After scouring job ads and getting your resume into shape, only one more obstacle stands between you and your next job: the interview.
Here are some of the toughest job interview questions, and the best answers you can give.
1. “What is your biggest weakness?”
An interviewer’s first task is to weed out as many candidates for a position as possible. That’s why this question is so common. The interviewer is hoping the candidate will come right out and say why he or she shouldn’t get the job.
The Worst Answer: The worst way to answer this question is to highlight why you’re not qualified or don’t have the right temperament for the job. Some examples are, “I sometimes have a hard time focusing,” or, “I get frustrated easily.”
The Other Worst Answer: “I’m a perfectionist.” This answer is as old as the hills. Giving it only shows that you didn’t give the question any serious thought. Or worse, that you don’t think you have any weaknesses, which of course we all do. No one wants to hire an employee who is incapable of admitting when they’ve made a mistake.
Answering the question with a joke (“My biggest weakness is chocolate,”) also shows that you didn’t give the question any real thought.
The Best Answer: Dr. Thomas J. Denham, a career counselor at Careers In Transition in Colonie, New York recommends answering this way: “I have a tendency to say ‘yes’ and get over-committed.” Denham also recommends following up with an example of how you’ve worked on prioritizing tasks and setting personal limits so that it won’t happen again.
This is a great way to demonstrate two personality traits that every interviewer loves: self-awareness, and a desire for self-improvement.
2. “Describe a problem you faced at your last job.”
This is a tricky question. That’s because the interviewer doesn’t actually want to hear about a problem at your last job. He or she wants to hear about you: about how flexible you are, how well you handle stress, and how motivated you are to come up with constructive solutions to problems at work.
The Worst Answer: Using this question as a springboard to badmouth your last job – your boss, the customers, the salary. The interviewer wants to hear positivity when you talk about work, not negativity.
The Best Answer: Go into your interview prepared with a short, three-part story to tell. Pick a problem you faced at your last job, describe the solution you came up with, and finish by explaining how successful your solution ended up being.
3. “If we don’t hire you for this position, why do you think that might be?”
The Worst Answer: Like the earlier question about your greatest weakness, don’t tell the interviewer something negative about yourself. (An example: “I don’t have much experience.”) Doing that is only going to make the interviewer consider why they shouldn’t hire you instead of why they should.
The Best Answer: During the last round of interviews I sat through for a job opening at my company, every candidate was asked this as the final question. My favorite answer a candidate gave was: “You might not hire me if you find an equally qualified candidate who’s willing to do the job for a lower salary.”
I like this answer because the candidate used it as another opportunity to emphasize that she was fully qualified for the position.
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