Top 5 Tough Interview Questions…And How To Answer Them!

April 29, 2010

Interviewing

Getting a new job can feel an awful lot like a mandatory run through a military-style obstacle course – scale this wall, dive across the pit, run until your lungs burst… Here to help you hold your own during intense interrogations (a.k.a. job interviews) is our top-5 list of tough interview questions complete with answer suggestions!


What are your weaknesses?

How to answer:

The old school way of answering this question (also known as the Michael Scott way, for you Office fans) is to answer this question with a weakness that’s not really a weakness, e.g. “I care too much” -or- “I’m a perfectionist. I can’t rest until everything is just right.”  While this might seem like a good idea, it’s not.  I repeat, this is not a good idea!  Why?  Quite simply, it comes off as phony.  And phony, especially in an interview, is bad news.

A better approach is to pick a weakness that won’t kill your chances of getting the job.  For example, “I’m not a detail-oriented person” probably wouldn’t work during an interview for a position that depends on you catching the critical details.  Once you’ve got a non-critical weakness picked out however, spend time emphasizing the steps you’ve been taking to overcome it (you have been taking steps, right?).  This approach shows the interviewer that you have a realistic sense of your capabilities, and that you are proactive in dealing with potential personal pitfalls. (Try saying that five times fast!)

Tell me about yourself…

How to answer:

If you started to mentally answer this question by saying: “In the beginning…” then STOP!  Immediately.  “Tell me about yourself” is technically more of a command then a question (perfectionism kicks in hard over here sometimes), but there is one thing it’s not: An invitation to divulge your entire life story.  So what is an interviewer looking for when they make this request?  The same thing they’re looking for in every question they’re going to ask you: Why should I hire you for this position?

The interviewer wants to know how your past experience and achievements will be of benefit to them if they hire you.  Before heading into that all important interview, take some time out to map out a few key talking points that you can focus your conversation on.

What are your long-range goals?

How to answer:

Hopefully by now you understand that your long-range goals (at least as far as this potential position is concerned) should be realistic to your career.  This means I don’t want to hear about any of you answering with: “I wanna be a rock star” while interviewing for an executive managing (insert fancy title here) position.  Do, however, answer with realistic goals within the scope of your career, as well as actionable steps you are taking to achieve those goals (education, certifications, etc).

CC Image “Interview” by alancleaver_2000 on flickr.

Have you ever had a conflict with your boss? How was it resolved?

How to answer:

Big hint: Answer without making reference to the “competence” of your (former or current) boss.

No matter your personal opinion, the focus of your answer should be on the conflict itself and not so much your feelings surrounding the conflict.  In fact, I’m going to go ahead and take that a step further – focus your answer on the resolution of the conflict, the actionable steps you (or you both) took to resolve the conflict.  This will show that you are a person who is actively looking for ways to solve problems and move forward, and this is a big thumbs up.

Are you interviewing anywhere else?

How to answer:

This isn’t the time to flex your muscles, crack your knuckles, and paste a too-confident smile across your face that says: “I’m wanted everywhere. You’re lucky to have the chance to interview me!”

But neither is it the time to discretely cover up your day planner that’s chock-full of interviewing appointments, and pretend like you’ve got nothing else going on except the couch, ice cream, and TV.

Be honest, but somewhat of a brown-noser at the same time.  Meaning, go with some version of: “Yes, but you are my first choice.”

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