Q1. Tell me about yourself
BEST ANSWER: Start with the present and tell why you are well qualified for the position. Remember that the key to all-successful interviewing is to Match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for. In other words you must sell what the buyer is buying. This is the single most important strategy in job hunting.
Q2. What are your greatest strengths?
BEST ANSWER: You know that your key strategy is to first uncover your interviewer’s greatest wants and needs before you answer questions. And from Question 1, you know how to do this.
Q3. What are your greatest weaknesses?
PASSABLE ANSWER: Disguise a strength as a weakness.
Example: “I sometimes push my people too hard. I like to work with a sense of urgency and everyone is not always on the same wavelength.”
Drawback: This strategy is better than admitting a flaw, but it’s so widely used, it is transparent to any experienced interviewer.
BEST ANSWER: (and another reason it’s so important to get a thorough description of your interviewer’s needs before you answer questions): Assure the interviewer that you can think of nothing that would stand in the way of your performing in this position with excellence. Then, quickly review you strongest qualifications.
Q4 Tell me about something you did – or failed to do – that you now feel a little ashamed of.
BEST ANSWER: As with faults and weaknesses, never confess a regret. But don’t seem as if you’re stonewalling either.
Best strategy: Say you harbor no regrets, then add a principle or habit you practice regularly for healthy human relations.
Q5. Why are you leaving (or did you leave) this position?
BEST ANSWER: (If you have a job presently)
If you’re not yet 100% committed to leaving your present post, don’t be afraid to say so. Since you have a job, you are in a stronger position than someone who does not. But don’t be coy either. State honestly what you’d be hoping to find in a new spot. Of course, as stated often before, you answer will all the stronger if you have already uncovered what this position is all about and you match your desires to it.
If you do not presently have a job.)
Never lie about having been fired. It’s unethical – and too easily checked. But do try to deflect the reason from you personally. If your firing was the result of a takeover, merger, division wide layoff, etc., so much the better.
Q6. The “Silent Treatment”
BEST ANSWER: Like a primitive tribal mask, the Silent Treatment loses all it power to frighten you once you refuse to be intimidated. If your interviewer pulls it, keep quiet yourself for a while and then ask, with sincere politeness and not a trace of sarcasm, “Is there anything else I can fill in on that point?” That’s all there is to it.
Q7. Why should I hire you?
BEST ANSWER: By now you can see how critical it is to apply the overall strategy of uncovering the employer’s needs before you answer questions. If you know the employer’s greatest needs and desires, this question will give you a big leg up over other candidates because you will give him better reasons for hiring you than anyone else is likely to…reasons tied directly to his needs.
Q8. Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
BEST ANSWER: As with any objection, don’t view this as a sign of imminent defeat. It’s an invitation to teach the interviewer a new way to think about this situation, seeing advantages instead of drawbacks.
Q9. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
BEST ANSWER: Reassure your interviewer that you’re looking to make a long-term commitment…that this position entails exactly what you’re looking to do and what you do extremely well. As for your future, you believe that if you perform each job at hand with excellence, future opportunities will take care of themselves.
Q10. Describe your ideal company, location and job
BEST ANSWER: The only right answer is to describe what this company is offering, being sure to make your answer believable with specific reasons, stated with sincerity, why each quality represented by this opportunity is attractive to you.
Q11. Why do you want to work at our company?
BEST ANSWER: This question is your opportunity to hit the ball out of the park, thanks to the in-depth research you should do before any interview.
Best sources for researching your target company: annual reports, the corporate newsletter, contacts you know at the company or its suppliers, advertisements, articles about the company in the trade press.
Q12. What are your career options right now?
BEST ANSWER: Prepare for this question by thinking of how you can position yourself as a desired commodity. If you are still working, describe the possibilities at your present firm and why, though you’re greatly appreciated there, you’re looking for something more (challenge, money, responsibility, etc.). Also mention that you’re seriously exploring opportunities with one or two other firms.
Q13. Why have you been out of work so long?
