Table of Contents
- Interview Question 1: What are your goals?
- Interview Question 2: What are your outside interests?
- Interview Question 3: Could you have done better in your last job?
- Interview Question 4: Would you lie for the company?
- Interview Question 5: Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
- Interview Question 6: Where could you use some improvement?
- Interview Question 7: Can you work under pressure?
- Interview Question 8: Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?
- Interview Question 9: Who has inspired you in your life and why?
- Interview Question 10: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
- Interview Question 11: Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.
- Interview Question 12: May I contact your present employer for a reference?
- Interview Question 13: Give me an example of your creativity (analytical skill…managing ability, etc.)
- Interview Question 14: What do you worry about?
- Interview Question 15: How many hours a week do you normally work?
- Interview Question 16: What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
- Interview Question 17: The “Hypothetical Problem”
- Interview Question 18: What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
- Interview Question 19: What was the toughest part of your last job?
This article contains plenty of advice and loads of mock answers to tough interview questions. But simply reading through the book won’t get you anywhere. What you need to do is figure out how you would answer different interview questions by using these answers for inspiration.
Interview Question 1: What are your goals?
TRAPS: Not having any…or having only vague generalities, not highly specific goals.
BEST ANSWER: Many executives in a position to hire you are strong believers in goal-setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so much). They like to hire in kind.
If you’re vague about your career and personal goals, it could be a big turnoff to may people you will encounter in your job search.
Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your life: career, personal development and learning, family, physical (health), community service and (if your interviewer is clearly a religious person) you could briefly and generally allude to your spiritual goals (showing you are a well-rounded individual with your values in the right order).
Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps you’re taking to bring it about. But do this concisely, as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before letting your interviewer back into the conversation.
Interview Question 2: What are your outside interests?
TRAPS: You want to be a well-rounded, not a drone. But your potential employer would be even more turned off if he suspects that your heavy extracurricular load will interfere with your commitment to your work duties.
BEST ANSWERS: Try to gauge how this company’s culture would look upon your favorite outside activities and be guided accordingly.
You can also use this question to shatter any stereotypes that could limit your chances. If you’re over 50, for example, describe your activities that demonstrate physical stamina. If you’re young, mention an activity that connotes wisdom and institutional trust, such as serving on the board of a popular charity.
But above all, remember that your employer is hiring your for what you can do for him, not your family, yourself or outside organizations, no matter how admirable those activities may be.
Interview Question 3: Could you have done better in your last job?
TRAPS: This is no time for true confessions of major or even minor problems.
BEST ANSWER: Again never be negative.
Example: “I suppose with the benefit of hindsight you can always find things to do better, of course, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything of major consequence.”
(If more explanation seems necessary)
Describer a situation that didn’t suffer because of you but from external conditions beyond your control.
For example, describe the disappointment you felt with a test campaign, new product launch, merger, etc., which looked promising at first, but led to underwhelming results. “I wish we could have known at the start what we later found out (about the economy turning, the marketplace changing, etc.), but since we couldn’t, we just had to go for it. And we did learn from it…”
Interview Question 4: Would you lie for the company?
TRAPS: This another question that pits two values against one another, in this case loyalty against integrity.
BEST ANSWER: Try to avoid choosing between two values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.
Example: “I would never do anything to hurt the company..”
If aggressively pressed to choose between two competing values, always choose personal integrity. It is the most prized of all values.
Interview Question 5: Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
TRAPS: This question is usually asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that may continue to affect your personality and performance.
You do not want to give the interviewer anything negative to remember you by, such as some great personal or career disappointment, even long ago, that you wish could have been avoided.
Nor do you wish to give any answer which may hint that your whole heart and soul will not be in your work.
BEST ANSWER: Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing.
Example: “It’s been a good life, rich in learning and experience, and the best it yet to come. Every experience in life is a lesson it its own way. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Interview Question 6: Where could you use some improvement?
TRAPS: Another tricky way to get you to admit weaknesses. Don’t fall for it.
BEST ANSWER: Keep this answer, like all your answers, positive. A good way to answer this question is to identify a cutting-edge branch of your profession (one that’s not essential to your employer’s needs) as an area you’re very excited about and want to explore more fully over the next six months.
Interview Question 7: Can you work under pressure?
TRAPS: An easy question, but you want to make your answer believable.
BEST ANSWER: Absolutely (then prove it with a vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)
Interview Question 8: Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?
TRAPS: You don’t want to give the impression that money is not important to you, yet you want to explain why your salary may be a little below industry standards.
BEST ANSWER: You like to make money, but other factors are even more important.
Example: “Making money is very important to me, and one reason I’m here is because I’m looking to make more. Throughout my career, what’s been even more important to me is doing work I really like to do at the kind of company I like and respect.
(Then be prepared to be specific about what your ideal position and company would be like, matching them as closely as possible to the opportunity at hand.
Interview Question 9: Who has inspired you in your life and why?
TRAPS: The two traps here are unpreparedness and irrelevance. If you grope for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired. If you ramble about your high school basketball coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.
BEST ANSWER: Have a few heroes in mind, from your mental “Board of Directors” – Leaders in your industry, from history or anyone else who has been your mentor.
Be prepared to give examples of how their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements. As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.
Interview Question 10: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
TRAPS: Giving an unprepared or irrelevant answer.
