GREAT ANSWERS TO TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Lets get to the questions. We'll start with three of the most common questions asked in
interviews, and discuss the best way to answer each one. Then we'll talk about some
good answers when the interviewer throws you a curve.
Common Question #1: "Why do you want to work here?" Talk about the company
first, you second. Here's where your research pays off. The more you know about the
company, the better your answer will be.
Common Question #2: "What' s a typical day like for you at your current job?" Your
answer should show that you are organized, efficient, productive, flexible, and that you
work well with others. How can you possibly show all that? Think out this question in
advance. Write down a description of a particularly productive day you had recently.
Then you'll have a specific day in mind when you're answering this question for real.
Common Question #3: "Why are you leaving your old job?" Be positive. No
personnel problems, no complaints about your old boss. Your answer should be some
version of "I love my old job, this one is even better, because . . ." Fill in the blanks
before you walk into the interview. If you were fired, you need to address this question
more carefully. Being laid off or fired due to a company downsizing or general industry
reduction is common, so say so and move on. But if you were fired for a reason, you'll
have to tread more carefully. Find out what your previous employer will say if contacted.
Will he say you were fired or that you resigned? By asking you will be prepared. Then
package your answer in the best possible light. If you deserved it, say so and explain
why. "I let personal problems affect my work." "I lost my motivation." Even though
former employers are called only about 10 percent of the time, tell the truth and then
explain how you learned from the experience.
Now let's turn up the heat. After the interviewer asks you about your experience and
skills, be on guard for these tough questions:
Tough Question#1: “What is the least relevant job you've ever had?” Answer: " No
job is irrelevant. I've learned something from every single one!" After making this point,
you can use the opportunity to talk about an interesting summer job or volunteer job from
Tough Question#2: “What would you like to be doing in five years?” Answer: “I’d
like to be working here, one or two steps up from the position I’m interviewing for.”
Figure out what position that might be, but be careful if it belongs to the person
interviewing you! If it does work into your answer a line like, “I’d hope to enable you to
Tough Question#3: “How do you work under pressure?” Answer: “I work fine under
pressure, but I try to keep things under control so I avoid crises.” Your answer should
also include some acknowledgment that no one can avoid last-minute crises 100 percent
of the time, and that your approach when this happens is to stay cool and try to help those
around you stay focused. Give examples of your effectiveness under pressure, like a tight
deadline or unforeseeable complication (the time the computers went down the night
before the big presentation; the day your partner got stuck in a blizzard with all the sales
reports; the time your annual meeting was held up and the annual reports never showed
Tough Question#4: “how do you take directions?” Answer: “I take directions very
well, and I think it’s because I try to make sure that I understand the directions clearly
and fully at the onset. I’m not afraid to ask questions, and I’m not ashamed to take notes
so I can remember all the details.” The interviewer can see you have a pencil and pad in
Tough Question#5: “What do you think of your last boss?” Answer: “I respect and
admire him/her.” There’s really nothing to be gained with any other answer
Tough Question#6: “Tell me about yourself.” Answer: “What would you like to hear
about?” With such an open-ended question, you need clarification before you answer.
Does the interviewer want to hear about your hobbies, your personal traits, your work
style, your skills, your experience, your training? Don’t be afraid to ask politely for a
more specific question.
Tough Question#7: “What kind of things do you worry about?” Answer: “Getting a
job done well, on time, and with the good feelings of everyone involved.” No true
confessions here! Stick to sensible, job-related concerns that show you are practical and
flexible, not a dreamer, and not one to get stuck when things don’t go exactly as planned.
Tough Question#8: “What’s the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced?” To
answer that question, talk about a truly difficult situation and how you solved it. Focus on
solutions, not the problem, and avoid complaining about co-workers.
Tough Question#9: “What kind of working atmosphere do you like?” Answer:
“Informal, cooperative, an atmosphere that’s conductive to getting the job done, exactly
the kind you seem to have here.” And keep your answer short; the more specific you get,
the more it’s likely to sound different from where you’re interviewing. (Another variation
on this question is: “I like interacting with people, so I usually leave my door open. But I
need total concentration and focus, I do shut my.”)
Tough Question#10: “ How have you benefited from disappointment?” Note: The
question asked about disappointment, not failure! To answer it, pull out a story from your
past about disappointment, then show how you learned from it and didn’t let it get you
Almost all other tough questions you will get are variations on the 10 listed above.
Just keep in mind that your own objective is to show that you are a problem solver, a
team player, bottom-line oriented, and achievement oriented. Look over these questions
and construct answers that show these traits. You’ll be irresistible!