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Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten Great Answers

The best way to prepare yourself for the interview is to know what questions may be coming and
practice in advance. The following are some of the most difficult questions you will face in the course
of your job interviews. Some questions may seem rather simple on the surfacesuch as "Tell me
about yourself"but these questions can have a variety of answers. The more open ended the
question, the wider the variation in the answers. Once you have become practiced in your
interviewing skills, you will find that you can use almost any question as a launching pad for a
particular example or compelling story.

Others are classic interview questions, such as "What is your greatest weakness?" Questions most
people answer improperly. In this case, the standard textbook answer for the "greatest weakness"
question is to provide a veiled positive such as: "I work too much. I just work and work and work."
Wrong. Either you are lying or, worse yet, you are telling the truth, in which case you define working
too much as a weakness and really do not want to work much at all.

The following answers are provided to give you a new perspective on how to answer tough interview
questions. They are not there for you to lift from the page and insert into your next interview. They are
provided for you to use as the basic structure for formulating your own answers. While the specifics of
each reply may not apply to you, try to follow the basic structure of the answer from the perspective of
the interviewer. Answer the questions behaviorally, with specific examples that show that clear
evidence of your competencies. Always provide information that shows you have the skills and
experienc necessary to become the very best _____ for the company and that you have specifically
prepared yourself to become exactly that. Interviewers want to be sold. They are waiting to be sold.
Don't disappoint them!

1. Tell me about yourself.

It seems like an easy interview question. It's open ended. I can talk about whatever I want from the
birth canal forward. Right?

Wrong. What the hiring manager really wants is a quick, two- to three-minute snapshot of who you
are and why you're the best candidate for this position.

So as you answer this question, talk about what you've done to prepare yourself to be the very best
candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up. Then ask if they would like more
details. If they do, keep giving them example after example of your background and experience.
Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity.

"Tell me about yourself" does not mean tell me everything. Just tell me what makes you the best.

2. Why should I hire you?

The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. And don't be afraid to say so. But then
back it up with what specifically differentiates you.

For example: "You should hire me because I'm the best person for the job. I realize that there are
likely other candidates who also have the ability to do this job. Yet I bring an additional quality that
makes me the best person for the jobmy passion for excellence. I am passionately committed to
producing truly world class results. For example"

Are you the best person for the job? Show it by your passionate examples.
3. What is your long-range objective?
The key is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing to reach those objectives.

For example: "Within five years, I would like to become the very best accountant your company has
on staff. I want to work toward becoming the expert that others rely upon. And in doing so, I feel I'll be
fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be presented in the long term. For
example, here is what I'm presently doing to prepare myself"

Then go on to show by your examples what you are doing to reach your goals and objectives.

4. How has your education prepared you for your career?

This is a broad question and you need to focus on the behavioral examples in your educational
background which specifically align to the required competencies for the career.

An example: "My education has focused on not only the learning the fundamentals, but also on the
practical application of the information learned within those classes. For example, I played a lead role
in a class project where we gathered and analyzed best practice data from this industry. Let me tell
you more about the results"

Focus on behavioral examples supporting the key competencies for the career. Then ask if they
would like to hear more examples.

5. Are you a team player?

Almost everyone says yes to this question. But it is not just a yes/no question. You need to provide
behavioral examples to back up your answer.

A sample answer: "Yes, I'm very much a team player. In fact, I've had opportunities in my work,
school and athletics to develop my skills as a team player. For example, on a recent project"

Emphasize teamwork behavioral examples and focus on your openness to diversity of backgrounds.
Talk about the strength of the team above the individual. And note that this question may be used as
a lead in to questions around how you handle conflict within a team, so be prepared.

6. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?
Note that if you say no, most interviewers will keep drilling deeper to find a conflict. The key is how
you behaviorally reacted to conflict and what you did to resolve it.

For example: "Yes, I have had conflicts in the past. Never major ones, but there have been
disagreements that needed to be resolved. I've found that when conflict occurs, it helps to fully
understand the other persons perspective, so I take time to listen to their point of view, then I seek to
work out a collaborative solution. For example"

Focus your answer on the behavioral process for resolving the conflict and working collaboratively.

