Tough Interview Questions And Answers




Tough Interview Questions

No matter how good your resume and cover letter, you still need to be able to answer the tough questions during your interview. Here we show you some examples of tough questions with suggested answers.

How would you answer some of these tough questions? Please let us know if you have a good response to one of these inquiries. And if you have been asked a question that you're not sure how to answer, let us know and we'll try to find an answer that works for you.

Here are the Questions and Answers posted to our home page - most recent first. Click on each question to take you to its answer.

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

How have you helped reduce costs?

What do you do in your spare time?

Do you consider yourself the type of person who can figure out what needs to be done, or do you need guidance and directions?

How do you deal with the public?

What are your hobbies and outside interests?

When do you expect a promotion?

Why did you leave your last job?

Given the choice, what job function would you like to have?

What is the worst thing you've heard about our company?

What have you been doing with your time while not working?

What can you contribute to our team?

Will you work overtime?

What would make you feel disappointed on the job?

Do you mind doing your own writing, word processing, document preparation and/or photocopying once in a while?

Why are you interested in this position?

Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?

Have you ever been fired from a job?

If I were a stranger wanting to know about this company, how would you “sell me” about this company?

What new goals or objectives have you established recently?

Do you have any questions for me?

What is your strongest qualification for this job?

Are you creative?

What qualities do you like in a supervisor?

Describe a few emergencies that caused you to miss or reschedule work?

What job have you held that is the least relevant to the job you are applying for?

What makes you feel proud about your job?

Would you like to have your boss’ job?

Describe the responsibilities of your last job?

What helps you remember things?

What is your greatest strength?

What aspects or features of your previous jobs have you disliked?

Why do you feel you have top management potential?

Do you feel you might be better off at a different size or different type of company?

Why do you want to work for us?

Why have you been unemployed for all this time?

What do you think it takes to be successful in a company such as ours?

If you weren't working in this industry, what would you be doing?

What can you do for us that someone else can not do?

What personal characteristics do you think lead to success in this job?

Do you prefer mashed potatoes or home fries?

How did you get your last job?

What are you looking for in this job?

How do you think you will fit into our operation?

Given the choice, what company would you like to work for?

Why did you contact me?

What things do you find difficult to do?

Will you be out to take your boss's job?

What do you think is required in this position?

How have you helped increase sales and/or profits?

If starting over again, what job or field would you enter?

What position do you expect to have in five years?

What was your most interesting job or project?

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

Have you ever been fired from a job?

Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?

What was it like when you met your coworkers on your last job?

What was the last movie you saw?

Where else have you applied for work?

What do you like least about your job?

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

Does your current employer know you are planning to leave?

Of your previous jobs, which did you like the most, and why?

Have you ever worked with anyone with developmental disabilities?

What kind of things do you worry about?

How would you describe the essence of success?

What aspects of your education do you consider to be the most beneficial to this position?

What can I do for you?

What least interests you about the position being offered?

What factors contribute to your sense of satisfaction in this job?

What is the most critical aspect of your job?

How would you describe yourself?

Why did you get into your field?

Are you good at taking orders and instructions?

What types of people annoy you the most?

Can you describe a situation where your work was criticized?

Tell me about yourself?

What qualities would you look for if hiring someone?

What was the last book you read?

Can we check your references?

Tell me about the problems, if any, you have living within your means?

Have you fired people before?

What was the last sporting event you attended?

What are your short range objectives?

Can you work under pressure? Deadlines?

If you disagree with a supervisor, do you make your opinions known?

What do your subordinates think of you?

What do you plan to earn five and ten years from now?

How would you describe your own personality?

In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

If a situation arose where something needed to be done that wasn't part of your job, how would you react?

What skills or areas of professional development do you want to improve at this time?

What would you consider a conducive job atmosphere?

Why should we hire you?

How many hours do you work a week to get your job done?

Describe the best person who ever worked for you or with you?

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 - the highest), how would you rate yourself on:

      a) Creativity?

      b) Organization?

      c) Memory?

What are your long range objectives?

Why do you want to change fields now?

How have you changed the nature of your job?

What aspects of working with others do you find least enjoyable?

What do you feel is a satisfactory attendance record?

How will you be able to cope with the change in corporate environment after all your time with another company?

What kind of salary are you worth?

Have you ever cared for an injured person who is recovering?

Has a supervisor ever done something that you disliked?

What are your five biggest accomplishments in:  

       a. your present or last job?         

       b. your career so far?

What most interests you about the position being offered?

Why aren't you earning more at your age?

What do you look for in a job?

How have you benefited from your disappointments?

Why should I hire you from the outside when I can hire someone from within the company?

Explain your role as a group/team member?

What will your references say about you?

How long would it take you to make a contribution to our firm?

What kind of decisions are most difficult for you to make?

How long would you stay with us?

How do you determine your priorities under tight time constraints?

How did your last boss get the best work out of you?

What new goals or objectives have you established recently?

Tell me something that you are not proud of?

If one of your co workers was having difficulty doing their job, what would you do?

What have your learned about yourself from the jobs you've held (or if you're a recent graduate - from your academic experiences)?

Why are you leaving your current position?

Are you willing to take calculated risks when necessary?

Do you have any children or other responsibilities that might interfere with or distract you from your work?

If you could start your professional life again, what would you do differently?

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Once upon a time this question was asked at almost every interview. Employers fully expected their employees to stick around for a few years and work their way up the corporate ladder. But times have changed and in many industries the norm has become a shorter rather than a longer tenure of employment. However, many employers still like to ask this question because it helps them gage whether their investment in their hires will pay off. Employers know that in some cases it takes years for some employees to develop their skills and talents to reach their full potential and productivity. There are still many employers who expect their hires to stick around for a while, particularly in the financial services sector where the relationships that employees build up with their clients are expected/required to be long term. Success in areas such as corporate and investment banking, venture capital, financial planning, portfolio management, and many other management positions, is built on the development and maintenance of trust and respect that exists in long-term business relationships. Employers know that their customers/clients feel most comfortable with the people with whom they have an established rapport, and this doesn’t occur when there is job hopping. So if you are asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, be comfortable addressing your desire to stay with that employer for a long time. Then, tell them that you want to build/continue your career there, grow as their company grows, and you want to contribute to that growth. Address specific contributions you can make, and their benefits to that employer. If your responses are on target, the employer should recognize that you are thinking long-term! Demonstrating loyalty never goes out of style!

 

How have you helped reduce costs?

Just because the job you are interviewing for, or the jobs you have held in the past aren’t obviously involved with budgets and the business’ monetary matters, doesn’t mean you aren’t aware of, or can’t find ways to save your employer money. Employers know this, and no matter the job you’re applying for, they want to hire people who recognize the importance of keeping profits in-house. Every business wants to find ways to spend less and make their profits go further. If you have identified ways your past or future employer can save money, here’s your chance to speak up and demonstrate your respect for those profits. If possible, explain how you have you tightened budgets, controlled spending, minimized waste, etc. Can you address where savings can be gained from outsourcing a function or project? Can you identify where a small operational change could net big savings? Do you have contacts that can provide better rates for materials or labor? Can you suggest ways to reduce spending on every-day items? Did you keep overtime hours or production over-runs from getting out of hand? Have you demonstrated where travel costs or daily expenses could be reduced? If you can’t think of any work-related examples, provides examples of how you budgeted and saved money your family. The better you can address this question, the more likely some of those corporate profits will be budgeted toward your pockets.

 

What do you do in your spare time?

An interviewer will ask this question to learn more about you as a person, not just as a job candidate, and to determine if you’ll fit into their corporate culture. While most employers demand employees who will be committed to the corporate efforts during work hours, what you do in your off hours should have little bearing on whether you can perform a particular job. But employers want to hire rounded individuals who have more going for them than just the job, and their asking a question such as this gives them a deeper look inside the candidate. Definitely mention activities that build strength, character and community, such as volunteer efforts, fundraising activities, etc. Also touch upon any creative hobbies, particularly those that take great patience. Do you play any competitive sports or musical instruments? Do you attend local sporting events or concerts? What about intellectual pursuits such as reading, taking classes, or foreign travel? Are you involved with any personal growth endeavors such as self-improvement programs, yoga, exercise or fitness regimes? Anything that illustrates attention to detail, persistence, leadership or mentoring is worth mentioning. And of course, if you’re personal activities directly relate to the job, don’t hesitate to let your interviewer know. A word of caution however, to not mention any part-time jobs or money making activities that aren’t directly related to your training, or that could be misconstrued as competitive with this employer. And, lastly, try to avoid talking about family responsibilities that could be seen as a distraction from work.

 

Do you consider yourself the type of person who can figure out what needs to be done, or do you need guidance and directions?

Frequently, employers feel that the information you provide them in your resume, online profile, or verbal communications will provide some indication if you can do the job you’re applying for, and if you’re self-directed or need a push in the right direction. But just as frequently, when an employer needs someone to hit “hit the ground running” any applicant appearing unable to work things out on their own will be passed over in the hiring. Ask yourself: “How much experience and fore-knowledge is needed to be successful in the job being applied for?” In asking a question such as this, the employer wants to determine how much of other employees’ time will be taken up, either training you or answering your questions. Can you convince an employer that you are self-sufficient? Whenever possible, tell your interviewer that you know your job well, and that your skills are up to date, so you rarely need extensive guidance. Mention that you will ask questions when you’re not sure about unfamiliar protocols or otherwise aren’t sure how to proceed, and you will accept and/or seek input from supervisors or coworkers when needed, and you’ll try not to interfere with the workload and responsibilities of others. It is also important to remember that some employers want to hire applicants who can be molded to do things their way. In either case, the less direction you need, the better.

 

How do you deal with the public?

This is the type of question that can be asked of any potential employee who will be having direct contact with the public. Whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone; customer service or public information officer, retail, waiter, bartender or host, the employer wants to know the hire’s comfort level working with the public. Let the interviewer know that you enjoy working with the public and meeting new people, and that you try to deal with the public in a friendly, positive and receptive manner. Explain that you employ active listening skills, demonstrate empathy, and represent yourself and your employer as being responsive to the public’s concerns and complaints. Depending on the position, it may be important to mention how you track contact with the public and how you follow up on reported issues. You may also want to mention the software and other tools you might use to do your job effectively and efficiently. The customer may not always be right, but you must always listen and respond appropriately.

 

What are your hobbies and outside interests?

This is the type of question an interviewer asks to see if an applicant will get chatty, and perhaps reveal something deeper about their personality, culture and interests beyond work. You want to avoid revealing too much personal information, especially about things totally irrelevant to the job. When responding, it’s best to mention competitive interests such as team sports or other activities that demonstrate cooperation and collaboration. Stay clear of references to family that could instigate questions of distracting responsibilities such as aging or sick parents, your children and their activities. Creative interests such as photography, painting, woodworking, electronics assembly, automotive restoration or other endeavor that require patience and convey your ability to be imaginative, artistic and resourceful are all worth mentioning because they are valuable characteristics to an employer. Other “safe” interests you can talk about include reading, taking classes (particularly if the subject matter relates to your work), going to the movies, concerts, participatory or spectator sports, reading, travel, etc. Ultimately, you want the employer to know you are a well-rounded individual with more to offer than just specific work experience.

 

When do you expect a promotion?

Interviewers might ask this question to see how eager you are. It is less about your motivation, and more about your expectations for advancement, and whether or not you are realistic about growth opportunities. The most straight forward response to this question might be to say that you expect to receive a promotion when your level of achievement, accomplishments and the attainment of corporate benchmarks warrants it. Or, if you know the company where you are interviewing operates on a system of merit and standardized protocols for advancement, you might indicate that you would hope to be promoted according to the general schedule of in-house career advancement. Not all promotions are based on merit or achievement; some are based on length of tenure before any promotion advancement can take place. Finding out how a particular company handles promotion usually requires some research and networking with current staff, or with someone who recently left that company. Talking to both current and former employees might give a rounded picture of the promotional opportunities at that company. But take them both with a grain a salt. It stands to reason that someone who recently received a promotion will have more positive things to say about that employer, than someone who left the company because they felt they didn’t get treated properly and were overlooked for advancement. The simplest and most honest answer to the question, however is, “I expect to receive a promotion when I earn it.”

