcomes you are able to achieve. Giving an example is the best way to answer this question
most effectively. Include the different problem-solving qualities you have. Are you decisive? Are you a
leader? Are you organized? All of these qualities should be included in your answer.

38. Can you work under pressure?


This can be a simple question to answer. However, you must make your answer believable. By answering
with a simple yes, the interviewer is going to wonder how you work under pressure and why you didnt go
into more detail. Back up your answer by providing an example from your list of accomplishments that you
have already prepared before the interview.

39. What makes you angry?


When answering this question, you dont want to come across either as a hothead or a wimp. Your answer
should be based on your personality and the management style of the firm. Researching the firm before hand
and doing your homework will be helpful as you choose your answer.

40. What changes would you make if you came on board?


Watch out! This question can derail your candidacy faster than a bomb on the tracks and just as you are
about to be hired! Remember it doesnt matter how smart you are, it is difficult to know the right actions to
take in a position before you settle in and get to know the operations strengths, weaknesses, key people,
financial condition, methods of operations, etc. The interviewer wants to hear that you are going to make a
difference, but you are going to make a difference based upon experience and the values that the company
already upholds. The interviewer does not want to hear that you are going to come in, turn the place upside
down, and with sweeping grand gestures, promptly demonstrate what jerks everybodys been for years.

Resources:

"Ten Tough Interview Question and Ten Great Answers." CollegeGrad.com. 2009. Web. 18 Dec 2009.
<http://www.collegegrad.com/jobsearch/mastering-the-interview/ten-tough-interview-questions-and-tengreat-answers/>.
"The Best Answers to Tough Interview Questions." studentsaffairs.edu. July 2006. Carnegie Mellon Career
Center, Web. 18 Dec 2009.
<http://www.studentaffairs.cmu.edu/career/cit/jobSearch/InterviewQuestions.pdf>.
"50 Tough Interview Questions." Unoceo.unohama.edu. Web. 18 Dec 2009.
<http://unoceo.unomaha.edu/documents/toughinterviewquestions.pdf