BEST ANSWER: You want to emphasize factors which have prolonged your job search by your own choice.
Example: “After my job was terminated, I made a conscious decision not to jump on the first opportunities to come along. In my life, I’ve found out that you can always turn a negative into a positive IF you try hard enough. This is what I determined to do. I decided to take whatever time I needed to think through what I do best, what I most want to do, where I’d like to do it…and then identify those companies that could offer such an opportunity.”
Q14. Tell me honestly about the strong points and weak points of your boss (company, management team, etc.)…
BEST ANSWER: Remember the rule: Never be negative. Stress only the good points, no matter how charmingly you’re invited to be critical.
Your interviewer doesn’t care a whit about your previous boss. He wants to find out how loyal and positive you are, and whether you’ll criticize him behind his back if pressed to do so by someone in this own company. This question is your opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty to those you work with.
Q15. What good books have you read lately?
BEST ANSWER: Unless you’re up for a position in academia or as book critic for The New York Times, you’re not expected to be a literary lion. But it wouldn’t hurt to have read a handful of the most recent and influential books in your profession and on management.
Q16. Tell me about a situation when your work was criticized.
BEST ANSWER: Begin by emphasizing the extremely positive feedback you’ve gotten throughout your career and (if it’s true) that your performance reviews have been uniformly excellent.
Q17. What are your outside interests?
BEST ANSWER: Try to gauge how this company’s culture would look upon your favorite outside activities and be guided accordingly.
Q18. The “Fatal Flaw” question
BEST ANSWER: As every master salesperson knows, you will encounter objections (whether stated or merely thought) in every sale. They’re part and parcel of the buyer’s anxiety. The key is not to exacerbate the buyer’s anxiety but diminish it.
Q19. How do you feel about reporting to a younger person (minority, woman, etc)?
BEST ANSWER: You greatly admire a company that hires and promotes on merit alone and you couldn’t agree more with that philosophy. The age (gender, race, etc.) of the person you report to would certainly make no difference to you.
Q20. On confidential matters…
BEST ANSWER: Your interviewer may press you for this information for two reasons.
First, many companies use interviews to research the competition. It’s a perfect set-up. Here in their own lair, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal prized information on the competition’s plans, research, financial condition, etc.
Second, the company may be testing your integrity to see if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing confidential data.
Q21. Would you lie for the company?
BEST ANSWER: Try to avoid choosing between two values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.
Q22. Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
BEST ANSWER: Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing.
Q23. Could you have done better in your last job?
BEST ANSWER: Again never be negative.
Example: “I suppose with the benefit of hindsight you can always find things to do better, of course, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything of major consequence.”
Q24. Can you work under pressure?
BEST ANSWER: Absolutely…(then prove it with a vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)
Q25. What makes you angry?
BEST ANSWER: Give an answer that’s suited to both your personality and the management style of the firm. Here, the homework you’ve done about the company and its style can help in your choice of words.
Q26. Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?
BEST ANSWER: You like to make money, but other factors are even more important.
Q27. Who has inspired you in your life and why?
BEST ANSWER: Have a few heroes in mind, from your mental “Board of Directors” – Leaders in your industry, from history or anyone else who has been your mentor.
Q28. What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
BEST ANSWER: Be prepared with a good example, explaining why the decision was difficult…the process you followed in reaching it…the courageous or effective way you carried it out…and the beneficial results.
Q29. Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had
BEST ANSWER: You have never allowed yourself to grow bored with a job and you can’t understand it when others let themselves fall into that rut.
Q30. Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?
BEST ANSWER: If you have had no problem, emphasize your excellent and consistent attendance record throughout your career.
Also describe how important you believe such consistent attendance is for a key executive…why it’s up to you to set an example of dedication…and why there’s just no substitute for being there with your people to keep the operation running smoothly, answer questions and handle problems and crises as they arise.
Q31. What changes would you make if you came on board?
BEST ANSWER: You, of course, will want to take a good hard look at everything the company is doing before making any recommendations.