BEST ANSWER: Be prepared with a good example, explaining why the decision was difficult…the process you followed in reaching it…the courageous or effective way you carried it out…and the beneficial results.
Interview Question 11: Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.
TRAPS: You give a very memorable description of a very boring job. Result? You become associated with this boring job in the interviewer’s mind.
BEST ANSWER: You have never allowed yourself to grow bored with a job and you can’t understand it when others let themselves fall into that rut.
Example: “Perhaps I’ve been fortunate, but that I’ve never found myself bored with any job I have ever held. I’ve always enjoyed hard work. As with actors who feel there are no small parts, I also believe that in every company or department there are exciting challenges and intriguing problems crying out for energetic and enthusiastic solutions. If you’re bored, it’s probably because you’re not challenging yourself to tackle those problems right under your nose.”
Interview Question 12: May I contact your present employer for a reference?
TRAPS: If you’re trying to keep your job search private, this is the last thing you want. But if you don’t cooperate, won’t you seem as if you’re trying to hide something?
BEST ANSWER: Express your concern that you’d like to keep your job search private, but that in time, it will be perfectly okay.
Example: “My present employer is not aware of my job search and, for obvious reasons; I’d prefer to keep it that way. I’d be most appreciative if we kept our discussion confidential right now. Of course, when we both agree the time is right, then by all means you should contact them. I’m very proud of my record there.
Interview Question 13: Give me an example of your creativity (analytical skill…managing ability, etc.)
TRAPS: The worst offense here is simply being unprepared. Your hesitation may seem as if you’re having a hard time remembering the last time you were creative, analytical, etc.
BEST ANSWER: Remember from Question 2 that you should commit to memory a list of your greatest and most recent achievements, ever ready on the tip of your tongue.
If you have such a list, it’s easy to present any of your achievements in light of the quality the interviewer is asking about. For example, the smashing success you orchestrated at last year’s trade show could be used as an example of creativity, or analytical ability, or your ability to manage.
Interview Question 14: What do you worry about?
TRAPS: Admit to worrying and you could sound like a loser. Saying you never worry doesn’t sound credible.
BEST ANSWER: Redefine the word ‘worry’ so that it does not reflect negatively on you.
Example: “I wouldn’t call it worry, but I am a strongly goal-oriented person. So I keep turning over in my mind anything that seems to be keeping me from achieving those goals, until I find a solution. That’s part of my tenacity, I suppose.”
Interview Question 15: How many hours a week do you normally work?
TRAPS: You don’t want to give a specific number. Make it to low, and you may not measure up. Too high, and you’ll forever feel guilty about sneaking out the door at 5:15.
BEST ANSWER: If you are in fact a workaholic and you sense this company would like that: Say you are a confirmed workaholic, that you often work nights and weekends. Your family accepts this because it makes you fulfilled.
If you are not a workaholic: Say you have always worked hard and put in long hours. It goes with the territory. It one sense, it’s hard to keep track of the hours because your work is a labor of love, you enjoy nothing more than solving problems. So you’re almost always thinking about your work, including times when you’re home, while shaving in the morning, while commuting, etc.
Interview Question 16: What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
TRAPS: Unless you phrase your answer properly, your interviewer may conclude that whatever you identify as “difficult” is where you are weak.
BEST ANSWER: First, redefine “difficult” to be “challenging” which is more positive. Then, identify an area everyone in your profession considers challenging and in which you excel. Describe the process you follow that enables you to get splendid results…and be specific about those results.
Example: “I think every sales manager finds it challenging to motivate the troops in a recession. But that’s probably the strongest test of a top sales manager. I feel this is one area where I excel.”
“When I see the first sign that sales may slip or that sales force motivation is flagging because of a downturn in the economy, here’s the plan I put into action immediately…” (followed by a description of each step in the process…and most importantly, the exceptional results you’ve achieved.).
Interview Question 17: The “Hypothetical Problem”
TRAPS: Sometimes an interviewer will describe a difficult situation and ask, “How would you handle this?” Since it is virtually impossible to have all the facts in front of you from such a short presentation, don’t fall into the trap of trying to solve this problem and giving your verdict on the spot. It will make your decision-making process seem woefully inadequate.
BEST ANSWER: Instead, describe the rational, methodical process you would follow in analyzing this problem, who you would consult with, generating possible solutions, choosing the best course of action, and monitoring the results.
Remember, in all such, “What would you do?” questions, always describe your process or working methods, and you’ll never go wrong.
Interview Question 18: What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
TRAPS: Being unprepared or citing an example from so early in your life that it doesn’t score many points for you at this stage of your career.
BEST ANSWER: This is an easy question if you’re prepared. Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
1. A quality most important to the job at hand; or
2. A quality that is always in demand, such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness, courage, persistence, intelligence, etc.
Interview Question 19: What was the toughest part of your last job?
TRAPS: This is slightly different from the question raised earlier, “What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title…)” because this asks what you personally have found most difficult in your last position. This question is more difficult to redefine into something positive. Your interviewer will assume that whatever you found toughest may give you a problem in your new position.
BEST ANSWER: State that there was nothing in your prior position that you found overly difficult, and let your answer go at that. If pressed to expand your answer, you could describe the aspects of the position you enjoyed more than others, making sure that you express maximum enjoyment for those tasks most important to the open position, and you enjoyed least those tasks that are unimportant to the position at hand.