Eight Tricky Interview Questions
First, take the proper amount of time to prepare for your interview. Being
well-prepared will boost your confidence and lower your anxiety. Experts
recommend that you spend at least three hours preparing for each interview.
You should draft answers to the most common interview questions and practice
speaking them out loud. You also should read up on the company with which you
will be interviewing and prepare some questions of your own. This lets the
interviewer know that you are truly interested in the company and the position.
Why should we hire you?
Here's the chance to really sell yourself. You need to briefly and succinctly lay
out your strengths, qualifications and what you can bring to the table. Be careful
not to answer this question too generically, however. Nearly everyone says they
are hardworking and motivated. Set yourself apart by telling the interviewer about
qualities that are unique to you.
Why do you want to work here?
This is one tool interviewers use to see if you have done your homework. You
should never attend an interview unless you know about the company, its
direction and the industry in which it plays. If you have done your research, this
question gives you an opportunity to show initiative and demonstrate how your
experience and qualifications match the company's needs.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
The secret to answering this question is being honest about a weakness, but
demonstrating how you have turned it into a strength. For example, if you had a
problem with organization in the past, demonstrate the steps you took to more
effectively keep yourself on track. This will show that you have the ability to
recognize aspects of yourself that need improvement, and the initiative to make
Why did you leave your last job?
Even if your last job ended badly, be careful about being negative in answering
this question. Be as diplomatic as possible. If you do point out negative aspects
of your last job, find some positives to mention as well. Complaining endlessly
about your last company will not say much for your attitude.
Describe a problem situation and how you solved it.
Sometimes it is hard to come up with a response to this request, particularly if
you are coming straight from college and do not have professional experience.
Interviewers want to see that you can think critically and develop solutions,
regardless of what kind of issue you faced. Even if your problem was not having
enough time to study, describe the steps you took to prioritize your schedule.
This will demonstrate that you are responsible and can think through situations
on your own.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The secret to this question is being specific and selecting an accomplishment
that relates to the position. Even if your greatest accomplishment is being on a
championship high school basketball team, opt for a more professionally relevant
accomplishment. Think of the qualities the company is looking for and develop an
example that demonstrates how you can meet the company's needs.
What are your salary expectations?
This is one of the hardest questions, particularly for those with little experience.
The first thing to do before going to your interview is to research the salary range
in your field to get an idea of what you should be making. Steer clear of
discussing salary specifics before receiving a job offer. Let the interviewer know
that you will be open to discussing fair compensation when the time comes. If
pressed for a more specific answer, always give a range, rather than a specific
Tell me about yourself.
While this query seems like a piece of cake, it is difficult to answer because it is
so broad. The important thing to know is that the interviewer typically does not
want to know about your hometown or what you do on the weekends. He or she
is trying to figure you out professionally. Pick a couple of points about yourself,
your professional experience and your career goals and stick to those points.
Wrap up your answer by bringing up your desire to be a part of the company. If
you have a solid response prepared for this question, it can lead your
conversation in a direction that allows you to elaborate on your qualifications.
Top Mistakes Candidates Make
Not feeling so great about your last interview? Take heart. Chances are the
interviewer has seen worse. A recent Converse study surveyed hiring managers
to identify the most common mistakes candidates make. Here are the top five
categories - along with some real-life examples:
1. What They Say (or Don't Say)
According to Converse's survey, the number one mistake interviewees make
relates to how they communicate. Some come in with a pre-determined script
and sound as if they're reading from a textbook. Others give one-word answers
with no further elaboration. While still others use profanity or ramble on about
their personal problems and social lives rather than answer - or ask - questions
about the job or company.
Others are too candid. For example, when asked what interested her about the
position, one candidate replied: "I'm open to anything; I really need to get some
medical insurance." Another candidate at a children's organization stated that he
"hates kids." Those interviewing for customer service positions confessed: "I'm
not a people person," and "customers are annoying." While a man applying at a
drug treatment facility anxiously asked if they drug-tested employees and
whether they'd give advance notice.
Others complain about former bosses. And many make the mistake of bringing
up money and hours-required in the first interview. But the "Too Much
Information" award has to go the candidate who said: "I'm only here because my
mom wants me to get a job." He was 37!
2. How They Act
The second most common way candidates flub their interviews is what they do.
Many of these mistakes are the result of being unprepared and knowing nothing
about the job or company. Others are because candidates don't listen to the
questions being asked or try to bluff their way through technical questions.
