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Apr 6
25 Most Difficult Job Interview Questions (and their answers)

Being prepared is half the battle.

A comment on a post here had me digging for this list of 25 tough job-interview questions. If this is overload for you, the most-important thing to do is be yourself.

If you haven't lied on your resume, and you haven't lied about your skills in a screening, then don't worry.  Just be yourself and have fun with it (in the professional sense, of course).  The person interviewing you is as interested in locating the right person as you are having them select you.  You are most-likely to be that person when you allow who you really are to come through.

Enough with the intro...

Here's the list, excerpted from PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of a Job and Find Another Successfully:

1. Tell me about yourself.
Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be extracareful that you don’t run off at the mouth. Keep your answer to a minute or two at 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. Don’t 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 don’t act as if you know everything about the place. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research, but don’t overwhelm the interviewer, and make it clear that you wish to learn more.
You might start your answer in this manner: “In my job search, I’ve investigated a number of companies. Yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons…”
Give your answer a positive tone. Don’t say, “Well, everyone tells me that you’re in all sorts of trouble, and that’s why I’m here”, even if that is why you’re 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 company’s needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that it’s 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 show 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 stresses financial controls, your answer should mention a reverence for numbers.

If you feel that you have to concoct an answer to this question - if, for example, the company stresses research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesn’t interest you- then you probably should not be taking that interview, because you probably shouldn’t be considering a job with that organization.

Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you wouldn’t be able -or wouldn’t want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it’s difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you don’t really want.

4. What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
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 interests, 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 contributions. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal security.

8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for which you are being interviewed].
Keep your answer brief and taskoriented. Think in in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure that you really do understand what the position involves 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 achievement-oriented.”

11. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. What’s 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 his 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 wellqualified, the employer will get a fast return on his investment. Say that a growing, energetic company can never have too much talent.

12. What is your management style?
You should know enough about the company’s style to know that your management style will complement it. Possible styles include: task oriented (I’ll enjoy problem-solving identifying what’s 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 (”I’m 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 hatppily 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 achievementand ask-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 don’t 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 employess 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. 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 cutback, 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 agreed to disagree” approach may be useful. Remember hat your references are likely to be checked, so don’t concoct a story for an interview.

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. Don’t 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. Don’t 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 aren’t you earning more at your age?
Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search. Don’t 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 position’s 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 probe, you might say, “You know that I’m making $______ now. Like everyone else, I’d 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 restpond with a number. You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter, that you’ll accept whatever is offered. If you’ve been making $80,000 a year, you can’t say that a $35,000 figure would be fine without sounding as if you’ve given up on yourself. (If you are making a radical career change, however, this kind of disparity may be more reasonable and understandable.)

Don’t 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. Don’t 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 your long-range goals?
Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Don’t answer, “I want the job you’ve advertised.” Relate your goals to the company you are interviewing: ‘in a firm like yours, I would like to…”

25. How successful do you you’ve been so far?
Say that, all-in-all, you’re happy with the way your career has progressed so far. Given the normal ups and downs of life, you feel that you’ve done quite well and have no complaints.
Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don’t overstate your case. An answer like, “Everything’s wonderful! I can’t think of a time when things were going better! I’m overjoyed!” is likely to make an interviewer wonder whether you’re trying to fool him . . . or yourself. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence.


Comments/Trackbacks




I hate you

How to deal with interviewers who asks a lot of company proprietary questions?

Anonymous,

I am not sure how to read your comment, but if companies ask YOU questions about your former/current employer's proprietary information, they should keep their hands to themselves. You could be in a world of legal trouble if you share, as you probably signed documents about keeping those things secret.

Watch out for companies that use ficticious job openings to hijack brainpower. Sometimes, this comes in the form of "case-studies" as well, where a company will say, "Let's say you have a problem with your .... how would you solve it?"

Be very careful of these situations. Usually stating that you have some very good ideas on the matter, but you don't want to divulge them to just anyone should suffice.