 

Why did you leave your last job?

Interviewers may ask this question for a number of reasons. They may see something in your resume or online profile that possibly raise questions about your commitment to a job, job hopping, a rapid rise in your corporate growth, or other factors. Employers want to be confident that they are hiring someone who will stick around a while, demonstrates engagement in the company, has a commitment to the company’s development and growth, fit into the corporate culture, and who will maintain a positive attitude. People leave jobs for all kinds of reasons, but when asked about why you departed your previous employer, being negative about any of these factors may prevent you from getting hired. So don’t provide your interviewer with too many details about your former employer. Keep your comments brief and positive. A good response might be to indicate that you believe you went as far as you could and you felt is the right time to look for new challenges and growth opportunities. Don’t’ get rattled if your interviewer pushes for more information. Stay focused on wanting to bring your skills to this new employer and that you believe this company is a better fit for the next phase of your professional development and a better fit for your skills and experience.

 

Given the choice, what job function would you like to have?

An employer might ask this question if she sees something in your work history or surmises from something you’ve already said that you might fit a position different from the one you’re applying for. These days, most employers do not typically reassess a candidate for positions other than what is being applied for, so if this question is brought up it may be a sign that you are putting too much emphasis on things less relevant to the job you claim to want. So before going to your interview, ask yourself if the position you are now targeting, with your specific strengths, experience and interests, is really where you want to be. Also, this question asks about “job function”; so while it may be splitting hairs, the question may be more about the actions of the job than about a title or the role in any business hierarchy. The interviewer may also be trying to determine whether you’re on the right track for the work you hope to be doing down the road, and your hopes for future growth with their company. No matter the reason for the question, keep your answer positive and in the context of the job you are presently applying for. Do not indicate that you’re looking to fill the interviewer’s job, unless you are being interviewed by the person you will potentially replace.

 

What is the worst thing you've heard about our company?

This question is asked in an effort to find out how much you really know about the firm where you are applying for a job, as well as how much attention you pay to industry and business news. Even if the company made front-page news, you really want to resist making negative comments about this prospective employer. Whether this is your first interview with them or a follow-up, tell your interviewer that you’ve heard nothing negative about them. You could say something like, if you had heard really negative things about the company, you probably wouldn’t be applying there, which shows you to be a discerning candidate. If the question is asked during a second or third interview, your responses can indicate that, although you've heard nothing negative, you are aware of internal projects that intrigue you and that you hope to address any deficiencies after you are hired. Try to be specific if you can. For example, if you’re in marketing or sales, you might say, "market penetration could be a bit better, and I have ideas that I am confident will improve market visibility and sales." This conveys to the employer that you are thinking about things that will benefit them, and you have already given thought to their needs.

 

What have you been doing with your time while not working?

This question may trigger memories of your teachers asking you what you did on your vacation, but in this situation your answer is far more important and there is more riding on your response. Of course you want to indicate that you are putting dedicated time and effort into your job search, that you are researching companies of interest, attending networking events, and trying to make contact with decision makers who can help you get hired. However even a question like this - that is not seemingly focused on your skills or experience – lies another opportunity to talk about your qualifications that make you worthy of being hired, even if those attributes were utilized during leisure activities. Have you been coaching a youth sports team? Have you organized a community or charity event? Did you plan a wedding? Were you responsible for planning a family reunion? All of these activities require a number of work related skills, including time management, organization, planning, strategizing, coordinating and executing. And while the short-term nature of these activities may not seem work related, using and strengthening of the skills involved demonstrates that you’re using your skills effectively. And talking about these accomplishments also presents you as a more rounded individual with interests outside of work, that can make you appear to be a more attractive candidate to many employers. Be cautious however, about putting too much emphasis on family responsibilities. You do not want to present yourself as an applicant with too many family distractions or other issues that could prove negatively disruptive to an employment situation. Also, don't forget to reveal information on any classes you have been taking, or any other activities where your time is spent on adding new, or improving existing skills. Any activity you can mention where you can show relevance to the work you want to do will work in your favor.

 

What can you contribute to our team?

Employers will ask a question such as this when collaboration is an important aspect to their operations. Frequently this question can also indicate that each department in a company requires a cohesive group of people to perform functions and complete autonomous tasks. When you respond, indicate that you enjoy working collaboratively, and cite specific examples of your experiences that highlight working as part of team, and the role you played. Using PAR’s, describe your position on that team and the specific contributions you made, including skills and industry-specific knowledge. Also convey your recognition of the benefits of working closely with others to develop and execute projects, and their positive outcomes. Don’t limit your comments to just addressing your knowledge, skills and leadership abilities; if possible, shed some light on how your team has (or you anticipate will ...) influence product development, company revenue and other positive contributions to the company’s bottom line. If you have done research about the company, can you indicate how your contributions to their team can solve a specific problem? Be careful, however, to not put too much emphasis on the work of others on the team. This is your interview and you should be highlighting your experiences and the things you will do for this prospective employer.

 

Will you work overtime?

This could be a more difficult question to answer than you think. Before answering, you may need to respond with the question, “Is overtime routinely necessary?” Ask yourself how do you really feel about overtime? If you are really passionate about your work and love the company you are working for, putting in extra time may not bother you or interfere with other aspects of your life. But keep in mind that in some places if you work more than 40 hours per week, you must be paid for any overtime you put in. If you work in such a place, you may want to know at what rate overtime will be compensated. So it's a good idea to research your employee rights in your area for the position you’re interviewing for, to know the best way to respond. Theoretically you want to convey that, yes, you are happy to do the work necessary to support your team or to ensure the timely completion of a project, even if that includes some overtime. Just be aware that some employers might take advantage of an applicant who is overly eager to work the extra hours. And remember that in an interview it is not a good idea to reveal if other aspects of your life would prevent you from working overtime. Lastly, be careful that you don't let your body language or eyes give away your dissatisfaction with the idea of putting in the extra hours.

 

What would make you feel disappointed on the job?

Here’s another one of those questions that an employer might ask to help determine your emotional response to tough working conditions, especially in jobs where there are high expectations from management and supervisors. So one of the first things you want to express is that you generally have a positive outlook, but you are also realistic and understand that not everything always goes as planned even though you try your hardest and do the best you can. If you want to give a simple generic answer, tell your interviewer you might be a little disappointed if a situation arose leaving you with the inability to complete tasks because of a shortfall of resources. Other things that might leave you disappointed might be an uncooperative atmosphere, coworkers who don’t share your passion for a project, or a sudden lack of opportunities for growth and advancement due to conditions beyond your control. However don’t forget to reinforce that you enjoy your work, are good at what you do, and aren’t looking for areas of disappointment, but focusing on positive outcomes.

 

Do you mind doing your own writing, word processing, document preparation and/or photocopying once in a while?

A few economic downturns ago, in an effort to cut down on administrative costs, a lot of employers started eliminating many of the support positions that included responsibilities such as document preparation, writing, transcription and reproduction. At larger firms and for many senior executives, these admin tasks are still handled by assistants, but in many other cases the positions have been eliminated almost entirely. Middle management and upper level managers and administrators have found themselves responsible for completing their own administrative needs. So, a question like this will most likely not be asked of a younger candidate who has never known the luxury of having an assistant. The question is more likely to be asked of those with longer work histories applying for mid and upper level positions who may have had secretaries and administrative assistants at their disposal to fulfill these duties. Today, for a majority of all office workers no matter what the position, performing these tasks is usually a necessity. The employer wants to know if you feel it beneath your dignity to perform such tasks. But if the job you are applying for might have support staff for such tasks, express that you are still willing to do them, particularly if the person who usually does those tasks is occupied doing other work. You must seem willing to do all the tasks involved with a job, even the ones you don’t like and don’t really want to do.

 

Why are you interested in this position?

An employer might ask this question out of curiosity, to learn more about a candidate, their qualifications and motivation behind their application. But the question could also be asked when the relevance between an applicant’s past experience and the position being interviewed for aren’t obvious. In either case, a good place to start your response would be to address the reputation of the company or maybe name a key person in the department you’re interested in working or an executive of the company. Don’t just quote jargon or press coverage; sound like you really know something and are passionate about wanting to be there. Express your knowledge of, and familiarity with the company, its reputation, its products and services, the work you’re applying for, and state why you want to be a part of what they do. Further convey that you have the competency, experience and motivation that would enable you to make a meaningful contribution to the work you know they need done, and you see it as a challenge you are able to fulfill.

 

Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?

This is an interesting question that an employer might ask in an effort to determine a candidate’s assertiveness, openness, friendliness, if an extravert or an introvert, whether you’re curious or a know-it-all. In part, your answer depends on the personality traits needed for the position being applied for. For example: If you’re applying for a marketing, promotions or sales position, you will need to convey your ease at speaking with strangers, and have no problem starting a conversation. These are positions that benefit from assertive, outgoing communication styles. On the other hand, if the position you are applying requires a more sedate approach because either the work or the environment necessitates waiting for another to speak up first, you want to tell your interviewer that you are respectful and don’t generally indulge in unnecessary conversation. Explain that you conduct yourself professionally, with dignity and decorum. Be careful not to appear snobbish or too uptight, as that won’t win you any points either. If you are really shy and completely unassertive, you could say: “Yes, I’ll speak up first when it's appropriate or someone/something interests me." Remember to just be yourself, and be honest about your communication style as it relates to the job you’re applying for. You always win when you display confidence!

 

Have you ever been fired from a job?

If you have never been fired (not the same as being laid off), good for you; you have nothing to worry about. But if you have been terminated from a job or have otherwise been let go besides a layoff, I believe that honesty is the best policy, and it’s your responsibility to answer the question without demonstrating anger and without saying anything negative about your past employer or coworkers. If you have been fired, there is a strong likelihood that a prospective employer can uncover this information from a good background check. So if you are truthful, finding a layoff in your background won’t be a surprise. This means that your explanation for why you were fired may be the determining factor whether the next employer decides to hire you or not. If the answer is yes, tell your interviewer that the reasons for your dismissal became profound learning experiences, and you have since grown and learned from your mistakes. Assure the prospective employer that there will be no repeats of those problems. Yes, most employers would prefer problem-free employees. But if you did something wrong, owned up to it and admitted the wrong doing and conveyed how you improved and learned from those mistakes, you will demonstrate strong and positive character traits that employers can respect.

 

If I were a stranger wanting to know about this company, how would you “sell me” about this company?

This is an interesting and increasingly common question. More and more, employers are trying to build their “company culture,” and questions like this help them figure out if you’ll fit in. In asking this question, at the very least, your interviewer wants to know how much you know about that company. By itself, parroting back the company’s mission statement, motto, or their advertising’s tag line won’t win you any interview points. But if you can quickly say something intelligent and insightful about their products and services, the markets they serve, ways you have interacted with their output, and that you can say something knowledgeable and possibly flattering about the company’s founders and/or chief executives, will get the employer’s attention. Keep in mind the way you answer will also reveal something about the passion you have about the company and the industry, as well as the position you are trying to fill. Some of the emotions and traits you’ll want to convey include: being enthusiastic, excited, curious and motivated, along with friendly and likeable. Of course, don’t “overdo it”! Don’t force out too much emotion, just be genuine. If you have a real passion for the company and the position, get that across to your interviewer; not just with the content to your answers, but the expressiveness of your personality and demeanor. You will leave your interviewer more confident, not just that you can do the job, but that you’ll fit in, as well.

 

What new goals or objectives have you established recently?