7. What is your greatest weakness?

Most career books tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness. Such as: "I work too
much. I just work and work and work." Wrong. First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a
weakness is deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.

You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. For example: "I
have had trouble in the past with planning and prioritization. However, I'm now taking steps to correct
this. I just started a planner app on my mobile t better plan and prioritize" then pull out your mobile
to show how you are using the app.

Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.

8. If I were to ask your professors (or your boss) to describe you, what would they say?
This is a threat of reference check question. Do not wait for the interview to know the answer. Ask any
prior bosses or professors in advance. And if they're willing to provide a positive reference, ask them
for a letter of recommendation.

Then you can answer the question like this:

"I believe she would say I'm a very energetic person, that I'm results oriented and one of the best
people with whom she has ever worked. Actually, I know she would say that, because those are her
very words. May I show you her letter of recommendation?"

So be prepared in advance with your letters of recommendation.

9. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?

Focus on two words: leadership and vision. Then tell of how that leadership and vision translated into
your personal delivered results.

Here is a sample of how to respond: "The key quality in a successful manager should be leadership
the ability to be the visionary for the people who are working under them. The person who can set the
course and direction for subordinates, keeping them focused on what is most important for delivering
the highest priority results. The highest calling of a true leader is inspiring others to reach the highest
of their abilities. I'd like to tell you about a person whom I consider to be a true leader"

Then give an example of someone who has touched your life and how their impact has helped in your
personal development.

10. If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
Focus on a key turning point in your life or missed opportunity. Yet also tie it forward to what you are
doing to still seek to make that change.

For example: "Although I'm overall very happy with where I'm at in my life, the one aspect I likely
would have changed would be focusing earlier on my chosen career. I had a great internship this past
year and look forward to more experience in the field. I simply wish I would have focused here earlier.
For example, I learned on my recent internship" then provide examples.

Stay focused on positive direction in your life and back it up with examples.

How would you describe yourself?

What specific goals, including those related to your occupation, have you established for your

How has your college experience prepared you for a business career?
Please describe the ideal job for you following graduation.

What influenced you to choose this career?

At what point did you choose this career?

What specific goals have you established for your career?

What will it take to attain your goals, and what steps have you taken toward attaining them?

What do you think it takes to be successful in this career?

How do you determine or evaluate success? Give me an example of one of your successful

Do you have the qualifications and personal characteristics necessary for success in your
chosen career?

What has been your most rewarding accomplishment?

If you could do so, how would you plan your college career differently?

Are you more energized by working with data or by collaborating with other individuals?

How would you describe yourself in terms of your ability to work as a member of a team?

What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?

Given the investment our company will make in hiring and training you, can you give us a
reason to hire you?

Would you describe yourself as goal-driven?

Describe what youve accomplished toward reaching a recent goal for yourself.

What short-term goals and objectives have you established for yourself?

Can you describe your long-range goals and objectives?

What do you expect to be doing in five years?

What do you see yourself doing in ten years?

How would you evaluate your ability to deal with conflict?

Have you ever had difficulty with a supervisor or instructor? How did you resolve the conflict?

Tell me about a major problem you recently handled. Were you successful in resolving it?
Would you say that you can easily deal with high-pressure situations?

What quality or attribute do you feel will most contribute to your career success?

What personal weakness has caused you the greatest difficulty in school or on the job?

What were your reasons for selecting your college or university?

If you could change or improve anything about your college, what would it be?

How will the academic program and coursework youve taken benefit your career?

Which college classes or subjects did you like best? Why?

Are you the type of student for whom conducting independent research has been a positive

Describe the type of professor that has created the most beneficial learning experience for

Do you think that your grades are an indication of your academic achievement?

What plans do you have for continued study? An advanced degree?

Before you can make a productive contribution to the company, what degree of training do you
feel you will require?

Describe the characteristics of a successful manager.

Why did you decide to seek a position in this field?

Tell me what you know about our company.

Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?

Do you have a geographic preference?

Why do you think you might like to live in the community in which our company is located?

Would it be a problem for you to relocate?

To what extent would you be willing to travel for the job?

Which is more important to you, the job itself or your salary?

What level of compensation would it take to make you happy?

Tell me about the salary range youre seeking.

What are the most important rewards you expect to gain from your career?
How would you define success for someone in your chosen career?