Q32. I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like in…
BEST ANSWER: This question is related to “The Fatal Flaw” (Question 18), but here the concern is not that you are totally missing some qualifications, such as CPA certification, but rather that your experience is light in one area.
Before going into any interview, try to identify the weakest aspects of your candidacy from this company’s point of view. Then prepare the best answer you possible can to shore up your defenses.
Q33. How do you feel about working nights and weekends?
BEST ANSWER: First, if you’re a confirmed workaholic, this question is a softball lob. Whack it out of the park on the first swing by saying this kind of schedule is just your style. Add that your family understands it. Indeed, they’re happy for you, as they know you get your greatest satisfaction from your work.
Q34. Are you willing to relocate or travel?
BEST ANSWER: First find out where you may have to relocate and how much travel may be involved.
Q35. Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?
BEST ANSWER: Describe the rational and sensible management process you follow in both hiring and firing.
Q36. Why have you had so many jobs?
BEST ANSWER: First, before you even get to the interview stage, you should try to minimize your image as job hopper. If there are several entries on your resume of less than one year, consider eliminating the less important ones. Perhaps you can specify the time you spent at previous positions in rounded years not in months and years.
Q37. What do you see as the proper role/mission of…
…a good (job title you’re seeking);
…a good manager;
…an executive in serving the community;
…a leading company in our industry; etc.
BEST ANSWER: Think of the most essential ingredients of success for each category above – your job title, your role as manager, your firm’s role, etc.
Identify at least three but no more than six qualities you feel are most important to success in each role. Then commit your response to memory.
Here, again, the more information you’ve already drawn out about the greatest wants and needs of the interviewer, and the more homework you’ve done to identify the culture of the firm, the more on-target your answer will be.
Q38. What would you say to your boss if he’s crazy about an idea, but you think it stinks?
BEST ANSWER: Remember the rule stated earlier: In any conflict between values, always choose integrity.
Q39. How could you have improved your career progress?
BEST ANSWER: You’re generally quite happy with your career progress. Maybe, if you had known something earlier in life (impossible to know at the time, such as the booming growth in a branch in your industry…or the corporate downsizing that would phase out your last job), you might have moved in a certain direction sooner.
Q40. What would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level wasn’t pulling his/her weight…and this was hurting your department?
BEST ANSWER: Try to gauge the political style of the firm and be guided accordingly. In general, fall back on universal principles of effective human relations – which in the end, embody the way you would like to be treated in a similar circumstance.
Q41. You’ve been with your firm a long time. Won’t it be hard switching to a new company?
BEST ANSWER: To overcome this objection, you must point to the many ways you have grown and adapted to changing conditions at your present firm. It has not been a static situation. Highlight the different responsibilities you’ve held, the wide array of new situations you’ve faced and conquered.
Q42. May I contact your present employer for a reference?
BEST ANSWER: Express your concern that you’d like to keep your job search private, but that in time, it will be perfectly okay.
Q43. Give me an example of your creativity (analytical skill…managing ability, etc.)
BEST ANSWER: Remember from Question 2 that you should commit to memory a list of your greatest and most recent achievements, ever ready on the tip of your tongue.
Q44. Where could you use some improvement?
BEST ANSWER: Keep this answer, like all your answers, positive. A good way to answer this question is to identify a cutting-edge branch of your profession (one that’s not essential to your employer’s needs) as an area you’re very excited about and want to explore more fully over the next six months.
Q45. What do you worry about?
BEST ANSWER: Redefine the word ‘worry’ so that it does not reflect negatively on you.
Q46. How many hours a week do you normally work?
BEST ANSWER: If you are in fact a workaholic and you sense this company would like that: Say you are a confirmed workaholic, that you often work nights and weekends. Your family accepts this because it makes you fulfilled.
Q47. What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
BEST ANSWER: First, redefine “difficult” to be “challenging” which is more positive. Then, identify an area everyone in your profession considers challenging and in which you excel. Describe the process you follow that enables you to get splendid results…and be specific about those results.