This early in the year, an interviewer could ask this question lightheartedly, as if to request you share any New Year’s Resolutions. But, this query could also be posed with all seriousness at any time. The employer may be trying to find out if you have any distractions from your work. But she could also be trying to find out if you are growing as a person and as a potential employee. If possible, try not to answer with anything that indicates new or additional financial responsibility such as buying a home, getting married or having a family because these actions will have great impact, and you don’t want to give the impression you are taking on too much responsibility that could potentially distract from your effectiveness on the job. You also don’t want to present the impression that the salary of this job will not support your lifestyle or current plans. But you could talk about your interest in attaining job-related goals, such as reaching higher sales goals, learning new skills, taking job-relevant classes or finishing a degree, etc. Saying that you want to learn how to do something non-work related such as cooking, fly fishing, to swim, might not be optimal responses, but they are acceptable. Also, if you plan to do any volunteer work or "giving back" to your community, say so! Anything that indicates professional and personal growth are the most appropriate responses.

 

Do you have any questions for me?

In almost every interview, almost every interviewer will ask this question of job candidates. It is usually asked at the end of the interview before the employer says “Nice meeting you, and thanks for coming.” If an interview is going well, the interviewer wants the applicant to ask questions to further demonstrate an interest in the work, the company, the department, their products or services. Asking questions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for and the company where you hope to be working shows your inquisitor that you are hungry for more detail, and that you want to understand things more thoroughly and completely. As long as the questions aren’t trivial or totally irrelevant your inquiries can show a prospective employer that you are curious, that you want to know what is expected on the job, and, that you care! Well thought-out questions can also help you convey what you know, the direction you want this position and your career to take, the tools you’ll need to be effective at your job. But keep in mind that there are questions you should not ask, particularly those about salary, benefits, vacations and similar topics that may cast a negative light on why you want the job. You don’t want the employer to think you’re only after the perks of the gig. You do want to convey your desire to make a positive and lasting contribution. If you don’t have any relevant questions for the employer/interviewer at the conclusion of your interview, you most likely will not get the job.

 

What is your strongest qualification for this job?

This question isn’t just about your greatest strengths. When an employer asks this question they want to be sure you have the confidence in your own abilities to do what they need done. The best way for you to respond is to succinctly convey to the employer that you have specific skills and abilities that address particular functions or needs of the employer. The more specific, the better! To accurately respond, you must thoroughly research the company, their products/services and their business partners – including their annual reports, news and trade publications - so that you can confidently state you can fulfill their needs in very specific ways. You don’t want to merely mention individual skill strengths, but provide detail (using PAR’s) to illustrate how you would solve problems or shortcomings in their operation. When possible, convey how effectively you have used that strength in the past to solve similar problems for a previous employer and explain how you see the relevance of those actions and their benefit to this potential employer.

 

Are you creative?

This is one of the few questions on this list that could be answered in one word, but I believe it deserves more than that. Before you answer this question with a simple yes or no, stop and think: Is the job I’m applying for reliant on my being creative?” If the answer is yes, you need to come up with very specific illustrations of the ways you are creative, and your ability to harness your talents for the betterment of the company and the department where you expect to be working. Use PAR statements to convey examples of how and where you have been creative, and the environment where you put those skills to work. If that creativity is best demonstrated via a portfolio, make sure it is clean, up to date, concise, and representative of the work you expect to be doing. If the position you are applying for is not dependent on your creativity, you might still want to mention something about your creativity to show that you are well rounded with interests outside of work. You may also ask yourself, if you demonstrate your creative side on this new job will the bosses consider your contributions appropriate or frivolous? Will they believe you want to make changes for the sake of putting your own stamp on things? Is your creative work and style indicative of what the company is known for? If you believe the employer is not interested in your creative talents, say you believe yourself to have some talents, mention them briefly, but keep the discussion relevant to the job you’re applying for. Keep the anecdotes about your creative side concise and keep yourself focused on the employer’s expectations and needs.

 

What qualities do you like in a supervisor?

This is not as odd a question as it seems. Your response could potentially inform an interviewer about your ideas on leadership, management, your desire to work independently and how much supervision you think you need or want. At the very least, express to the employer that you would like a supervisor who provides clarity and appropriate levels of detail in their instructions; someone who provides encouragement and who is there to support your efforts as needed. You might also say you appreciate a supervisor with patience, and who understands your job from having performed it him/herself. Be careful about defining qualities you don’t want in a manager like micro-management, clock-watchers, and those who are critical and unsupportive. The problem in naming these negative behaviors is they could be the traits of the person you might be working for, and your interviewer will likely not tell you, nor will you easily be able to determine this information in advance. Keep your comments positive.

 

Describe a few emergencies that caused you to miss or reschedule work?

Interviewers may ask this question in an effort to determine how you have dealt with stress and unexpected events. It is not important to go into the particulars of the emergency, just how you dealt with the situation. If any emergencies occurred, try to show how you minimized the impact on your work. Describe the organizational skills involved in rescheduling and establishing necessary priorities, and how you notified your bosses, and contacted coworkers to cover for you where possible. Convey that you took into consideration those with whom you work and those you report to. Explain that you didn’t take off any more time than was necessary to deal with the emergencies, and stayed in contact with staff and management during your absence to make sure deadlines would still be met, questions got answered, and that you did everything possible so that workloads would be minimally impacted. Also mention that upon your return you got back up to speed as fast as possible to not further impact your work or department or have your personal situation become a distraction to others.

 

What job have you held that is the least relevant to the job you are applying for?

An interviewer might ask this question to help understand the breadth of an applicant’s overall experience. It’s not uncommon for some past experiences to be unrelated to the job being applied for. But if (most?) everything you’ve ever done is unrelated to the job you want now, the employer may have a hard time recognizing the value you can bring to the position. The first job you mention should be one from your past that is at least minimally relevant to the position you’re applying for. Even a minimal relationship between positions can show some continuity in your career path. Use PAR statements to convey how that “unrelated” job benefited your skills and knowledge and led you to applying at this company. You can also refer to a position that was completely unrelated where you gained a basic soft skill that is still of value to your current work goal.

 

What makes you feel proud about your job?

Interviewers ask this question to get a handle on how you feel about your work, your engagement with the work and staff, and what contributes to your satisfaction with the work you do. A good way to approach your answer is to talk about the goals you expect to attain like improve sales or market share, enhance cooperative efforts, produce error-free reports, etc. Mention the personal satisfaction and importance of your successful completion, submission and acceptance of projects; the effective mastering of new software or other hard skills; recognition by your company or departmental team; and the company's overall success. Express that you take pride in your work, strive for accuracy, and the completion of projects on time and under budget. Keep your answer relevant to the job, your functions and the success and growth of the company.

 

Would you like to have your boss’ job?

Typically, this would be a question asked of a candidate looking for an internal position. Do you really want your boss’ job, or are you trying to fill a different position? Is your boss’ job up for grabs? If you are trying to fill a position similar to your boss’, or if you’re due for an expected and deserved promotion, confidently but not aggressively state, “Yes I would like my boss’ position. I have worked long and hard and am ready to take on those responsibilities.” Then provide some specific details of your relevant accomplishments using PAR’s to illustrate your contributions and your value to the company. Remember it’s important not to appear too eager to take over. Doing so makes you come off as too self-aggrandizing and egotistical; traits that may not appeal to hiring managers and HR people. The question is one of ambition, but the answer should be one of humility.

 

Describe the responsibilities of your last job?

When an employer or interviewer asks this question, s/he wants to know whether your skills and experiences are a match for their needs (as is the case with all interview questions!). But in asking, they want to hear your confidence and conviction talking about what you’ve done. So, talk about what you did, and how you did it. Sometimes the how is as important as the what. Talk yourself up a bit. Emphasize your successes and the goals you've met. How did your efforts contribute to the company’s growth? What did you improve? What was better at your last company because of what you did there? It won't hurt if you sound enthusiastic when you talk about the functions you performed. It's not a crime to enjoy your work. And of course don't forget to clearly explain how your former responsibilities are relevant to the position being applied for. Use PAR's to keep it brief and concise.

 

What helps you remember things?

 No matter what job you are seeking, the ability to retain and recall information is a necessity. A strong memory is a tool you will use every day in the course of performing your job, so how you remember things is an important consideration. Do you have particular tricks you use to retain detailed instructions? Do you take notes? Do you study manuals? Do you keep reminders and tickler files on your computer or mobile device? Do you use a date book or Outlook or other scheduling tools? Confidently responding to this question will convey a sense of self-awareness and your attention to detail that all employers are looking for. It’s ok to say that you write things down, especially if documentation is an important aspect of your position. Tell your interviewer that you put notes in files at your earliest opportunity so details do not get forgotten or overlooked. There is nothing wrong with identifying the tools you use for recollection, whether it’s paper or through technology. Do you use associative, mnemonic or other specialty memory tricks? Say so! Mention that you stay clear-headed, and you are effective at retaining things through repetition or memorization of the information and processes that are most important. And though it rarely happens, say that when you don’t remember something, you look it up or ask someone else for help. The employer will also be pleased to know you are resourceful and self-reliant.

 

What is your greatest strength?

As simple as this question sounds, it requires some thought prior to answering. Many employers ask because they want to hear how you answer, and aren’t just concerned with what you say. Are you answering with great flourish? Ego? Pride? Enthusiasm? Confidence? What do you excel at? What have you been most successful doing? Are you providing details that correspond to this new position? The interviewer expects you to be able to delineate what you know you are good at. But the trick is to explain what you know how to do, and describe it in a way that directly relates to the job you are interviewing for. What are your particular skills or experiences that are needed by this new employer. Even if you’re talking about an older, less frequently used skill, you need to communicate its relevance to the job you are interviewing for. Make your greatest strengths the ones needed most by this employer.

 

What aspects or features of your previous jobs have you disliked?

When employers ask this question they are trying to determine if there are functions you’ve performed that do not appeal to you, you no longer feel comfortable performing, feel are beneath your dignity, or have outgrown. The interviewer may also be looking to get a better picture of the breadth of your skills and watching for non-verbal cues to determine your distaste for certain kinds of work. Your answers will help her/him find out if you’re a team player willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done. But let’s be honest; there probably are functions you have executed in the past that you no longer want to do. So keep your responses positive, and if you are compelled to state something that you no longer wish to do, make sure you mention something you did a very long time ago. You can also turn a negative response into a positive, for example: “I believe more work gets done when there is sufficient support staff.” Or “I work most effectively with modern equipment (tools, hardware, software) that are well maintained.” By stating that you are willing do whatever it takes, you demonstrate a “can do” attitude that employers want to see. Of course you could simply say, “I have enjoyed all the functions I’ve performed. Some more than others, but I liked them all and learned something from all of them!”

 

Why do you feel you have top management potential?

This is a question that could be asked when applying for an upper level management position. Keep in mind that the interviewer is asking WHY you believe you can fill an upper tier position, rather than IF you think you are the right candidate for the job. The difference is not subtle. Use one or more PAR statements to describe your success in leadership and management. Succinctly describe actions you have taken that demonstrate the best qualities required to lead and manage. Assuming you have thoroughly researched the company, try to specifically address the relevant contributions you can make and the things you can do for this employer. If you have limited work-related management experience describe your involvement with leadership functions from outside of work, such as executive duties in a civic, fraternal, volunteer or religious organization. Tell the interviewer about relevant experiences to demonstrate you know how to motivate, delegate, lead and encourage others to accomplish particular goals.

 

Do you feel you might be better off at a different size or different type of company?

An employer who asks this question is probing to determine if you have a particular comfort level about the size of company where you work. Your resume provides some indication of the size of the companies you’ve worked for in the past, even if the company names are not recognized by your interviewer. Tell the employer that you are concerned about the quality of the work you do, and the effectiveness of the people who work around you. Except in the case of senior level hires, you’ll be working with a relatively small number of people whom you’ll see every day, so the size of the firm doesn’t matter. Certainly there are some positions where the size of the firm does matter, but it is always best to convey that you know where you want to work. Tell the employer: "I'm applying here (or seeking a promotion) because this firm fulfills my criteria for where I'd like to work."

 

Why do you want to work for us?

If asked this question, it is a chance to say nice things about the prospective employer. But don't forget to start your response by talking about what you have to contribute. Convey that you are confident you can make positive and valuable contributions to the company. Be specific, relevant and concise. Try not to be overly complimentary or flattering. You don't want your answer to sound insincere. What are the other reasons you want to be working for that company? Do they have a good reputation in their industry? Are the company leaders respected members of the professional community with whom you share goals and ideals, or believe would make good mentors? Do you believe you'll have good opportunities for growth and advancement? Talk about the quality of the company, the positive reputation of their products and/or services, and the challenges the position offers you. Mention any first-hand experience you have using the company's products or services. Keep your answer focused on relevant reasons for wanting to be there.

