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 your past. 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 advance, too.” 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 up). 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 your lap. 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 down. 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!
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