How to Answer 10 Tough Interview Questions
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Tough Question No. 1: "Tell me about yourself."
This is usually the opening question in an interview and it is the perfect moment for you to highlight your accomplishments, not to tell your life history. Your answers should be a quick rundown of your qualifications and experience. Talk about your education, work history, recent career experience and future goals.
"I graduated from University X and since then, I have been working in public relations with an agency where I have generated millions of PR hits for my clients. While I have enjoyed working on the agency side, I am looking to expand my horizons and start doing PR for corporate companies such as this one."
Tough Question No. 2: "Why did you leave your last job?"
This is your chance to talk about your experience and your career goals, not to badmouth a former boss or give a laundry list of reasons for your exit. Instead, focus on what you learned in your previous position and how you are ready to utilize those skills in a new position.
"The Company just was not a good fit for my creativity, but I learned that organizations have distinct personalities, much like people do. Now I know where I will be a better fit."
Tough Question No. 3: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
Let the employer know that you are stable and you want to be with this company for the long haul. Keep your aspirations to take over the firm with which you are interviewing, own your own company, retire at 40 or be married with five children to yourself.
"I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer."
Tough Question No. 4: "What are your weaknesses?"
The key to answering this age-old question is not to respond literally. Your future employer most likely will not care if your weak spot is that you cannot cook, nor do they want to hear the generic responses, like you are "too detail oriented" or "work too hard." Respond to this query by identifying areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. If you did not have an opportunity to develop certain skills at your previous job, explain how eager you are to gain that skill in a new position.
"In my last position, I was not able to develop my public-speaking skills. I would really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others."
Tough Question No. 5: "Why were you laid off?"
This question will become more common as the economy continues to slow down. It is a tough question, however, especially because many workers are not told exactly why they were laid off. The best way to tackle this question is to answer as honestly as possible.
"As I am sure you are aware, the economy is tough right now and my company felt the effects of it. I was part of a large staff reduction and that is really all I know. I am confident, however, that it had nothing to do with my job performance, as exemplified by my accomplishments. For example..."
Tough Question No. 6: "Tell me about the worst boss you ever had."
Never, ever talk badly about your past bosses. A potential boss will anticipate that you will talk about him or her in the same manner somewhere down the line.
"While none of my past bosses were awful, there are some who taught me more than others did. I have definitely learned what types of management styles I work with the best."
Tough Question No. 7: "How would others describe you?"
You should always be asking for feedback from your colleagues and supervisors in order to gauge your performance; this way, you can honestly answer the question based on their comments. Keep track of the feedback to be able to give to an employer, if asked. Doing so will also help you identify strengths and weaknesses.
"My former colleagues have said that I am easy to do business with and that I always hit the ground running with new projects. I have more specific feedback with me, if you would like to take a look at it."
Tough Question No. 8: "What can you offer me that another person cannot?"
This is when you talk about your record of getting things done. Go into specifics from your résumé and portfolio; show an employer your value and how you would be an asset.
"I am the best person for the job. I know there are other candidates who could fill this position, but my drive for excellence sets me apart from the pack. I am committed to always producing the best results. For example..."
Tough Question No. 9: "If you could choose any company to work for, where would you go?"
Never say that you would choose any company other than the one where you are interviewing. Talk about the job and the company for which you are being interviewed.
"I would not have applied for this position if I did not sincerely want to work with your organization." Continue with specific examples of why you respect the company with which you are interviewing and why you will be a good fit.
Tough Question No. 10: "Would you be willing to take a salary cut?"
Salary is a delicate topic. In today's tough economy though, how much a company can afford to pay you might be the deal breaker in whether or not you are offered a position.
"I'm making $X now. I understand that the salary range for this position is $XX - $XX. Like most people, I would like to improve on my salary, but I am more interested in the job itself than the money. I would be open to accepting a lower starting salary but would hope that we can revisit the subject in a few months after I have proven myself to you."