 

Why have you been unemployed for all this time?

This is the type of question you can expect to be asked if you have been out of work for a longer while. And if you have great references and experience, your interviewer will be more inclined to explore the reasons for recent lengthy gaps in your work history. Do not refer to this period as idle time. Tell the interviewer that you have been exploring your options. These can include self-employment, consulting, traveling, taking courses, updating your credentials and certificates, doing self study, etc. Convey that you were productive and learning, even if you weren’t gainfully employed. It’s ok to avoid talking about temp and part time jobs because it will bring up too many questions about why those jobs didn’t last. If you weren't working because you were raising a family, talk about business-related skills used in running a home such as budgeting, time management, comparative shopping, tracking expenses, being detail oriented and highly organized. Do everything you can to keep the interviewer from thinking you were idly sitting on your butt.

 

What do you think it takes to be successful in a company such as ours?

Typically, a question like this can be answered by telling your interviewer that success comes from continuous hard work, drive, determination, self-motivation, cooperation, understanding, and active participation in getting things done, meeting goals, etc. The inquiry is not about the company's success but about the success of the individual, you! What must you achieve to feel successful in this company? What realistic long term goal and role can you see yourself having in this firm? Because the question includes the phrase "... in a company such as ours", your response needs to be focused on specific actions that you need to take in this company to achieve job/career growth and recognition for your contributions. If you can provide specific details about the contributions that you would make and how they are directly relevant to the company's goals and activities, you stand a significantly improved chance of acing the interview.

 

If you weren't working in this industry, what would you be doing?

This is a question an employer may ask in an effort to determine your other interests and experiences. It is best to suggest that you have been, and are hoping to continue working in your industry of choice, and that you are doing the type of work you are most passionate about. Suggesting otherwise could lead an interviewer to believe that your application for this position is a fall-back option, and that you might prefer to be doing something else. If your resume and work history indicate that you have spent a significant amount of time working in another field, try to explain the transition from the previous position to what you are looking for now, and explain the direct relevance of your skills and experience to show the values that your history brings to this new position, and how it will positively impact your ability to do the job being applied for.

 

What can you do for us that someone else can not do?

Tell your interviewer that you can’t address the strengths of another applicant, but use this opportunity to extol the quality of your own skills. Focus your answer on how you will solve issues your research has revealed need attention at this company. Use succinct PAR statements to illustrate your experiences that directly pertain to problems or situations faced by this company. Include things like problem solving abilities, advanced degrees, suggesting specific solutions, etc. Be attentive to real, current issues, not theoretical or imagined problems. Talk a bit about your knowledge of industry trends and best practices, and the length and depth of your relevant experience. Cite examples where previous actions have benefitted another employer and how you can do the same, or better for this employer.

 

What personal characteristics do you think lead to success in this job?

An employer might ask this question to determine if an applicant has a full understanding of what may be required to succeed in a particular position. The best way to approach answering is to provide some specific traits, soft skills that are true requirements for position success. There may be some clues of what to say in the job description or announcement. It could be as easy as saying that you recognize the importance for punctuality and you pride yourself on being consistently on time. It might involve talking about a particular aspect of the position and the personal traits that are most beneficial to execute effectively. There are a few personality traits that you can rattle off that should be applicable to most positions. These include: Being dedicated, tenacious, showing initiative, working independently, thinking and behaving positively, demonstrating effective leadership, punctuality, clear and concise oral, written and interpersonal communications, being a team player, and your comfort working collaboratively. Be prepared to provide examples of how you exhibit these traits, their relevance to the position, and your successful execution of those traits.

 

Do you prefer mashed potatoes or home fries?

While this is not your typical interview question, queries like these are coming up more frequently. There really is no right or wrong answer to the question. But the employer’s reasons for asking could be varied. Interviewers may ask odd-ball questions like this to see how applicants react under stress, and to see if they can think on their feet. Will the question be answered coherently or cause the candidate to begin to babble? In some circumstances an interviewer may ask this type of question to determine how well an applicant will fit into their corporate culture. And other employers may ask to poll their interviewees about what they might enjoy more in the corporate cafeteria. You could turn the question back to the interviewer and ask them their preference. But I think it’s best to just answer the question honestly, and maybe with a little smile, just not indignantly! And don’t let this kind of question throw you into negativity land by suggesting that it is a stupid or irrelevant question. Even if the reason behind asking is unknown to you, your interviewer may have an ulterior motive for the query. Stay open minded and focused on providing answers that address your relevant skills and experience, and how you can meet the employer’s needs. For additional perspective on these types of questions, read this week’s blog entry: What Are They Really Asking?

 

How did you get your last job?

In addition to saying that you were referred by a friend, or that you applied via an online application, this question offers you another chance to mention the qualities you know were of value to that employer. What made you an appropriate candidate for that job? Briefly described how you submitted your application, how you targeted the job and your ability to fulfill the requirements for skills and experience. Don’t forget to mention your affinity to get the work done, your industry knowledge and personal insight, and why they were important to that position. And then tell your interviewer that those same values remain important for the position you interviewing for, and that you will be of more value to the employer that hires you because of your continued learning, ability to handle increased responsibilities, and your growth and position within the industry. That's how you got your last job, and this one!

 

What are you looking for in this job?

Here is another question employers ask to probe the applicant’s attitude, interests and motivation. The answer you provide can reveal something about your experience, your personality and your expectations. What are Your motivations for working at that firm? Be brief and concise. If you can, focus at least part of your response on things you know the employer needs done. Expressing your desire to solve the employer’s problems demonstrates your interest in, and knowledge of what they do. If you’re not confident about how you will address their needs, provide some information on your own motivation for working at that company. Tell the interviewer you want to work where you’ll have the best chance to do what you do best. Mention that your research has revealed the company offers opportunities for advancement and promotes internally. Also talk about the importance of working with respectful coworkers, supportive management and staff. And convey that you want to participate in the growth of the company, and your industry. Deliver your answer assertively and confidently.

 

How do you think you will fit into our operation?

Here’s a chance for you to let your interviewer know how much you know about that company. The research you’ve done about the employer (you did do your research, didn’t you?) will give you plenty of content for your response. In addition to telling her about your most relevant skills and how they will be applied to the position you want, explain that you are already well aware of the company’s primary products/services, and you already have personal familiarity with what they do. Mention your interest in being part of their future plans. Have you read about any new products in the pipeline? Demonstrate your knowledge of that industry and your awareness of current trends and prospective areas for growth to help convince the interviewer that you belong in their environment. Also don’t forget to tell the interviewer you’ll fit in very well because you get along well with people, and have plenty to contribute. Be concise and specific with your answer. And you might even want to ask your interviewer what she believes will make a good fit, and address the specifics of her response.

 

Given the choice, what company would you like to work for?

While in truth you may actually have desires to interview and be hired at a different company, keep that to yourself! Tell your interviewer that you want to work for the company with whom you are presently interviewing! Confidently and assertively let the interviewer know that you have skills that would be an asset to other employers, but you want to work for them. Inform your interviewer that there are real contributions you can make to that company, and mention one or two speciific and relevant things you can do for that employer. State that you've done enough research to know that you like what the company offers you in terms of career growth and advancement opportunities. Let the interviewer know you aren't settling for less than what you want and you are committed to doing the work that needs to be done. You are interviewing with this company because you want to work there.

 

Why did you contact me?

If you have personally instigated a meeting with someone who makes hiring decisions, or have been digging deep in your contacts and those of your friends’ online networks for appropriate employment introductions, this question could come up. In an initial meeting, whether in a real or informational interview, it behooves you to be clear and honest about why you instigated the face-time, including the obvious – that you want a job! Show respect for the interviewer, his/her position and their time, and state why you wanted to meet. It can be as simple as expressing, "It is my understanding that you are the ultimate decision maker for hiring." Or, "I was told that you would have the most accurate answers to my questions." Other reasons include your wanting to know more about the company, the industry, and the type of work that most interests you. Take advantage of this situation. Ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge, understanding, your passion and your interest to let the employer know you are serious about wanting to work there. Ask about the tools and methodologies they use, find out about current projects, company and departmental goals. And don’t hesitate to indicate specifically how your skills and experience can help this employer achieve those goals.

 

What things do you find difficult to do?

This is one of those questions that necessitates your discretion. You don’t want to give the employer the impression that there are aspects to the job you have difficulty performing, or that there are other obstacles to your successfully filling the job being applied for, but you are still expected to answer the question. Tell the interviewer that you know your job well, understand the expectations of the work and tasks involved, and know what it takes to move the position and department forward. If pushed to be specific about work-related tasks that others may find difficult, mention something you formerly had trouble doing but where you now have improved skills. If you choose to mention something personal, keep it light-hearted with examples like parallel parking or leaving work on time because you get preoccupied with your tasks and lose track of time. Don’t bring up anything that could open the door for the interviewer to ask questions unrelated to the job. Remember that sometimes it’s what you don’t say that matters.

 

Will you be out to take your boss's job?

This question can come at you whether you’re a seasoned veteran of your industry or a relative newcomer to your field. Your interviewer could be trying to determine your motivation and long-term goals, or is maybe a bit concerned about their own status if s/he will be your immediate supervisor. Your best answer can address both sides of this question when you inform your inquisitor that you are not out to take anyone's job, and that you are there to do the job you are interviewing for. Emphasize that you will earn your place in the company by doing good work and helping the company grow, by being a supportive team player and being a positive contributor to your department and its leadership. Here you can provide some specific actions you might take, or the skills you'll use to make those contributions. Tell your interviewer you hope that appropriate rewards and advancement will come when they are due, but that you do not have a crystal ball to determine the future fate of any other employee.

 

What do you think is required in this position?

Before you even go to your interview, you should know what will be required of you if you land this job! In advance, try to find out about what the employer really needs. Provide an answer that informs your interviewer that you really understand, not just the requirements of the position, but how your skills and experience have prepared you to fill it. Convey both your opinions and your informed insight into what the position requires. Tell your inquisitor about your skills that most satisfy the employer’s needs. Do not parrot back the formal job announcement. Give specific examples about your knowledge of the position and what you know about the company’s goals. Provide scenarios of success and accomplishment that would make you shine, and make the department where you’ll work more effective. You can also mention the tools and/or equipment needed to excel at the position. And after you’ve provided a solid answer of what you know is required, ask your interviewer how you can help achieve those goals. The insight could help you answer other questions later on.

 

How have you helped increase sales and/or profits?

Depending on the position you are interviewing for, this question may not have an obvious answer. If are applying for a sales, marketing or other job where quantifiable sales and profit metrics can be cited, by all means talk up your contributions. Use a Problem Action Resolution (PAR) statement to describe specific actions you’ve taken that illustrate the methods and percentages you achieved. If you’re not applying for a sales or similar job, talk about where your efforts have achieved savings in costs, time, efficiency or operations. Maybe you took a pay cut to help your employer get through tough times, or put in extra hours that you didn't get paid for so a project would be completed on time and under budget. Your contributions may not be immediately obvious, quantifiable or documented, but any contributions you’ve made to an employer’s bottom line could help you provide an impactful answer, so give this question some advanced thought.

 

If starting over again, what job or field would you enter?

The real question being asked here is: If you were starting over with your first career choice what job or field would you enter? If you are a seasoned professional with a long history in the same industry and now applying for another job in the same field, the correct answer is: The field I’m in now and the position I’m applying for today. You can then tell your interviewer about your long-term passion for your industry and desire to grow and excel at what you do. If you have a long work history, have changed careers and are a newcomer to the industry you’re applying to now, indicate that this is what you want to be doing, even though you maybe could have pursued something in this field sooner, emphasize that you are glad to be there now! Regardless of where you are in your current career and job search, do not wax poetic and dreamily about a position completely unrelated to what you’re applying for now. Doing so puts too many questions in your interviewers head about why you are applying for that job.

