Answering Tough Interview Questions

Answering Tough Interview Questions

By Monster Career Coach

You finally have received that awaited call for a job interview. The next step is to prepare yourself for the interviewing process. But what if despite all those days or weeks of training and career advice reviewal you are still fearing any curveballs. Fear no more, here are some useful tips for handling these kind of surprises and some tough interview questions which may arise in different categories and aspects of your life:

Personality Questions

1. Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?

It depends on the circumstances.

2. What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended?

Talk about books, sports or films to show that you have balance in your life.

3. What is the toughest part of a job for you?

Be honest. Remember, not everyone can do everything.

4. Are you creative?

Yes. Give examples that relate to your current job.

5. How would you describe your own personality?

Balanced is a good word to use, but remember the type of company you are interviewing at. Some companies may want someone who is aggressive and a go-getter.

6. Are you a leader?

Absolutely! Cite specific examples using your current job as a reference point.

7. What are your future goals?

Avoid, "I would like the job you advertised." Instead, give long-range goals.

8. What are your strengths?

Present at least three and relate them to the company and job you are interviewing for.

9. What are your weaknesses?

Don’t say that you don’t have any. Try not to cite personal characteristics as weaknesses, but be ready to have one if the interviewer presses. Turn a negative into a positive answer: "I am sometimes intent on completing an assignment and get too deeply involved when we are late."


Your Career Goals

1. If you could start your career again, what would you do differently?

Nothing ... I am happy today, so I don’t want to change my past.

2. What career options do you have at the moment?

"I see three areas of interest..." Relate those to the position and industry.

3. How would you describe the essence of success? According to your definition of success, how successful have you been so far?

Think carefully about your answer and relate it to your career accomplishments.

General Questions

1. Tell me about you!

Keep your answer to one or two minutes; don’t ramble. Use your resume summary as a base to start.

2. What do you know about our company?

Do your homework before the interview! Spend some time online or at the library researching the company. Find out as much as you can, including products, size, income, reputation, image, management talent, people, skills, history and philosophy. Project an informed interest; let the interviewer tell you about the company.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

Don’t talk about what you want; first, talk about their needs: You would like to be part of a specific company project; you would like to solve a company problem; you can make a definite contribution to specific company goals.

4. What would you do for us? What can you do for us that someone else can’t?

Relate past experiences that show you’ve had success in solving previous employer problem(s) that may be similar to those of the prospective employer.

5. What about the job offered do you find the most attractive? Least attractive?

List three or more attractive factors and only one minor unattractive factor.

6. Why should we hire you?

Because of your knowledge, experience, abilities, and skills.

7. What do you look for in a job?

An opportunity to use your skills, to perform, and be recognized.

8. Please give me your definition of a .... (the position for which you are being interviewed).

Keep it brief -- give an action- and results-oriented definition.

9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

Not long at all -- you expect only a brief period of adjustment to the learning curve.

10. How long would you stay with us?

As long as we both feel I’m contributing, achieving, growing, etc.


Experience and Management Questions

1. You may be overqualified for the position we have to offer.

Strong companies need strong people. A growing, energetic company is rarely unable to use its employees’ talents. Emphasize your interest in a long-term association, pointing out that the employer will get a faster return on investment because you have more experience than required.

2. What is your management style?

(If you’ve never thought about this, it’s high time you did.) "Open-door management" is best ... And you get the job done on time or inform your management.

3. Are you a good manager? Give an example. Why do you feel you have top managerial potential?

Keep your answer achievement- and task-oriented; emphasize management skills -- planning, organizing, interpersonal, etc.

4. What do you look for when you hire people?

Skills, initiative, adaptability.

5. Did you ever fire anyone? If so, what were the reasons and how did you handle it?

Give a brief example of a time when you faced this, and stress that it worked out well.

6. What do you see as the most difficult task in being a manager?

Getting things planned and done on time within the budget.

7. What do your subordinates think of you?

Be honest and positive...they can check your responses easily.

8. What is your biggest weakness as a manager?

Be honest and end on a positive note, e.g. "I don’t enjoy reprimanding people, so I try to begin with something positive first."


Industry Trend Questions

What important trends do you see in our industry?

Keep your answer to two or three trends.

If You Are Leaving a Job

1. Why are you leaving your present job?

Refine your answer based on your comfort level and honesty. Give a "group" answer if possible, e.g. our department was consolidated or eliminated.

2. How do you feel about leaving all of your benefits?

Concerned but not panicked.

3. Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.

One in which people are treated as fairly as possible.

4. How would you evaluate your present firm?

It’s an excellent company that afforded me many fine experiences.


Quantifying Your Experience and Accomplishments

1. How have you helped increase sales? Profits?

Explain in some detail, citing figures and specific examples.

2. Have you helped reduce costs? How?

Describe in some detail with specifics.

3. How much money did you account for?

Give examples as to your responsibilities. Explain how the budget was determined, and your role in overseeing your department’s portion.

4. How many people did you supervise on your last job?

Explain the structure of your department and your role as manager.

5. Do you like working with figures more than words?

Be honest but positive.

6. In your current or last position, what features did you like the most? Least?

Be honest but put a positive spin on your least favorite duties.

7. In your current or last position, what are or were your five most significant accomplishments?

Refer to the key accomplishments already identified on your resume.


 Job Search Questions

1. Why haven’t you found a new position before now?

Finding a job is easy; finding the right job is more difficult. Stress that you are being selective, and are looking for the right "fit."

2. Had you thought of leaving your present position before? If so, what do you think held you there?

Explain that your job is no longer challenging and that you feel your talents are best used elsewhere.

3. What do you think of your boss?

Be as positive as you can, even if you don’t really believe it.

4. Would you describe a situation in which your work was criticized?

Be as positive as you can and emphasize what you learned from the situation.

5. What other types of jobs or companies are you considering?

Keep your answer related to this company’s field, and don’t give out specific company names.


Your Work Habits and Style

1. If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Emphasize your skills, and don’t be overly negative about your weaknesses. It’s always safer to identify a lack of a skill as an area for improvement rather than a shortcoming.

2. Can you work under pressures, deadlines, etc.?

Yes, it’s a way of life in business. Be sure to cite examples of your success.

3. How have you changed the nature of your job?

Explain how you have improved the efficiency, productivity, and the like.

4. Do you prefer staff or line work? Why?

It depends on the job and its challenges.

5. In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

Keep it brief and don’t brag.

6. Do you feel you might be better off in a different size company? Different type company?

It depends on the job -- elaborate slightly.

7. How do you resolve conflict on a project team?

Explain that communication is important, and that you would first discuss the issues privately.

8. What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?

Try to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.


Salary Questions

1. How much are you looking for?

Answer with a question, e.g., "What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?" If the interviewer doesn’t answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth in the marketplace. Check out’s Salary Centre.

2. How much do you expect if we offer this position to you?

Be careful; the market value of the job may be the key answer, e.g., "My understanding is that a job like the one you’re describing may be in the range of $______."

3. What kind of salary are you worth?

Have a specific figure in mind… don’t be hesitant.