Answering Tough Interview Questions

Nothing is as crucial to landing the perfect job as a stellar performance in the job interview, where every answer can make or break an opportunity. For Beyond 50's "Business" talks, learn from Frances Bolles Haynes, co-author of "101 Toughest Interview Questions" about the latest techniques and proven strategies to win the job. She'll go over some of the toughest and most commonly asked interview questions, along with sure-hire answers interviewers want to hear. Instead of "canned" responses, she suggests answers that get to the heart of an employer's concerns. 

4 Biggest Concerns by Interviewers

Concern #1: Can You Do the Job? - The questions to be asked will relate to how much preparation through experience, training, education and interest do you have to meet the needs of this available position.

Concern #2: Who are You? - The questions to be asked will relate to getting a sense of who you are based on your personality traits, likes and dislikes, values, and goals.

Concern #3: Will You Fit in at the Company? - The questions to be asked will relate to compatibility in getting along with all levels of hierarchy within the company and to determine if you will contribute or add to their challenges.

Concern #4: What Will You Cost Us? - The questions to be asked will relate to the cost of the company in hiring and employing you, plus your willingness to trade off in order to work there.

The toughest interview question(s) to answer are different for each job hunter.  The ones you are afraid of the most are the ones you really prepare for, advised Haynes.

Below are common interview questions asked regarding the four concerns and some recommended responses by Frances Bolles Haynes and Daniel Porot, co-authors of "101 Toughest Interview Questions...And Answers That Win the Job!"

#1 Concern: Can You Do the Job?

Q: What interests you most about this job?

A: I love the tasks associated with this job, and I know that I am well qualified to carry them out.

Q: What do you like most and least in your last job?

A: The least: the repetitive tasks needed to keep things running smoothly; however, I found that I could make this work more satisfyingly by accomplishing it as well as possible and finding ways to make the routine more effective and efficient.  The most:_________,

Q: How would you describe your ideal working conditions?

A: (Mention two or three things you need to feel happy in your job that have to do with the people you work with, the physical plant, the location, your values, and the like.)

#2 Concern: Who Are You?

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: (Think your professional self)  Certainly.  What specific area would you like me to discuss: my work experience or work style?

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: I love to _____ (name something you enjoy that is related to some aspect of this job or company; for instance, if you work in the auto industry, you might say "I love to attend car shows").

Q: Silence. A tactic used to determine your response to stress.

A: (Refuse to be intimidated) Do you have any other questions for me that will help you determine whether I am the right person for this job?

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A: (Mention three strengths, two minor weaknesses, one strength; then change the subject.)

#3 Concern: Will You Fit In at the Company?

Q: How would you describe your last boss?

A: (Never speak negatively about a former boss, just the positive things you learned from him or her.) I learned a lot from him/her; specifically, ______ (mention two or three important lessons your boss taught you - for instance, how to interact with others in the workplace, how to negotiate successfully, how to defend what you believe in, and so on).

Q: Why were you let go from your last job?

A: My supervisor and I tried our best to work out our disagreements over ______, but we never found common ground, so it was in everyone's best interest for me to leave.

Q: Why have you been unemployed for so long?

A: I took time to polish my knowledge in ______ (name an appropriate and relevant area, such as a particular technology or foreign language).

A: Finding just any job is not too difficult, but finding the right job takes persistence and time.

#4 Concern: What Will You Cost Us?

Q: What was your last salary?

A: My salary was consistent with the contribution I made to my last employer.  (If the interviewer asks three times for you to name a figure, give a range that includes your last salary.)

Q: What salary figure do you have in mind?

A: My research suggests a range between $X and $Y, and I believe my skills and experience position me in the top of the range.

Q: What kind of benefits are you looking for?

A: I have done my research and see that you offer a good benefit package.  This gives me confidence that I'd be satisfied with that part of the compensation.


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