 

What position do you expect to have in five years?

Because employers recognize that employees aren't sticking around as long as they once did, this question isn’t asked as frequently as in the past, though it does remain relevant. Employers want to gauge the long term ambitions of their job candidates, and this query helps them determine if an applicant plans to grow with their company. In answering, choose a position two to four steps above where you are now or the position you are presently interviewing for. Be careful not to imply you want take over the position of the person interviewing you too soon, especially if your interviewer is a department manager or supervisor and comfortable in their job. Your answer should indicate your hopes to stay with that company, improving your skills, and your passion for your industry.

 

What was your most interesting job or project?

The number of years you have worked in your current industry will likely determine how to best answer this question. But whether you’re a relative newcomer or a long-term professional, craft an answer that addresses some relevancy to the job you’re applying for. Briefly describe a particular project or position that inspired and energized you. In which position or project did you learn the most, or feel you had the most success? Describe the contributions you made or the experiences that most excited you to continue in that field, etc. Why was it interesting? How did it inspire you to learn or do more in your industry? Keep your response concise, relevant and focused.

 

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

Here’s another one of those questions that if answered poorly can open up a can of worms you don’t want to deal with. First of all, only give job-related answers. Turn your comments into positive statements about growth, awareness, learning from your experience, etc. As difficult as something seemed at the time, you are able to look back on that time and recognize its value in your life. Don't bring up personal difficulties that you have faced, even if pushed by the interviewer; your outside-of-work experiences aren’t what your interview is about. Be very cautious not to reveal anything that will prompt other personal questions. If you bring up a topic that shouldn’t be discussed, you open the door for the employer to pursue the topic. Keep in mind that your response to every question the employer asks should be about how your skills and experience can fill that employer’s needs.

 

Have you ever been fired from a job?

This truly is one of the hardest questions to answer, especially if you have been dismissed from a job. Even if there was no wrong-doing associated with your separation, there is a negative stigma attached to being fired, even though it has happened most people at one time or other in their working lives. Whether it's called "being laid off", "downsized" or "dismissed", the end result is the same; you and the employer have parted ways. If asked this question, and the answer is yes, turn any negative reasons for dismissal into personal learning opportunities and positive statements of growth, and provide examples of what and how you learned from the experience. You may want to avoid providing too many details, yet not sound too evasive. If you were let go with a group of other workers, say so, because there is usually no individual blame associated with a group lay-off. These days it's relatively easy for an employer to research the claims you make, both verbal and on your documents, so any false statements are likely to be uncovered. So, as always, honesty is the best policy!

 

Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?

This question is not as trivial as you may think. These days, employers recognize that even in this tight employment market, there are many people who will leave a good job for better money, benefits and job growth opportunities. So, even though you may not say so, your employment history and the companies you have worked for might provide some indication that the money is important, even if you don’t specifically say so. Nonetheless, if asked, you should say that the type of job and the quality of your work is your motivation. Talk about how important your work is to you, and the pride you put into your efforts. You hope that through hard work and job growth the money will improve. Tell your interviewer about times when your job was most satisfying and fulfilling, and give specific examples that express that satisfaction and pride.

 

What was it like when you met your coworkers on your last job?

An employer might ask this question in an attempt to see how well you may get along with your coworkers, how well you might fit in with current staff, your sociability and friendliness. This is not the place to discuss the person from your last job whose voice carried throughout the workplace, or the one who constantly told inappropriate jokes. Answer positively: Tell your interviewer it was exciting to meet your then new coworkers because you were looking forward to working with talented people on quality projects. Express that you are hoping the staff you’ll be working with in this new position will be equally friendly and have a cooperative spirit creating an atmosphere conducive to doing your best work.

 

What was the last movie you saw?

This seems like an odd question, and it is, but an employer or recruiter might ask this to learn more about your personal interests, and cultural/sociological awareness. Your answer might reveal something about your knowledge of pop culture, current events, media and celebrities. Any film title you mention – new or old - should suffice. It doesn’t matter whether the picture was streamed, rented, downloaded, watched on commercial, cable or satellite television, or seen at the theater. Your answer will convey that you have interests outside of work, and that you can get away from your daily routine. Depending on the position you are applying for, your knowing about film and other cultural events may reveal how well you’ll relate to certain job functions, the people you could be working with or the customers and clientele with whom you’ll do business. Try to avoid critiquing the film you mention, as this could - should your opinions differ greatly from your interviewer - subject you to creating impressions unhelpful to gaining employment!

 

Where else have you applied for work?

One of the reasons an employer might ask this question is to find out if you are dedicated to very particular line of work. If you have applied at other companies in different industries, where the skill sets may appear dissimilar, the employer may question your direction and career focus, or perceived lack thereof! Some employers may ask where else you have applied to see if they have competition for your talents. If you have the skills and background, this can be a compliment. Other interviewers may want to check your awareness of their professional competitors. If this question comes up, talk about the type of companies you have applied to, i.e., "multimedia firms," "accountancies," "biotech," "automotive," etc. rather than name specific firms. You don't want to say so to your interviewer, but the other places you have applied are really none of their business. Just give the interviewer enough information to show that you are focused on doing the kind of work you are being interviewed for!

 

What do you like least about your job?

An employer might ask this question under a variety of circumstances. If you are applying for a new position in the same company, it might be asked to determine if there were any unknown issues that need addressing or to see if there were conflicts between the applicant and others in their department. Your answer might influence the employer’s view on whether you are a positive or a negative person. But it also might be asked to find out if there are aspects to your work that you sincerely find unpleasant or particularly difficult. Keep your answers positive. You love your work and are always looking for new ways to overcome any challenges. You're sorry there aren't more days in the week to creatively solve problems and be professionally productive. Show lots of enthusiasm! Don’t address things about your previous/current position or work functions you really don’t like!

 

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

Among other things, your interviewer wants to know how much you know about the position you are interviewing for.  This question is less likely asked of people looking for an entry level position, but could still be part of an in-depth interview. Your answer will reveal not just what you know about the position and the company’s expectations, but how you see your own qualifications in relationship to this job opening. You don’t want to suggest the position should be filled by someone with substantially higher skills or experience levels!  If you have read and understood the employer’s formal job description – not just the job announcement – choose two or three key applicant qualification points you believe to be the most important and tell the interviewer those would be among the qualities you would seek in a candidate.  Also, mention that the applicant should have experience similar to, or exceeding your own (but only by a little more!).  The candidate should also have industry insight, and knowledge of trends and best practices.  Tell your inquisitor the person they hire must be motivated for success, have a cooperative attitude, and specify any other key qualities you know to be a necessity for success in this position.  And you can complete your answer by acknowledging how many of those qualities you possess and their applicability to the job you want.

 

Does your current employer know you are planning to leave?

Your answer to this question conveys a bit about your personality and sense of responsibility. Interviewers know that most companies want employees to give at least two weeks notice prior to their departure. The fact that you're interviewing with a potential new employer indicates that you intend to leave your current position. So expressing that you want to follow appropriate protocols for departure indicates that you respect the way things should be done. Hopefully your current bosses do not yet know you intend to leave, and even if they did know, they might not say anything until you make a formal statement. Tell your interviewer that you hope you can put off the start date of a new position so that you can give proper notice to your current employer that will allow at least some time for the recruitment of your replacement. And if a replacement candidate is already in the pipeline, you would possibly participate in their initial training or orientation. This tells the new employer that you care about the people you work for, and are committed to doing things right.

 

Of your previous jobs, which did you like the most, and why?

Remember: The interview is about you and your accomplishments. This interview question is not about promoting your former employer. So rather than telling your interviewer at a new company about specific former employers (whose names are on your resume in front of the interviewer!), talk about the aspects of a favorite job that you really liked. You could say something like: "When I was working on databases (or any other function), I really enjoyed watching the results come together." What did you do on the job that made you smile? Sound enthusiastic as you talk to your interviewer. Mention the functions you've performed, any titled positions you've held, and the role you played in your department's growth. Quantify your successes whenever possible, and describe how those successes felt. You can also talk about the effects of your contributions to the positions (i.e. benchmarks, goals, policies, procedures, etc.). What work activities did you like best? Succinctly talk about times when you felt most productive and achieved desired goals, and when you felt really good about yourself and your work. Oh, and don't forget to mention that you enjoy performing the functions associated with the position you are interviewing for!

 

Have you ever worked with anyone with developmental disabilities?

An employer investigating your experience working or dealing with people with disabilities does so for a reason. This could be the interviewer's way of asking how well you work with people with certain limitations. The employer may regularly hire people with disabilities or have customers/clients with limitations. Becasue many developmental disabilities are not readily visible, the employer may want to explore your experience and exposure to ensure there is sensitivity and awareness. You likely have had contact with many people with developmental or other disabilities, but not necessarily been aware of it While employers are technically not supposed to ask about an applicant's disabilities (visible or not), nor discuss those of other employees, they might ask this question to see how you'll respond and your comfort level doing so. Keep your answer simple. Express that you treated the person with the same dignity you show others, and when necessary you provided the extra support as it was needed. If you can provide specific examples, go ahead and do so. If you have no formal experience in this area, say that you would show patience, and provide assistance when appropriate.

 

What kind of things do you worry about?

You could answer this queston by asking the interviewer: "Is there something about the job I need to worry about?" But ask it in a way that will encourage your interviewer to be revealing about the company, as opposed to your making an attempt at humor, or risk sounding sarcastic. Employers might ask what you worry about to guage an applicant's temperment and the "personal baggage" they might bring with them to the job. Tell your interviewer that you aren't a worrier, and that you don't worry about things too much, especially those things that are out of your control. You are confident about your ability to do the job you're interviewing for and the work you're expected to do. Express that you might start to worry if a deadline is approaching and a project isn't near completion, but you aren't expecting that to happen, so you don't worry about it. Avoid saying anything that will instigate additional questioning by making comments like, "I worry about my family's health." Of course you worry about your family's health! But saying so here, could cause the interviewer to erroneously believe your home life is riddled with chronic health problems or come to other erroneous conclusions.

How would you describe the essence of success?

This is one of those questions that some employers ask to get an idea of how you view your chances for corporate growth and your perception of success. First of all, don't suggest that you measure success by the acquisition of money. Certainly one can’t deny that financial gain is part of how many view success, but it shouldn’t be the primary reference point. Putting emphasis on the monetary aspects of success will limit the view the employer has of you, and will also cause them to question how long you’ll stick around if you don’t receive regular and substantial bumps in salary or benefits. Indicate your belief that there are other factors that induce feelings of success. You can refer to the importance of setting and attaining goals, receiving the respect of your peers and your community, having control over your life, or watching your kids grow and become independent and self-sufficient. You can also suggest that success means having the time and the freedom to pursue new/other goals outside of work, such as travel or writing a book. Your own self-sufficiency, satisfaction with the work you do, and feeling like you make a positive contribution to the world, or having a good family life and close friends are all a part of the essence of success.

 

What aspects of your education do you consider to be the most beneficial to this position?

Typically, this question might not be asked of an older or more experienced job seeker. But an interviewer might want to know about the relevancy of your education to the job you’re interviewing for and its responsibilities. Give some thought to the courses you took, and the applicability of that knowledge to the job you want. Does any aspect of your classes relate to the job you’re interviewing for? At school, did you learn anything about the functions you expect to perform, or the industry in which you’ll be working? This includes non-matriculate courses you may have taken in your spare time. Did you learn anything in school about working with others, cooperation, teamwork, working independently, completing tasks, leadership and commitment? Did you develop good research, writing or documentation skills? Was there software you used in school that is being used (update, we hope) in the position you want to fill? These traits and experiences should be relevant to almost any job or position! Regardless of the formality of your education, whether you’re a seasoned pro or an inexperienced novice in your field, you should be able to indicate some relationship between your coursework and the job you’re targeting.


What can I do for you?