What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in this company?

What skills have you acquired from your work experience?

What have you learned from your experiences outside the classroom or workplace?

What criteria are you using to choose companies to interview with?

If you were hiring for this position, what qualities would you look for?

How would you describe your leadership skills?

Which is more important: creativity or efficiency? Why?

How has college changed you as a person?

What have you accomplished that shows your initiative and willingness to work?

What was the toughest challenge youve ever faced?

What two or three things are most important to you in your job?

Some people work best as part of a group others prefer the role of individual contributor.
How would you describe yourself?

When given an important assignment, how do you approach it?

If there were one area youve always wanted to improve upon, what would that be?

When you have been made aware of, or have discovered for yourself, a problem in your
school or work performance, what was your course of action?

What kinds of things have you done at school or on the job that were beyond expectations?

What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business

What sorts of things have you done to become better qualified for your career?

Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince
someone to see things your way?

Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult
Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a
By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations
and environments.

Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.

Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.

Describe a time when you had to use your written communication skills to get an important
point across.

Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.

Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your
success in reaching it.

Describe the most significant or creative presentation that you have had to complete.

Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a
job done.

Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another
person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).

Sometimes its easy to get in over your head. Describe a situation where you had to request
help or assistance on a project or assignment.

Give an example of how you applied knowledge from previous coursework to a project in
another class.

Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your
ideas. What did you do?

Describe a situation in which you found that your results were not up to your professors or
supervisors expectations. What happened? What action did you take?

Tell of a time when you worked with a colleague who was not completing his or her share of
the work. Who, if anyone, did you tell or talk to about it? Did the manager take any steps to
correct your colleague? Did you agree or disagree with the managers actions?

Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a


What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision.

We can sometimes identify a small problem and fix it before it becomes a major problem. Give
an example(s) of how you have done this.
In a supervisory or group leader role, have you ever had to discipline or counsel an employee
or group member? What was the nature of the discipline? What steps did you take? How did
that make you feel? How did you prepare yourself?
Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable
and a problem arose. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle that situation?
How did that make you feel?

Recall a time when you were assigned what you considered to be a complex project.
Specifically, what steps did you take to prepare for and finish the project? Were you happy with
the outcome? What one step would you have done differently if given the chance?

What was the most complex assignment you have had? What was your role?

How was your transition from high school to college? Did you face any particular problems?

Tell of some situations in which you have had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had
no control. What was the impact of the change on you?

Compare and contrast the times when you did work which was above the standard with times
your work was below the standard.

Describe some times when you were not very satisfied or pleased with your performance.
What did you do about it?

What are your standards of success in school? What have you done to meet these standards?

How have you differed from your professors in evaluating your performance? How did you
handle the situation?

Give examples of your experiences at school or in a job that were satisfying. Give examples of
your experiences that were dissatisfying.

What kind of supervisor do you work best for? Provide examples.

Describe some projects or ideas (not necessarily your own) that were implemented, or carried
out successfully primarily because of your efforts.

Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you
handle it? What was the result?

Have you found any ways to make school or a job easier or more rewarding or to make
yourself more effective?

How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give examples.

Tell of a time when your active listening skills really paid off for you maybe a time when
other people missed the key idea being expressed.
What has been your experience in giving presentations? What has been your most successful
experience in speech making?

Tell of the most difficult customer service experience that you have ever had to handle
perhaps an angry or irate customer. Be specific and tell what you did and what was the
Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with.
Why was this person difficult? How did you handle that person?

Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didnt like you. How
did you handle it?

Give me a specific example of something you did that helped build enthusiasm in others.

Tell me about a difficult situation when it was desirable for you to keep a positive attitude. What
did you do?

Give me an example of a time you had to make an important decision. How did you make the
decision? How does it affect you today?

Give me an example of a time you had to persuade other people to take action. Were you

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person. How did you handle the

Tell me about a time you had to handle multiple responsibilities. How did you organize the work
you needed to do?

Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision, but didnt have all the information you

What suggestions do you have for our organization?

What is the most significant contribution you made to the company during a past job or

What is the biggest mistake youve made?

Describe a situation in which you had to use reference materials to write a research paper.
What was the topic? What journals did you read?