Example: “I think every sales manager finds it challenging to motivate the troops in a recession. But that’s probably the strongest test of a top sales manager. I feel this is one area where I excel.”
Q48. The “Hypothetical Problem”
BEST ANSWER: Instead, describe the rational, methodical process you would follow in analyzing this problem, who you would consult with, generating possible solutions, choosing the best course of action, and monitoring the results.
Q49. What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
BEST ANSWER:This is an easy question if you’re prepared. Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
1. A quality most important to the job at hand; or
2. A quality that is always in demand, such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness, courage, persistence, intelligence, etc.
Q50. Have you consider starting your own business?
BEST ANSWER: Again it’s best to:
1. Gauge this company’s corporate culture before answering and…
2. Be honest (which doesn’t mean you have to vividly share your fantasy of the franchise or bed-and-breakfast you someday plan to open).
Q51. What are your goals?
BEST ANSWER: Many executives in a position to hire you are strong believers in goal-setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so much). They like to hire in kind.
Q52. What do you for when you hire people?
BEST ANSWER: Speak your own thoughts here, but for the best answer weave them around the three most important qualifications for any position.
1. Can the person do the work (qualifications)?
2. Will the person do the work (motivation)?
3. Will the person fit in (“our kind of team player”)?
Q53. Sell me this stapler…(this pencil…this clock…or some other object on interviewer’s desk).
BEST ANSWER: Of course, you already know the most important secret of all great salesmanship – “find out what people want, then show them how to get it.”
Q54. “The Salary Question” – How much money do you want?
TRAPS: May also be phrases as, “What salary are you worth?”…or, “How much are you making now?” This is your most important negotiation. Handle it wrong and you can blow the job offer or go to work at far less than you might have gotten.
Q55. The Illegal Question
BEST ANSWER: Under the ever-present threat of lawsuits, most interviewers are well aware of these taboos. Yet you may encounter, usually on a second or third interview, a senior executive who doesn’t interview much and forgets he can’t ask such questions.
Q56. The “Secret” Illegal Question
BEST ANSWER: Remember that just because the interviewer doesn’t ask an illegal question doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. More than likely, he is going to come up with his own answer. So you might as well help him out.
Q57. What was the toughest part of your last job?
BEST ANSWER: State that there was nothing in your prior position that you found overly difficult, and let your answer go at that. If pressed to expand your answer, you could describe the aspects of the position you enjoyed more than others, making sure that you express maximum enjoyment for those tasks most important to the open position, and you enjoyed least those tasks that are unimportant to the position at hand.
Q58. How do you define success…and how do you measure up to your own definition?
BEST ANSWER: Give a well-accepted definition of success that leads right into your own stellar collection of achievements.
Q59. “The Opinion Question” – What do you think about …Abortion…The President…The Death Penalty…(or any other controversial subject)?
BEST ANSWER: In all of these instances, just remember the tale about student and the wise old rabbi. The scene is a seminary, where an overly serious student is pressing the rabbi to answer the ultimate questions of suffering, life and death. But no matter how hard he presses, the wise old rabbi will only answer each difficult question with a question of his own.
Q60. If you won $10 million lottery, would you still work?
BEST ANSWER: This type of question is aimed at getting at your bedrock attitude about work and how you feel about what you do. Your best answer will focus on your positive feelings.
Q61. Looking back on your last position, have you done your best work?
BEST ANSWER: To cover both possible paths this question can take, your answer should state that you always try to do your best, and the best of your career is right now. Like an athlete at the top of his game, you are just hitting your career stride thanks to several factors. Then, recap those factors, highlighting your strongest qualifications
Q62. Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?
BEST ANSWER: Help him see the qualifications that only you can offer.
Q63. Tell me something negative you’ve heard about our company…
BEST ANSWER: Just remember the rule – never be negative – and you’ll handle this one just fine.
Q64. On a scale of one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.
BEST ANSWER: Once again, never be negative. The interviewer will only resent criticism coming from you. This is the time to show your positivism.