You are on page 1of 8

Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten

Great Answers
The best way to prepare yourself for the interview is to know what may be coming and practice
for it in advance. Fear of the unknown can only exist when there is an unknown. Take the time to
understand some of the "standards" when it comes to interviewing questions.

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 surface—such 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 topic
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 backs up what you are saying about yourself.
Always provide information that shows you want to become the very best _____ for the
company and that you have specifically prepared yourself to become exactly that. They 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.

but also on the practical application of the information learned within those classes. 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. But then back it up with what specifically differentiates you. 2. Are you a team player? Almost everyone says yes to this question. on a recent project…" . I've had opportunities in my work. For example. But it is not just a yes/no question. I realize that there are likely other candidates who also have the ability to do this job. Let me tell you more about the results…" Focus on behavioral examples supporting the key competencies for the career. For example. Yet I bring an additional quality that makes me the best person for the job—my passion for excellence. Why should I hire you? The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. 5. And don't be afraid to say so. For example: "Within five years. For example…" Are you the best person for the job? Show it by your passionate examples. And in doing so. A sample answer: "Yes. 3. I'm very much a team player."Tell me about yourself" does not mean tell me everything. For example. Just tell me what makes you the best. In fact. An example: "My education has focused on not only the learning the fundamentals. I want to work toward becoming the expert that others rely upon. I am passionately committed to producing truly world class results. I played a lead role in a class project where we gathered and analyzed best practice data from this industry. Then ask if they would like to hear more examples. For example: "You should hire me because I'm the best person for the job. I feel I'll be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be presented in the long term. 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. school and athletics to develop my skills as a team player. You need to provide behavioral examples to back up your answer. What is your long-range objective? The key is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing to reach those objectives. I would like to become the very best accountant your company has on staff.

I have had conflicts in the past. most interviewers will keep drilling deeper to find a conflict. 6. For example…" Focus your answer on the behavioral process for resolving the conflict and working collaboratively. because those are her very words. so I take time to listen to their point of view. it misses the point of the question. And if they're willing to provide a positive reference. May I show you her letter of recommendation?" So be prepared in advance with your letters of recommendation. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved? Note that if you say no. then I seek to work out a collaborative solution. Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it. You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. If I were to ask your professors (or your boss) to describe you. Never major ones. . I've found that when conflict occurs. 7. For example: "Yes. What is your greatest weakness? Most career books tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness. I'm now taking steps to correct this. what would they say? This is a threat of reference check question. I know she would say that. I just started using a pocket planner…" then show them your planner and how you are using it. using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is deceiving. Ask any prior bosses or professors in advance. that I'm results oriented and one of the best people she has ever worked with. First of all. Talk about the strength of the team above the individual. Actually." Wrong. it helps to fully understand the other persons perspective. but there have been disagreements that needed to be resolved. 8. For example: "I have had trouble in the past with planning and prioritization. Do not wait for the interview to know the answer. Second. Such as: "I work too much. I just work and work and work. Then you can answer the question like this: "I believe she would say I'm a very energetic person. However.Emphasize teamwork behavioral examples and focus on your openness to diversity of backgrounds. The key is how you behaviorally reacted to conflict and what you did to resolve it. ask them for a letter of recommendation. so be prepared. And note that this question may be used as a lead in to questions around how you handle conflict within a team.

keeping them focused on what is most important for delivering the highest priority results. please remember that they are only examples. If you had to live your life over again. The person who can set the course and direction for subordinates. I learned on my recent internship…" then provide examples. For example. They are meant to stir your creative juices and get you thinking about how to properly answer the broader range of questions that you will face. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have? Focus on two words: leadership and vision. what one thing would you change? Focus on a key turning point in your life or missed opportunity. 10. Stay focused on positive direction in your life and back it up with examples. In reviewing these responses. 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. the one aspect I likely would have changed would be focusing earlier on my chosen career.9. I had a great internship this past year and look forward to more experience in the field. For example: "Although I'm overall very happy with where I'm at in my life. Then tell of how that leadership and vision translated into your personal delivered results. Yet also tie it forward to what you are doing to still seek to make that change. Please do not rehearse them verbatim or adopt them as your own. I simply wish I would have focused here earlier. . 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 highest calling of a true leader is inspiring others to reach the highest of their abilities.