Generic case-studies, however, are completely appropriate, and I encourage my clients to use such questions to compell their interviewees to really think things through.

I found your salary discussion particularly interesting, Robert. My wife is going through a military transition assistance program after having served 20 years. The staffers running the program (sharp-sounding folks, BTW) are coaching attendees to *not* discuss salary during an interview.

That's completely contrary to my own interview experience. Salary discussions were a topic in ever job interview I've had, either here in the US or during my time in Germany.

IAC, terrific, useful post!

Jim,

Good point. I know there are several opinions on the matter when it comes to salary questions in the interview process.... Ask 10 people, and you'll get 10 of them.

For me, the big deal is that I want people know what their desired salary is. What is workable for you? What is the company willing to pay?

For companies, I expect them to be very clear with me (the recruiter) what their expectations, budget limitations and objectives are before I even start interviewing.

There's a lot of rig-a-ma-roll and wasted time that goes on in interviews because nobody wants to lay all their cards on the table at once.

My opinion? Be absolutely ready with your desired salary and your minimum as well. Practice the response you'll give.

The company will probably ask first--no problem. Give your response clearly and purposefully as the way you'd answer a question about your management style.

Flat, clean, and almost boring responses generally carry the most weight. Nobody likes arguing with facts, and if you present it as such and move on, then there will be much less haggling later on.

good

To discuss salary or not to discuss salary on the first interview: It depends in part on weather or not the salary expectations are clear before the interview. I've been the first to bring it up in terms of my expectations on a first interview and had the interviewer (President of a non-profit looking for a CFO); suggest that we will discuss that later. Then 20 minutes later I was offered the job for the salary I had suggested. One needs to be armed knowledge of what the position pays and to show the experience and confidence to command that salary. In that situation my frankness was seen as a strength. No hard rules here, just use ones instincts as the interview dictates.

Very good point, Charlie. Congrats on how you handled that.

It is being prepared with as much information as you can that makes such a difference!
Thanks for the comment.

Question:what should be the right answer if interviewer asking like"why you leaving present organisation"?

RE: what should be the right answer if interviewer asking like"why you leaving present organisation"?

I want someone to be honest with me. But, if I get a lot of "blah blah blah" and stuff about being stabbed in the back, etc, I am going to think twice about that candidate.

The truth is, if your office environment is bad, and you always seem to be at the "scene of the crime", I am going to wonder who the real culprit is.

No drama. straight talk is better... and focus on what you're moving on to do. Try this:

"I've enjoyed my time with ACME Anvils, and it will be hard for me to go in some ways because of the success I've helped create there. But the challenges and opportunity I see from your company seem to align better with my mission, goals, and personal vision at this point in my life."

Thoughts?

1. what can you do for us that someone
else can'?
2. what do you think of your boss
3. Are you good manager?Can you give
some examples.Do you feel that you have top managerial potential.

what are the best answer if the interviewer ask me "what do you think of your boss"?

what are the best answer if the interviewer ask me "what do you think of your boss"?

no comment

thank you all for these tips. i have consistently crashed and burned with saying the wrong thing during interviews ;). it's nice to hear what people are "actually saying" you are asked questions

I would like to get test form of the cabin crew test.

Why do you think you are the right person for the post?
What's your Strength and weakness.
If you are given the post what do you expect from you?

kool stuff..... i liked the article...

great, job interview is a wonderful things. It's need our best preparation. success for you.

When you go to a job interview, you expect them to ask you questions, but more often than not, they will turn the tables on you and finish the interview by asking if you have any questions you’d like to ask them. What they’re looking for here is to see whether or not you care enough about the job to get clarification on the position and company you’re joining. Impress your interviewer by asking a couple of our sample concluding job interview questions.

This all question is important, but where is answer

Interviewers always want to see you do well. No one is out to get you! It's about a candidate's ability to engage and kick the ball around a bit with the interviewer, in the same way they would their future colleagues.

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