This isn't a question you'll hear frequently, but on occasion, an interviewer will want to know something about a candidate's expectations for joining the company. The response to such an inquiry must be positive, relevant and appropriate. It's ok to say that you want your employer to provide needed information and resources, and you can get specific if you already expect the employer to have the tools you'll need. Tell the interviewer you hope tne company will provide a supportive team environment with continuous opportunities for growth and advancement, etc. You could also add that you expect fair compensation, but be prepared to provide an appropriate salary range because by saying this, you’re opening yourself up for the employer to ask what you believe is fair pay. But this is not the right time to instigate a discussion about benefits or unrelated-to-the-job issues.

 

What least interests you about the position being offered?

When an interviewer/employer asks you a negatively phrased question such as this, they could be probing several things. Among them: How honest and direct will you be? And: What fears or concerns do you have? Here’s one of those times where you don’t want to be too honest. If your negative feelings are strong about this new position, maybe this job isn’t the right fit for you. Some trepidation is to be expect, but you don’t want to appear too intimidated by the new position and its challenges. Turn their negative inquiry into a chance to show your optimistic outlook. Keep your comments positive. You can say that making a change to a new environment is always a little scary but that you look forward to the challenges and rewards, as well as the contributions you hope to make. Don’t express your honest dismay about the length of the commute, the hours, low pay. That will not get you hired!

 

What factors contribute to your sense of satisfaction in this job?

Here’s where the interviewer probes your priorities and your humility. Are you focused on job performance, quality work, seek personal and professional improvement along with awards and recognition, and want to make a difference? Or do you merely want to keep your head down and do what you are told without acknowledgement or accolade, collect a paycheck and go home? That’s your choice! But the best way to respond is to say that you focus on the quality of the work to be done, and know that your efforts will contribute to positive results. Answer the question with a positive answer, but don't mention monetary or material rewards. Tell your interviewer that you want to do your best work, solve problems and challenges, and contribute to the growth and development of your department and the company. Mention things like opportunity, challenge, cooperation, security, completing tasks, and earning the respect and cooperation of coworkers and supervisors, etc.

 

What is the most critical aspect of your job?

Here, your interviewer wants to know about how you perceive the work you perform, and how you prioritize the importance of your responsibilities. This question is particularly important to an employer when you are interviewing to do the same or similar work as you did for another company, but is also applicable when you apply for a new position so the employer can see that you have a clear picture of what must be done. Describe the functions and actions that require the most preparation, planning, cooperation, concentration, sensitivity, etc. and the ones that are most important to the successful completion of your tasks. Ultimately, expressing that you understand what is most critical in the eyes of the employer will be very important in answering this question with the most impact.

 

How would you describe yourself?

Here's another chance to toot your own horn! First, use words that express your competency for the job like "knowledgeable", "expeienced", "connected"; then maybe a few words about the way you work, like "organized", "responsible", "thorough", "creative", "committed", etc. Next, segue to words that describe your contributions such as "team player", "supportive" and "patient". After that, then sell your personality using words like, "sensitive", "honest", "observant", "sincere", etc. The objective is to answer with a focus on the job you're interviewing for, and maybe demonstrate a bit of humility. Convey that you are a hard worker who focues on getting the job done, and done right. That should cover your bases.

 

Why did you get into your field?

This is the kind of question that explores the origins of your participation in your field. Briefly and concisely tell your interviewer about your passion for, and what excited and inspired you to be part of your industry. Did you have a mentor or other primary influence? Did you receive training or have coursework that triggered a deeper interest? Talk about the knowledge, experience, and the successes you've had on the job, and where you developed your curiosity to learn more. Identifying the origins of your passion for your work can convey to a prospective employer that your interest is for the long term, that you are career oriented, and not just looking for a job.

 

Are you good at taking orders and instructions?

Yes, of course you can follow orders and take instruction! The interview might end rather abruptly if you answered No! You could end your answer here, providing a simple answer to a straight question. But if you want to say more, explain to your interviewer that you have no problems taking orders, but deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and prefer that orders not be barked at you. You are always willing to do the best job possible for your superiors, your coworkers, your employer, and your self! When the boss says “Jump”, you will say, "How high?” But you want to work where integrity and professional ethics and conduct are held to a high standard, and don't want to be ordered or pressured to do anything imprudent or illiegal.

What types of people annoy you the most?

This question suggests your interviewer is looking for you to provide something negative, but don’t fall into that trap. Keep your comments as positive as possible. Let your interviewer know that you have a lot of patience and tolerance for others, that you thrive working with a diverse array of personalities, and you recognize that there will occasionally be some “characters” to contend with. But if you must get more specific, mention that you can get annoyed by excessively rude people, liars, and those who refuse to cooperate or follow instructions. Keep your answer generic and unrelated to specific bosses or coworkers, etc. Try to keep a positive spin on your comments, rather than reveal any true frustration with particular personality types.

Can you describe a situation where your work was criticized?

Here’s another one of those questions where your interviewer is trying to understand how you see yourself and the contributions you’ve made for your employer, and also to gauge how forthcoming you are about your past. How employees respond to criticism – whether they learn from it and improve their work, or become defensive and argumentative – directly impacts how managers and supervisors determine their potential for growth and advancement. But in truth, everyone has endured some criticism of their work. When discussing it with a prospective employer, the trick is to not come across as defensive. Your response, in part, will be influenced by how comfortable you are talking about any criticism you’ve actually received. If you choose to identify something that was criticized, whether major or minor, take ownership of the criticism and the reasons for it, and the positive changes you made and what you learned from the experience. Don’t place blame on someone else. Try to avoid going the philosophical route by saying “the subjective nature of another's opinion doesn't mean your work was inferior or warranted criticism, but maybe the other person simply disagreed about the process by which the work was to be done.” That will still come across as defensive, and sound like you don’t really want to answer the question. So don't be evasive!

 

Tell me about yourself?

What does the employer really want to know by asking this question? It sounds so simple, but point of fact, it is one question that most job applicants don’t answer properly. Even if you think your interviewer is being friendly by asking, personal information about you is not relevant to this conversation. You’re a devoted professional in your chosen field, who understands the challenges of this position, by this employer, and the industry. You have a very strong desire to make a positive, long-term contribution to this company by using your particular skills, and want to demonstrate your expertise which is needed to excel in the position you are applying for. The answer you provide should pertain only to your professional life and interests relating to the job you are seeking. Nothing more! This question is NOT an invitation to volunteer anything about your personal life, age, marital status, religion, hobbies or anything not work-related. Keep your comments relevant only to the job you are applying for. At this point in your job hunt, your personal life is none of their business. If the employer hires you, then they’ll get to know more about you.

 

What qualities would you look for if hiring someone?

When answering this question, show the employer you are considering their needs. Obviously you would want to hire someone with demonstrated competency, experience, and a willingness to learn. Those would be the basic considerations. But ask your interviewer to clarify the position you would hire for, then briefly address the particulars and specialties required of that job as best you can. Thsi conveys your understanding of the employer's needs, and your perceptions of what kind of candidate would be successful in that position. Your thoughtfulness in answering this question can also indicate you may have the leadership or management qualities and potential the employer is seeking by interviewng (and, hopefully hiring) you!

 

What was the last book you read?

Is this question really relevant to the job you're applying for? Perhaps! The employer may be trying to discover if you are into self-improvement or on-going learning, or staying current on literary trends. If the employer prides itself on having an up-to-date staff, your answer could imply how well you may fit in with your coworkers, and their environment. Your response is also an indicator of how you spend some of your free time. If possible, mention that you've recently read a new business or education title; for example a book on better time management, operations strategy or something by one of the well known sales gurus. You can also feel comfortable naming a current best seller. This shows dedication to your own self-improvement and your ability to relax with a good read. But, if the head of the company or other key player has recently published something, hopefully your research has revealed the title, and you can indicate that you've read that too.


Can we check your references?

Of course you should always, and without hesitation, say "yes" to this question! Any delay or indecision prior to your answering in the affirmative could be misconstrued that you have something to hide. "Yes, I can provide my references right now, if you'd like?" (You did remember to bring your list of your references with you to the interview, didn't you?) Most employers will not ask for your references unless they are considering you as a serious candidate for a position, although some will ask that your references be included with your application. It's easy enough these days for employers to do a cursory background check, even before you interview. And if you look closely on most formal job applications there is usually some statement that indicates that by submitting your application, you are giving your permission to the employer to look more deeply into your background. Before supplying your references, make sure you have permission from the people you want contacted, and give them an idea of what you'd like them to emphasize to the prospective employer. Provide your references in a neat and concise manner: Name, Title, Affiliation, Phone number and Email address. List the names of your references in alphabetical order. Print your resume using the same letterhead as your resume and cover letter, or make sure your contact information is clearly visible on the top of the page.


Tell me about the problems, if any, you have living within your means?

This question is truly a slippery slope. Like any question during an interview, you are expected to provide an answer, but be very careful about your response. Any major financial issues you do have can be discovered during a thorough background check, and if a check has been done before your interview (rare, but it does happen!) you may want to ask your interviewer if s/he is looking for something in particular. No matter your true circumstances, you don't want to project that you can't manage your own finances, particularly if the position you're applying for involves money, security or legal responsibilities. You really want to diffuse this question as fast as possible. Optimally, you should be able to confidently state that you have no problems taking care of your financial responsibilities. But if there are issues, or something has been uncovered in a background check, don't lie. Keep any explanation as brief as possible, and respectfully try to convey that the question is not relevant to your ability to do the job for the employer. Be careful! And as always, keep your answers relevant to the job you are applying for.


Have you fired people before?

Not everyone has been in the position to hire or fire others on the job. But if this question does apply to you and your background, it is important that your answer illustrates your sensitivity, respect and tact. If the answer is "yes", be brief, concise and circumspect if/when asked to provide details. Do not mention anyone by name, and it may be a good idea to not get too specific about the circumstances that necessitated the firing. An employer would ask this question to see if you have the backbone to let someone go, and get an idea about how you will handle this kind of responsibility. If you have not fired anyone, admit it. But if you have any similar experience that might have required tact involving another form of rejection - say, denying someone services or activities for legitimate reasons, you may mention that to illustrate your ability to handle a difficult situation.


What was the last sporting event you attended?

Though it may not seem directly related to the job you're interviewing for, an employer could ask you this question for a number of reasons, among them:

     To determine some of your interests outside of work;

     To see if you are a participant or observer;

     To convey that the company participates in one or more team sports;

     To see if you have any interest in participating in any company teams;

     To see if you have any community involvement coaching a local team, kids or adults;

     May be merely making "small talk".

Yes, tell your interviewer of any recently attended sporting events, as participant or observer. If you haven't attended any professional or amateur sporting events, or have no real interest in sports, try to convey interest in the way people work together to get things done. Describe your participation in successful endeavors that required team-type cooperation and organization. Many positions necessitate the ability to work collaboratively and effectively in teams, and many companies participate in inter and intra-mural sports activities, such as softball, tennis, racquetball, golf, and bowling. as team-building exercise, health program and distraction. Sometimes these activities are part of a company's charitable efforts, so participation from employees is encouraged, and it makes good P.R.


What are your short range objectives?

When asked this question, consider saying something that involves the work and/or the team or department where you are applying. “I’m looking forward to jumping in with both feet, learning the ropes and making a contribution to this position as soon as possible.” Briefly describe what you will do to make that contribution. Be sure to insert something specific about the functions you expect to be performing, and substantiate your claims that you can do this job. Tell your interviewer that you are excited to use your relevant skills, as well as learn new ones from working with experienced professionals. If you need to complete any kind of certification or training program to qualify for this position, be sure to express confidence that you will finish on time, ready to apply new knowledge and skills.


Can you work under pressure? Deadlines?

Your interviewer is expecting you to say that you can work under pressure and deadlines, so your response to this question must exceed their expectations. You want to describe situations that effectively illustrate your ability to handle pressure, meet deadlines, etc. Use a PAR statement to demonstrate a past situation where you handled deadlines and/or pressures. Give detail about the problems you encountered, the actions taken, and the results achieved. (PAR = Problem, Action, Results or Resolution!) In your example, try to address similarities between pressures experienced in past work situations, and what you might experience in the position you are interviewing for. How are the solutions you applied in the past relevant to this prospective employer? And don't forget to ask your interviewer how frequently you can anticipate being under pressure and have tight deadlines, to learn more about what you might encounter on the job.