Some stem from a lack of common sense or courtesy. Many hiring managers
complain about candidates showing up late and the surprising number who
interrupt the interview to take calls on their cell phones. One woman brought her
And which is worse? The candidate who asked the hiring manager to hurry up
because he wanted to have lunch, or the one who pulled out a sandwich and
Yet other bloopers are simply a result of nerves - or two much coffee. Several
hiring managers complained of nail-biting while another watched in horror as a
candidate jumped up to make a point, then turned around and fell to the floor!
3. Bad Attitudes
The third most-cited category of mistakes has to do with the candidate's attitude.
No one likes a braggart, know-it-all or name-dropper - or the candidate with the
super-sized ego who demanded to be hired and said the company could do no
better. Then there's the interviewee who declared he was "used to a higher class
On the other side of the coin, are those who show no enthusiasm. Many hiring
managers complained of interviewees who show little energy or interest in the
conversation. One candidate spent the better part of the interview looking at his
4. How They Look
Coming to the interview improperly groomed and dressed is the fourth most
common mistake. Along with the usual culprits: bad posture, tattoos, facial
piercings, fluorescent-colored hair and poor hygiene, hiring managers also told of
a candidate who did not wear shoes, one who wore a skirt slit to her derriere,
another who wore dark glasses throughout the interview and a candidate with
dirty fingernails wearing jeans and a t-shirt - oh, by the way, he was drunk, too!
5. They're Dishonest
Common forms of dishonesty include exaggerating about achievements or
misrepresenting knowledge. There's also the candidate who mentioned his arrest
after saying on his application he had never been arrested - and the one who
actually stole something from the interviewer's office.
Besides highlighting ignorance in action, the survey confirms that truth is stranger
than fiction and proves that life is not all that rosy on the other side of the
interview process either.
Best Impression: Interview to Get the Job
Some things may have changed about job hunting, but how you present yourself
in an interview is not one of them. Despite the rosy employment picture, you are
probably not going to be hired until a company has a conversation with you and
decides you're the best person for the job. This is especially critical when you are
up against someone with similar credentials and background, or when the
qualifications for the job have more to do with interpersonal and communication
skills than with technical qualifications. Here are some strategies to help you do
the best job of selling yourself when meeting with a prospective employer
Preparing for the Interview
You probably wouldn't give a presentation without advance preparation. Similarly,
you don't want to go to an interview without having first done some investigative
work:Do the research. Make sure you are familiar with the prospective
employer's job requirements, company history, and industry. If possible, try to
find out a little more about the person conducting the interview. You'll make a
much better impression during your meeting if you have done your homework.
Clarify your objectives. Before pitching yourself for a position, be sure you are
clear on your own interests and career goals. Be prepared to explain why you
want the job and why you think you would be a good fit. Your goal should be to
convince the interviewer you have what it takes to do the job.
Get your questions ready. Be an active participant in the interview by developing
relevant questions, some of which may be based on your research. But asking
questions is only part of the equation. Also know the value of listening well: Pay
attention to and thoroughly absorb what the other person is saying. It's one of the
most underrated interviewing skills. If you listen carefully to hiring managers, they
will often tell you exactly what they're looking for in an employee, and you can
tailor your pitch accordingly.
Don't forget the "small" things. Other things to consider as you prepare for your
meeting include being aware of your posture, making eye contact, pacing your
answers (not talking too fast), and avoiding any distracting mannerisms such as
foot tapping or running your hands through your hair. These things may sound
trivial, but you want the interviewer to focus on what you are saying ? not what
you are doing.
During the Interview
Your first meeting with the hiring manager is likely to make the most vivid
impression. This is your chance to make sure you get a favorable review. There
are many things you shouldn't do in an interview, but here are some basic
guidelines you can follow to start off on the right foot.
Dress smart. Don't underestimate the power of your professional appearance.
This is the first time the interviewer will see you and, like it or not, what you wear
could affect your chances of proceeding to the next round of interviews. Your
goal should be to blend in. Whether you're applying for a position at a bank or as
a merchandiser for a fashion house, dress appropriately for the job you want.
Make the best first impression. The interview begins as soon as you arrive at the
company. Most businesses have a reception area where you'll wait to meet the
person conducting yourinterview, and this is when many job seekers let their
guard down. Keep in mind that you may be evaluated just as much in the waiting
area as in the interview itself. Make sure you are friendly to the receptionist,
office assistant, or anyone else who may greet you before and after the interview.