Have you been down a path already that they are currently starting? Having “lessons learned” to offer them is a very strong plus for a job candidate. Focus on them: In five years. If the job you’re interviewing for is not a supervisor. too. they probably aren’t concerned about your management skills. Where do you see yourself in five years? Employers don’t necessarily care to hear that you expect to climb the corporate ladder and be a supervisor. In technology careers. Focus on them: You need to not only share how you meet almost all the criteria they seek.Answering the Most Common Job Interview Questions So You Stand Out Here are some of the most popular questions and my thoughts on how to answer them. You can share how you’ve been a mentor to others and led projects with little to no supervisor. advancing your skills is important. That should indicate you have leadership potential. you can help out with those deliverables until they find someone (or be a backup to the person they hire). Think about how you can achieve this in the role you’re interviewing for.] Why should we hire you? This is a differentiation question. Are they likely to need another skill set as they grow as a company? Or maybe you have skills that you noticed are in another job description they are looking to fill. but also have two to three additional abilities that they might not even know they need…yet. They need to know you are a candidate who can meet their needs now. you should have made a significant impact to the company’s bottom line. but also be valuable for where they want to go.] Why do you want to work here? . What you want to tell them is: they'd be crazy not to they hire you. You should be able to share what areas you want to strengthen in the near term (but be careful that they are not areas of expertise that the company needs now). [MORE: Answering: Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?. [MORE: Answering: Why Should We Hire You?.

Maybe you work hard. You need to understand the reasons why others enjoy working there. They want to know this is not just a job and paycheck. They want to hear this is what you want to do and the best place to do it. learn more than what is listed on their web site. Everyone claims to be: a hard worker. but also company culture. it is an indication that you are not very serious about working there. but most likely that’s commonplace at their office. . That means on deliverables. and have stories to back it up. Is it a great place to advance your skills. Focus on them: You want to present attributes that make you sound like the go-to guy or gal wherever you work.” but don’t mean it…well. It may even come up in conversation spontaneously. [MORE: Answering: Why Do You Want to Work Here?. If you know very little. leader in the industry? Be creative. Even the standard answers can be taken a step further to be more valuable:  Yes. Focus on them: Candidates who are really excited about the prospect of working there have done their homework. Do some heavy research—perhaps find some articles on the company that not many would know about. game-changer.] How do people describe you? Here’s another opportunity to differentiate yourself. they want hard workers. have great challenges to add to your resume. the interview is over in their mind. or will it allow you to grow as a professional?  Delivery -.The delivery must be genuine. Focus on them:  Content -. You’ll likely have to do some homework to answer this one.The answer to this question has two aspects: the content and the delivery. good communicator. If you really want to stand out. The interviewer will want to know why someone thinks you are one of these things. but also help others work fewer hours (by helping them do their job better or making their jobs easier).Employers want to know you feel you can fit in at the company quickly. If a hiring manager feels you’re just “telling them want they want to hear. [MORE: Answering: What Do You Know About Us?. But how many are a: problem-solver. and you can show them a copy of the article (I have had this happen to me). and team player.] What do you know about us? This is actually a test.

too.” They may be just checking to add that to their notes.” You can. You are admitting you have some growth opportunities and are not perfect. Is it your expertise in a particular skill? Is it your ability to turn low-performing teams into high performers? Share something that makes them think they need to hire you…right now. it doesn’t mean you “got the job. MORE: Answering: What Is Your Greatest Strength? and Answering: What Is Your Greatest Weakness?. you should be honest about the start date and show professionalism. but pick the one they need help with the most. expected. your potential new employer would expect a transition period. and everyone knows the candidate is going to say something trite (popular example: "I’m a perfectionist"). too. Showing you have a lighter side is usually a good thing. If you currently have a critical role. But what does this really mean? Getting along with everyone? That’s not hard to do if you’re a nice person. It includes listening. beyond your job description. if you feel like the interviewer has a sense of humor. Focus on them: You have many strengths. What have you done. But this doesn’t mean just speaking well. You must keep your guard up until you are in your car and driving away from the interview. Pulling your weight in the office? Again. you are being genuine. Do you hear things that others don’t? Do you understand things quickly? Can you figure out what people are trying to tell you through other clues (body language. that saved the team from a disaster or helped them make an impossible deadline? Have you won an award for this? What is your greatest strength/ greatest weakness? Your greatest strength is something they need. You should tell them you would have to discuss a transition with your current company and see if they require a two-week notice. When you give a real answer. .  Good communicators are everywhere. But you can include that you already have a plan to overcome this weakness through training or practice. I hate the “greatest weakness” question. Everyone knows it’s a trap.] When can you start? Be careful about this question for a few reasons. be sure to quickly follow with a serious answer. But. for example)?  Being a good team player is expected. If you are currently employed. Some people even insert a little humor in their answer—“I wish I was better at tennis. First of all.

Sense of urgency and excitement about starting work at the new company is always a good thing. you certainly can say you’re able to start tomorrow. standard questions” can have unique and useful answers. Answering the Common Job Interview Questions:  What Is Your Greatest Weakness?  What Is Your Greatest Strength?  Tell Me About Yourself  Why Should We Hire You?  Why Do You Want to Work Here?  Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?  Do You Have Any Questions?  Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?  What Do You Know About Us?  After a Layoff: Why Did You Leave Your Job?  After Being Fired: Why Did You Leave Your Job?  Explain Your Gap in Employment .If you can start right away (and they know you are not currently employed). You should think hard about how you can differentiate yourself from others every step of the way during the interview. Bottom line: Even the “boring.