If you disagree with a supervisor, do you make your opinions known?

Of course you will occasionally disagree with a supervisor! No one expects you to be in agreement all the time. But the real question being explored here is if you are supportive of your superiors. Maybe you're in a good position where your supervisors seek out your input, and s/he respects differing opinions. Not everyone is that lucky; some workers have jobs where they are fully expected to just do as they are told. If this question is asked, tell our interviewer you'll provide your input only if the supervisor is interested in your opinion. You'll know if this is the case if you've been on the job with that supervisor for a while; you'll likely know if s/he listens openly to others’ opinions and ideas. If you are relatively new to a company, you may need to ask the supervisor if s/he would be willing to listen to another perspective. Generally, the supervisor has more experience on the job than yourself, so you might just defer to her/his knowledge, experience and judgment. However, if you truly think a supervisor's actions or ideas will contribute to personal harm or damage to property or the company, it is your responsibility to make your opinion known, and possibly take the matter to a higher authority in the company.


What do your subordinates think of you?

Your interviewer is again trying to determine how you believe others see you. This is particularly important if the position you are applying for involves leading others. Do you think others like you as a leader or manager? Do you think the people in your department see you as effective in coordinating projects and priorities? Do you believe others respond well to your communication skills, the way you try to engage and motivate them? Do you feel you've set a good example to others about how things should be done, and demonstrated successful strategies and policies? Provide examples and keep it positive! Talk about how you earned the respect of coworkers, and encouraged participation in successful cooperative endeavors. And don't forget to indicate your friendly personality and your clear and effective way of communicating with those who work with you.


What do you plan to earn five and ten years from now?

Here your interviewer is trying to determine your feelings about self worth, and job growth. Obviously, ten years hence you'd like to be making substantially more than presently, but don’t fall into the trap of stating an overly outrageous number. In part your answer will be determined by your industry and where you are in your career. In some careers and industries financial growth is higher and more rapid than in others. If you’ve been in the work force for 20 years your financial needs and expectations may be different than a recent college graduate. The uncertainty of the economy will also play into the realism of your answer. And you don’t want to sound greedy. So a conservative response could serve you well. Tell your inquisitor you motivations are creativity, challenge, stability, etc., and 10 years is a long way off. But hopefully in 5 years you’d like to earning 20% to 30% more than today, and in 10 years you hope be earning at least 50% to 100% more than you do at present.


How would you describe your own personality?

Here's another one of those questions that an interviewer will ask to try to determine how you see yourself. The focus of your answer could likely center around your self, your family or be work-related. There are a variety of traits that can be associated with each of these broad categories, and each will reveal different things about you. It is up to you to describe your personality traits that are most important to the employer. Certainly talk about the traits that make you good or excel at your job, and keep that your primary focus. This is not the place to put too much emphasis on the family or your recreational pursuits. Traits like hardworking, self-directed or motivated, being positive, focused, dedicated, and loyal, among others along the same lines, are all good areas worth mentioning.


In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

The interviewer is not interested in hearing negative feedback about your current (soon-to-be former) employer. On the contrary! With this question your interviewer is offering you an opportunity to toot your own horn, and talk about the actions you took to solve problems. Through the use of PAR's, accomplishment statements, even using the Humble Brag, tell your inquisitor how you found solutions, thought on your feet, made things better. Here is where you can illustrate your effectiveness on the job, your problem solving skills, your industry knowledge, intuition and insight. It gives the prospective employer a chance to learn more about the way you work, the things you pay attention to, your ability to take actions to solve problems, and your ownership of those actions.


If a situation arose where something needed to be done that wasn't part of your job, how would you react?

Here, the employer wants to know how you might deal with an unexpected situation. Unforeseen things do happen on the job, and sometimes they are not within our areas of responsibility or expertise. They are also exploring if you are a team player. Tell your interviewer that if the situation warranted, you would notify a supervisor or the person responsible, particularly in an emergency or critical situation that something needed attention. Explain and clarify that you would assess the situation, and if correcting the problem was within your capabilities and not in violation of protocols, that you would step up and do what needed to be done, and then report it. Mention that you understand your own work would usually take priority, but that you would assist in any way you could, either hands-on or redirecting other personnel to see that the situation was properly resolved.


What skills or areas of professional development do you want to improve at this time?

In asking this question, the employer is probing your potential for growth in their company. Express that you are always interested in improving both your technological and managerial skills, willing to take classes, attend seminars and webinars, as time will allow. Mention any specific job-related skills you'll need for career growth. If you have recently taken courses related to your specialty, now is the perfect time to mention the nature of the coursework, and its relevancy to the job you're applying for. Always express an interest in improving job skills, performance, leadership and your overall personal development. When you've been asked this type of question, it can be a prompt for you to ask what type of continuing education opportunities are available from the company. Do they provide educational opportunities, in-service training, or reimbursement for enrollment or course fees. Expressing your interest in professional development tells the employer you want to grow in your field, as a person, and within their company.


What would you consider a conducive job atmosphere?

The essence of this question revolves around what you'll actually need to do your best work; hardware, software, environment, staff and management. If you've done some research about the company you're interviewing with, you might mention the importance of your having access to particular tools or tasks that enable you to do what you do best, and show your talents in their best light. You don't want to be overly specific and run the risk of alienating the employer because of resources they may not have! Mention that a conducive job atmosphere would be a place where resources are available to do the best work possible, to execute the job and responsibilities effectively, and where others are being supportive and productive. A place where individual and team efforts are respected, and there is appreciation for you and your team, and where individual and group efforts are recognized.


Why should we hire you?

Here's a chance for you to provide your interviewer with information about what you know how to do well; to talk about your most relevant skills, and how you can apply those skills and experiences to what the employer needs done. Your research of the company should give you some idea of the areas to address so that you can emphasize your awareness and understanding of their needs, and explain that you have something to contribute to that particular area. Emphasize that you know the markets, the competition, and their products and/or services. Also convey that you respect the company's reputation, and can make a difference to their bottom line.


How many hours do you work a week to get your job done?

The interviewer is trying to determine your level of commitment to the company; and what they can expect from you. Can you complete your tasks in a timely fashion? Do you typically finish your "regular" work before the end of the business day? Do you typically need to work overtime to complete your expected duties? Can you be counted upon to work after hours to complete last-minute projects, or when meetings run late? Tell the employer that you are motivated, dedicated, hard-working and reliable, and have no problem putting in a full day’s work. Let the interviewer know that you are willing to take on other tasks if your regular work is completed. Confidently state that you do your best to finish tasks accurately and on time, and if more than 40 hours are required to do so, you do the work, period! Don’t be sheepish when you say this. Of course, no one wants to work overtime, but many salaried positions necessitate it. During the interview avoid providing the employer excuses why you can't work late, such as child care issues. You can negotiate this after you get hired.


Describe the best person who ever worked for you or with you?

Here's an opportunity to show that you can be generous in your appreciation for the efforts, knowledge, skills and generosity of others. Briefly talk about the quality of the other person's work, of their talent and the expertise they demonstrated. You can also mention their patience, diligence, understanding, and willingness to share ideas, insight and information. And if relevant, say something about the person's virtues as a leader or one to learn from, etc. I would advise, however, about saying too much; you don't want to give too much credit to another individual, accidentally putting yourself in a lesser light. After all, this interview is about you, and that's where the predominant focus should remain!


On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 - the highest), how would you rate yourself on:

          a) Creativity?
b) Organization?
c) Memory?

This is another good question employers ask when they want to get a sense of your ego. Don't rate yourself a perfect score. Show a bit of humility by mentioning you are not perfect and are always looking to make improvements in yourself. Don't go into lengthy detail about why you think your "score" is as high or as low as you think it is! And if you really aren't strong in one or more of these traits, don't put yourself down. Fact is that in all these areas, people have good days and bad. Depending on your interviewer, you may be able to simply state that you always strive to do your best work. If you really think your inquisitor wants a rating from you, try not to give anything lower than a 7 or higher than a 9.5.


What are your long range objectives?

Keep your answers relevant to the job and industry. This isn't about your buying a house in the suburbs, starting your own business, raising a family or traveling. Your main objectives are to:
Grow with the company.
Help the company achieve its goals.
To continually learn, improve your skills, and grow professionally.
You might also state that you'd like to achieve some status within your industry and make a contribution that others will remember; that you hope to be in this business and industry - and hopefully this company - for a long time.


Why do you want to change fields now?

This is the type of question an employer or interviewer will ask when you have a lengthy track record in a particular industry. Depending on the circumstances of the economy or your age, the word "now" in the question could indicate that your inquisitor thinks "now" may not be the right time for such a transition. One could ask their interviewer why they feel now is not a good time to make a change, but that could come off as argumentative. Tell the employer that you have transferable skills, and mention a few, that are very applicable to this new pursuit. Stay positive about your reasons for wanting to make a career change. This could include that you feel you went as far as you could in your previous field, and although you are prepared to try something different you are confident that you can make a viable contribution to this new endeavor.


How have you changed the nature of your job?

Typically this type of question comes up when you are looking for a promotion, or when the interviewer wants to explore more deeply your effectiveness on your previous job and prepared you for the new position you are interviewing for. Here's a chance to discuss how your job evolved over time. How different is what you are actually doing now from what was in the original job posting? How is the job different from when you first took over the job assignment from your predecessor? How have you improved the process by which you accomplish things? Have you adopted Total Quality Management or Best Practices programs, or instituted other processes or reengineering strategies? Have you altered how things were done. How have you made things better, easier, more efficient, cost-effective, etc? Go ahead, toot your own horn, and tell your interviewer that things are better because of your contributions.


What aspects of working with others do you find least enjoyable?

This is another question where staying positive is key to providing your interviewers the right impression about you and your attitude. If you discuss your real pet peeves, you might reveal something about yourself best left unsaid. Try to stay with non-specific "safe" responses. Tell your interviewer that you genuinely enjoy working with others, that you are easy to get along with, and look forward to supporting or complimenting the efforts of those in your department. But if pushed to commit to saying something about what you really don't enjoy, say that you don't like needless, petty competitiveness. Do not mention that you dislike office politics and rumors, subversive behavior, or your commute.


What do you feel is a satisfactory attendance record?

Employers ask this question to help determine your level of commitment. Tell your interviewer that you never take off any more than allotted or scheduled vacation or sick days, and that you don't anticipate the need to take off extra personal time. (If you will need to take time off for religious observances, do not mention this during your interview; you can bring this up in a more timely manner after you've been hired, and give the employer at least a week's notice prior to when you need to be out. ) Explain that you'll make every effort to put in a full day's work every day, and ensure any absence doesn't interfere with project deadlines or overall productivity by planning ahead with other team members and arranging coverage of key responsibilities.


How will you be able to cope with the change in corporate environment after all your time with another company?

This is a good place to tell your interviewer that you are flexible and open to change, and look forward to all of the challenges involved with making this move. You can also mention that you don't see yourself as being rigid and don't believe others see you that way either. No matter whether the move to this new company is a lateral career move or one of advancement, you should express that working for this new employer is a step up from your last job, or it's an improved environment, and cite an example of why this is a better place for you and the advantages that your being with this new company afford them. Change is good!


What kind of salary are you worth?

This is not the same question as, "How much would you like to earn for this job?" For this question your interviewer wants to know how you see your value in the workplace and within your industry. In either case, the approach to your answer is essentially the same. Before you answer, assess if you have an inflated sense of self-worth, and if you know the salary ranges for people doing comparable work with similar experience in your geographic location. Try not to mention a specific dollar amount unless pushed to do so. If you give a number that is too high (compared to what is being offered), that tells the employer your ego is dictating what you think you are worth. If you state a salary that is too low, it says you do not know your real value in your market. It is always best to give a range of 8% to 15% below and above what you are currently earning, or made on your last job. A total range of about 25% to 30% maximum. By stating your desired salary as a range, you are more likely to be inclusive of the range the employer has to offer for that job.