In a recent survey commissioned by Robert Half International, 91 percent of
executives said they consider their administrative assistant's opinion of job
candidates an important part of the selection process for positions at all levels. If
you are discourteous to a receptionist or anyone else at the company, it will
negatively impact your chances of getting the job.
Asking and fielding questions. Know your resume thoroughly and be able to cite
specific examples that verify the information listed. Come to the meeting
prepared to defend any weaknesses in your job history. Do your best to respond
to questions in an open, direct way. When executives in a survey commissioned
by Robert Half International were asked to name one quality that impressed them
the most about a candidate during a job interview, 32 percent said honesty and
integrity were most important. Enthusiasm and verbal skills were next on their
Keep in mind that interviews are a two-way street. Just as the interviewer wants
to know if you are right for the job, you want to know if the position is right for
you. It's your opportunity to find out as many specifics about the job, the
company, the culture, and the hiring manager as you can.
Closing the Interview
If you've made a good impression up to this point, you want to make sure you
end on a positive note. If you decide you want the job, be prepared to say so in a
clear, convincing manner.
Say thank you. Regardless of whether you feel things went well or poorly, remain
friendly and courteous to the interviewer and thank him or her for taking time to
Ask when a decision will be made. Without giving an ultimatum about other job
offers or deadlines you may have, politely ask when the hiring manager will be
making the final decision about the position for which you are applying.
Write a follow-up letter. Send a thank-you note as soon as possible after your
meeting. . In a survey commissioned by Robert Half International, seventy-six
percent of hiring managers noted the importance of sending a thank-you note
following an interview. Your letter should express gratitude for the meeting,
reinforce your interest in the job, and recap the strongest points recommending
you for the position.
Like most skills, becoming an expert at interviewing takes practice. But the more
you prepare for the part, the better impression you'll make on the people you
meet -- and the more you'll increase your chances of securing the job offer.
How to Conquer the First Impression
When you walk into an interview, remember this: It only takes 30 seconds to
make a lasting impression.
Research has shown that the first impression you make on an interviewer really
sticks. In one study, untrained subjects were shown 20- to 32-second videotaped
segments of job applicants greeting their interviewers. When the subjects rated
the applicants on attributes like self-assurance and likeability, their assessments
were very similar to the interviewers' -- who had spent more than 20 minutes with
Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to help master the first
Few things give a worse impression than showing up late for an important
meeting. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview in case you have
trouble finding the office.
But earlier isn't necessarily better. If you arrive more than 15 minutes early and
beeline for the reception area, your interviewer might feel rushed and you might
appear desperate, according to Emily Post's book "The Etiquette Advantage in
Business." If you arrive early, go to the restroom to freshen up or have an
espresso and muffin at a nearby coffee shop.
Ideally, you should check in five to 10 minutes early, and always be courteous
and professional to everyone you meet -- you never know how much influence
the receptionist may have on the hiring decision.
Like it or not, people make judgments on appearances, so it's important to arrive
at the interview looking like a seasoned professional. But if you dress too
formally, you'll look stuffy, and if you dress too casually, the interviewer may think
you're not serious about the job.
Never wear anything sloppy, tight or revealing to an interview. High-quality,
tailored business suits are always appropriate for both men and women. And
don't forget the details: Make sure your shoes and any other accessories are
clean and polished. Clothes may make the (wo)man, but hair and hygiene are
crucial. You never want an interviewer to smell you before they see you, so
always bathe the morning of the interview, use a good-quality bath soap and
deodorant, and avoid wearing perfume or cologne.
Be sure your hair is clean and well-groomed -- nothing spiky or wild -- and keep
your makeup minimal. Cover any tattoos, and limit visible piercings to one in
According to Emily Post's book, your grip speaks volumes. Offer a limp hand and
your partner will think you're hesitant or meek. Give a bone-crunching squeeze
and you can appear overly enthusiastic or domineering -- and it hurts! But when
you shake with a medium-firm grip, you convey confidence and authority.
Extend your hand and grip when the webs of your palms touch. Then, pump your
hand a couple of times.
Don't underestimate the importance of your posture and subtle movements. A
study by Albert Mehrabian of UCLA found that 55 percent of communication is
received from body language.
To ensure your body language signals your confidence, sit up straight with your
shoulders back. Avoid crossing your legs and don't adopt a casual pose -- even if
your interviewer does.
Even if you're nervous, try not to fidget. Don't play with your jewelry, twirl your
hair or cross your arms, and try to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If
staring straight into the interviewer's eyes makes you uncomfortable, look at the
bridge of his or her nose instead -- it looks like you're still making eye contact, but
might be less distracting.