Give me a specific example of a time when a co-worker or classmate criticized your work in
front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate
with others?

Give me a specific example of a time when you sold your supervisor or professor on an idea or
concept. How did you proceed? What was the result?
Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects. How do you track your
progress so that you can meet deadlines? How do you stay focused?

Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge your
company/class/organization was facing. What was the challenge? What role did others play?

Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer or professor. How did you approach
the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome?
Describe a time when you got co-workers or classmates who dislike each other to work
together. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome?

Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What
were the repercussions? What did you learn?

Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker or classmate understand a
task. How did you assist him or her? What was the result?

Give two examples of things youve done in previous jobs or school that demonstrate your
willingness to work hard.

Describe the last time that you undertook a project that demanded a lot of initiative.

What is the most competitive work or school situation you have experienced? How did you
handle it? What was the result?

Describe a project or situation that best demonstrate your analytical ability.

Communication skills:

How do you effectively communicate with others?

How important is listening to effective communications?

What are some of the characteristics of a good listener?

Tell us about a situation where you demonstrated good communications skills.

Tell us about a situation where you demonstrated poor communications skills. What would you
have done differently?

How would you rate your communications skills? Why?

What are some rules to follow to insure effective communications with your coworkers?

What are some of the means of communication in the workplace?

How would your co-workers rate your communications skills?

Communicating with your supervisor is an important aspect of all of our jobs. In addition to
being brief, what guidelines should you follow to communicate effectively with your supervisor?

What are the reasons for communicating upwards to your superiors?

How would your supervisor rate your communications skills?

Work ethics:

Describe your work ethic.

Give us an example of what you would consider as a poor work ethic.

How would you describe a good work ethic?

Tell us about a situation in your current job that would demonstrate your work ethic.


What are the characteristics of a successful team?

Tell us about an unsuccessful team of which you were a member. What, if anything, could you
have done differently?

Tell us about a successful team of which you were a member. What was the most outstanding
characteristic of that team? What did you contribute?

What are the important qualities a person should have to become an effective team member?

What qualities do you have that make you an effective team player?

Do you work better by yourself or as part of a team?

What can you contribute to establish a positive working environment for our team?

What type of people do you work best with?


Provide us with an example of your initiative.

What does taking the initiative mean to you?

How comfortable are you with taking the initiative on assignments that you may not be fully
familiar with?

Interpersonal skills:

Tell us about your inter-personal skills.

What experience have you had working with external agencies?

How do you deal with conflict?

Tell us about a situation in which you were required to work with people at various levels within
your organization? What was the most important step that you took to work effectively with
these people?

To what extent have your assignments required interface with other departments?

Tell us about an incident in which you dealt with an irate customer, which would demonstrate
your ability to work effectively with others?

In what kinds of situations do you find it most difficult to deal with people?

Describe to us the extent to which you have worked with executive or top management.

What has been your experience in working with community organizations?

Tell us about your experience in working with volunteers.

How do you maintain an effective working relationship with your coworkers?

Problem solving skills:

Provide us with an example of your problem-solving ability.

What are the essential elements of effective problem solving?

Tell us about a situation in which you were required to analyze and solve a complex problem.

How have you incorporated collaborative problem solving in your organization?

What are the benefits of collaborative problem solving?

Analytical skills:

Are you analytical? Give us one example of your analytical abilities.

Tell us about your analytical skills.

Tell us about a particularly difficult problem that you analyzed.

What was your recommendation.

What steps do you take when analyzing complex problems?

How would you rate your analytical ability?


How would your manager rate your analytical ability?

Tell us about a situation where the analysis that you performed was incorrect.

What would you have done differently?


How adaptable are you?

Give us an example of your ability to adapt to change.

How comfortable are you with change?


How well do your work with detail information?

Give us an example of how detail-oriented you are.

Do you prefer to work with detail or with general information?

What level of detail have your current and past jobs required?

Are you a "big picture" or "detail oriented" person? How so?

Have the jobs you held in the past required little attention, moderate attention, or a great deal
of attention to detail?
Give us an example.


What does being well-organized mean to you?

How organized are you when you are performing your work?

Give us an example of your ability to organize your work.

Would you describe yourself as being well-organized? Why?

How do you keep well-organized while performing your work?