Have you ever cared for an injured person who is recovering?

Though seemingly irrelevant to a job interview, this question explores your sense of humanity and compassion. How much of yourself do you give to others, and your ability to put the needs of others before your own are the key issues being explored. But this line of questioning could also be a fishing expedition to learn if you have any ill children or aging parents to whom you must currently attend. If you respond, "Yes," express that you will work hard to prevent these circumstances from interfering with your work. If you’re describing an older situation that has been resolved, clearly state so. If it is a current situation, convey that it definitely wont interfere with your work or responsibilities. Briefly discuss your role and functions, and convey your commitment in providing quality assistance and care, understanding the injury/illness and researching methods and sources of treatment.


Has a supervisor ever done something that you disliked?

All of us have at one time or another been unhappy with the decisions or actions of a supervisor. They may be memorable and worth talking about, but not in an interview! Because a positive attitude and outlook are criteria employers want to see, you should say nothing negative. If you feel compelled to talk about such an event, don't mention anyone by name. No one agrees with their superiors 100% of the time, and you recognize that you don't have to be happy with all their decisions. You have your job to do, and so does the supervisor. So you agree to disagree, and because you are patient and your primary responsibilty/goal is to do good work, you put the disagreement behind you as fast as possible.


What are your five biggest accomplishments in:
a. your present or last job?
b. your career so far?

This is a really good opportunity to indicate your growth, knowledge and understanding of your job, of your industry, and of your career. But be careful! This is a two-part question, and you must be sure to answer both parts, or your interviewer might think you’re not paying close enough attention. Be concise in your response! Provide brief and relevant anecdotal information. Don’t get too lengthy unless you’re asked to elaborate. It is ok to talk about academic accomplishments, if they weren't more than 5 years ago. Get to the facts using your prepared PAR's (Problem, Action Resolution statements) to illustrate your biggest successes, accomplishments, recognitions. If you can’t think of 5, have at least three prepared.


What most interests you about the position being offered?

Here's your chance to convey your enthusiasm and excitement about the work to be done. Talk briefly about being ready for the challenges the position offers you; the relevant skills, experience and knowledge that you have that will enable you to do the job well; and about the good reputation of the company, the quality of their people, products and services, etc. Because you have done your research about the company you should also be able to address the current projects or products that you'd like to see come to fruition with your participation.


Why aren't you earning more at your age?

This question presupposes that the interviewer suspects how old you are (it is illegal for an employer to directly ask your age during an interview), and thinks they know enough about your work history to question if you should be making more money, or that you may not be in touch with your value in the workplace. Tell the interviewer that you are motivated by the quality of your work, the challenges, opportunities, etc, rather than being motivated by money. You should also convey that you still expect to be paid a competitive wage for the position you are applying for. (And if you don't know how much you should be paid, do some research!!) Be careful to not show any negative emotion toward the interviewer for their assumptions about you. Don't make negative comments about your former employers, such as, "they were tightwads", or "the company couldn't afford to give us raises."


What do you look for in a job?

This question is frequently asked to determine if the applicant will fit in with the employer's particular environment. It is more important for the interviewee to address things like: a place to use specific skills, the opportunity to interact daily with creative and motivated coworkers, and other factors that relate to the work the applicant hopes to do or the functions they hope to perform. If the applicant mentions specifics about the location, commute or workplace interior (without advance favorable knowledge of these factors), the employer might wonder if the candidate will be happy and comfortable in their workplace.


How have you benefited from your disappointments?

Here's your chance to convey your positive attitude and outlook. It is ok to tell your interviewer that you consider yourself fortunate, that you have not had too many disappointments. But without going into the specific circumstances of any disappointments you may have experienced, you could say that you try to see the glass as half full. You know that occasionally things don't go exactly as planned, but you don't let disruptions to your progress stop you from moving forward. You recognize the value of turning each disappointment into a learning experience; and that by not dwelling on the negative, you are able to look forward.


Why should I hire you from the outside when I can hire someone from within the company?

Employers may ask this question to determine a candidate's confidence. While an applicant can not really know the particulars of his or her competitor's skill level or experience, he or she must confidently convey that they have the skills, experience, knowledge, drive, and that they are a professional, with the perspective to do the job and make profitable contributions.


Explain your role as a group/team member?

Here's where you get to talk about how you participated with others to fulfill various responsibilities, how you encourage and assist others. You can also describe succinctly how you demonstrated your initiative, used particular skills, all for the common goals of the team, the particular project and the company. Make certain that you keep the focus on yourself and your accomplishments. You might also detail how you enjoy the collaborative process, the diversity of people and ideas.


What will your references say about you?

Of course you’ll only provide contact info for references that will say completely positive things about you. So before you start going on interviews, make sure you openly discuss with your references what they will say about you, or what you need them to say. Doing so enables you to confidently tell an employer how effective others thought you were on the job, and how well you got along with coworkers, the software you know, your knowledge and experience, etc.


How long would it take you to make a contribution to our firm?

This questions can trip you up, so be careful! If you state a time period that is too short, you could be perceived as being unrealistic or unaware of company / department / project specifics on which to base an accurate estimate. Stating too long a time period could rule you out. One response might be: "I want to make a positive contribution as soon as possible, and my abilities as ____ and skills at ____ (relevant to this job) would enable me to get my feet wet quickly. I am driven and motivated to contribute to the success of department and the company" Keep your answers focused and relevant to the goals of the company and the work you'll be expected to perform.


What kind of decisions are most difficult for you to make?

Generally asked by interviewers to help determine your ability to think on your feet and how well you handle responsibility. State that you are generally very decisive, except when you don't have the proper information or tools on which to base an accurate or appropriate decision. Tell your interviewer that when you don't have the information or other tools that you need, you try to quickly pursue accurate answers, seek input and advice, do research, until you have the tools or information that allow you make a confident decision. Your answer will sound that much more convincing when you can site specific examples of when you had to gather more details or info before making an important work-related decision.


How long would you stay with us?

Avoid stating a specific number of years. You might say, "Being career oriented, I’ll be here for as long as I can make a positive contribution to the growth of the company (or serve my customers)”. Or, “I plan on being here to work toward the growth of the business, and my own professional development." Or, "I plan on being with the firm at least a few years." You should be careful when making comments about "revolving door environments" or business with high turnover rates to avoid sounding critical of this or other employers. Focus your answer on the benefits of staying with an employer for the long haul, and that you are hoping for a long relationship and career with that firm.


How do you determine your priorities under tight time constraints?

Start by explaining your strengths breaking larger projects or tasks into smaller objectives so that you are able to recognize all the components for thorough analysis, and determine what can be completed first and fastest. Convey how your organizational skills and knowledge of your work enable you to determine what it will take to complete each segment and then the whole project. Also mention that when possible you assign tasks to others so projects can be completed on time and on budget.


How did your last boss get the best work out of you?

Here's where you tell your interviewer that you are always motivated to do your best work, and that you take pride in the fact that you always put forth a full and dedicated effort. You are not doing the job because you seek reward or recognition. The quality of your work is its own reward! Your boss makes a contribution to your best efforts by providing appropriate resources and tools, through good communication, showing respect, being supportive and demonstrating appreciation of you, and your team, and by recognizing individual and group efforts.


What new goals or objectives have you established recently?

This question can be very revealing .... in the wrong way. Keep your answer focused on self improvement activities, or general personal or professional goals. Be careful not to answer with anything that indicates your commitment to new or additional financial responsibilities such as buying a home or having a family. This information is not relevant to what you can do for that employer. And its none of their business!! Focus your answer on your efforts to repeat or exceed your biggest professional success, or how you plan to attain job-related goals, such as sales targets, or organizing your department, making improvements. You could also address recent completion of a continuing education class, or how you are learning new skills, finishing a degree, etc. are also appropriate responses.


Tell me something that you are not proud of?

An employer or interviewer may toss this question out to see how honest or revelatory you are about your life. This will be one of the few interview questions where your answer does not pertain to your work. Be brief and concise, leave out excessive details, and describe something that had nothing to do with your job, and most importantly from which you learned something. State it all in a positive manner, and present it as a learning experience. “I once parked in a handicapped zone.” Or, “I got a ticket for not fully stopping at a traffic signal before turning.” Any reply that indicates no one was hurt by your actions should be a reasonably safe response.


If one of your co workers was having difficulty doing their job, what would you do?

Here's one of those questions where your interviewer wants to learn about your skills beyond what is called for by the position. Are you a team player? Can and will you support the efforts of others in your department or on your team? First you want to find out if the difficulty the coworker is having is a personal or procedural issue. If it is a personal issue that is affecting performance, you might offer to be a sounding board for your coworker, and give them a chance to vent during lunch or a break, or after work. If there is a procedural issue, explain to your interviewer that you would try to understand the difficulty being experienced by that coworker, that you would demonstrate how to proceed, provide encouragement, allow time for task acclamation and skill development, and try to motivate the coworker with the satisfaction to be gained having learned something or completing the task. Emphasize that you wouldn't complete the other person's tasks for them.


What have your learned about yourself from the jobs you've held (or if you're a recent graduate - from your academic experiences)?

This question has been known to make many an interviewee nervous. It is meant to help reveal how you see yourself. How well do you talk about yourself? Sound confident but not cocky, when you say you learned how to be self motivated, self-reliant, and dedicated to completing tasks on time and when promised. Be assertive and not aggressive as you talk about how you learned the importance of putting your ego aside, to be humble, and how to appreciate and respect others for their talents, contributions and perspectives; You found your confidence and feel that you can accomplish anything that you set out to do. But keep in mind that your interviewer could be assessing more than your verbal answer; they'll be trying to interpret your ego, attitude, shyness, body language, posture and other personality attributes.


Why are you leaving your current position?

First of all, say nothing negative about coworkers or employers, present or past! Explain to your interviewer that you feel that your skills or expertise aren't being utilized to their fullest potential where you presently work. Confidently convey that you can make a bigger contribution working for an employer who understands your specialized knowledge or specifically needed talents. If you can, identify to the interviewer how your skills match that employer's needs. You can also say that you are seeking new opportunities because you want to take your current skills to the next level, and take on bigger challenges. If there's a lack of career growth opportunities or little potential to learn something new from your current employer, you can explain that as well. And then try to discuss with your interviewer what you would like to learn or accomplish with this new job.


Are you willing to take calculated risks when necessary?

Explain to your interviewer that you recognize that some risks are a necessary part of doing business, but that you are smart and professional enough to know that foolish, and unnecessary risks are to be avoided. Ask your intervewer if your position requires you to make decisions based on calculated risks and find out how much risk the company is willing to tolerate, and still support your efforts for taking them. Knowing that your employer will back you up will add to your security in this job. Are the risks common for this position and within your industry? Knowing about the potential risks in advance, along with your own level of comfort in taking risks, will aid you in providing the most complete answer.


Do you have any children or other responsibilities that might interfere with or distract you from your work?

"No," is the best answer, even if you do have children. You don't want the employer to believe that your outside-of-work duties and familial responsibilities will collide with your job. But, if you say, "Yes," be careful you don't imply how much interference those responsibilities may actually influence your time and your attention away from your work. If the question was simply “Do you have any outside responsibilities that might interfere with … “ (leaving out the “children”, the question would have required a simple "No" response. If the employer is made aware that you have young, school-age children, infirmed parents or a disabled spouse, they will assume - possibly incorrectly - that there will be distractions that will impact your productivity and attendance.


If you could start your professional life again, what would you do differently?

Although your professional pursuits might possibly remain the same, thoughtfully explain to your interviewer that through hindsight, if given the chance to start again, there are probably a few things that you would do differently. If you were starting again suggest that maybe you would pursue different course work or another college major, or even a different school. Maybe you would learn more about other facets of your industry. You recognize that other kinds of training might help you achieve your goals.

Another possible direction for your answer might be that you wouldn't change a thing. You are proud of the way your career has progressed, the accomplishments you have achieved, and the opportunities you have in front of you. Be careful not to sound glib, cavalier, or insincere, and say anything negative about yourself, past employers or anyone else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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