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Tough Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer During a Job Interview

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Very little is actually fun about job hunting. You pound the pavement (both literally and in the cyber universe), try to show yourself off and then, if you’re lucky, get to endure the interview.

The interview is fraught with stress; you have to be on your best behavior, you only have one chance to get it right and you know you’re putting yourself up to being judged by complete strangers.

But there’s one silver lining: most interviews, no matter where you are, follow a rough standard in terms of what’s asked and what’s expected from your answers. This means that you can use our study guide to prepare to answer these questions to the best of your ability—with less stress and more confidence. And hopefully you’ll land that job!

The Introduction

When you walk in, shake the hand of the person in charge of the fate of your employment. Then sit down and get ready for the first batch of questions. The introductory phase is broken down like so:

Tell me a little about yourself. Your chance to talk a little about your education, experience and what you enjoy doing that’s relevant to the job.

Why are you looking for a new job, and why did you leave your last job? Tell your interviewer why you’re looking for a new job—and keep it positive. Even if you were fired from your last job, put a positive spin on it.

What do you know about this company, and why do you want to work here? You’d better do your research on the company before you go for the interview! Make sure you can discuss highlights of the company, things you like about it and then tie it to why you want to work there. For example, if you work in medicine and the hospital has made great strides in improving technology and practices in your field, mention that and then tie it to how you want to be a part of those efforts.

What experience do you have? Talk about the relevant experience you’ve had in other jobs, volunteer work and life in general—and how it could help you in this job.

What would previous coworkers say about you? A trick question! Don’t fully disclose everything, but stay positive and cite carefully chosen examples of what others have said about you.

Have you done anything to increase your breadth of knowledge? Education, hobbies, sports…anything you do outside of work that in some way could be relevant to your being a good employee should be mentioned here.

Where else have you applied? Don’t go wild, but mention a few other places you have had interviews. The interviewer wants to know you are seriously looking for work and are keeping your options open.

About You

The next portion of the interview will get into the meat of you: how you would fit in, what kind of worker you are and why you are worth hiring. This part is important because it helps the interviewer understand why you’d be a good fit for the company—so do your best to put a positive spin on everything.

How do you work under pressure? You should always answer this in the positive. You can say you work well under pressure, you thrive under pressure, you LOVE it! Don’t say you fall apart, even if that’s the truth. Learn to love pressure, just in case.

What is your motivation to do a good job? No, it’s not money. You want recognition. You want to do better, you want to help others, you want to lead. (And you want money, but shhhh, don’t say that!)

What is your greatest strength? Again, be positive and talk about a strength that is work-related. Are you highly organized? Are you a hard driver? Do you inspire others?

What is your biggest weakness? A bit of a nasty trick question. You don’t want to be 100 percent honest here or you could kick your own butt to the curb, but if you try to say “nothing,” you look like an arrogant idiot. Give a small, work-related flaw that you’re trying to improve, such as learning to focus on the big picture or working to update your tech experience. In short, show a weakness, but also how you are compensating for it.

What kind of salary do you expect to make? Another nasty one! Make sure to do your research into what kind of money you should be making at a job like this with your experience. Go for that range or even pick a higher number and see what can be haggled out. It’s a delicate balance between what you want and what the employer is willing to pay. This is an art in itself, so make sure you’re prepared.

Can you work as part of a team? Yes, you can. You’ll learn to work in a team. Always say yes.

Tell me about a suggestion you have made that was implemented. This question is asked so the interviewer can see how you actually made a difference in your job. Discuss an example in which you actually made a difference in a previous job and how it improved the workplace.

Has anything ever irritated you about your coworkers? Sure, but you don’t talk about it. Say that you’ve always gotten along just fine in spite of differences.

Is there anyone you simply could not work with? No, you can work with anyone. Right?

Have you had any issues with previous bosses? No. You’ve never had any issues. EVER.

Do you prefer money or job satisfaction? This is a nasty question because we all need and like to have money, but your employer wants you to consider the job itself to be most important. Job satisfaction should win out here (and really, for many people, it does, because enjoying the job makes life a lot easier).

Would you rather be liked or feared? What a silly question! But it’ll come up in one form or another. The answer is “neither”; what you want is to be respected. Being respected means you motivate the team, you can hit deadlines and you get everyone working together. That’s what a company wants.

Would you put the interests of your company ahead of your own? Oh, so mean! You don’t want to say “yes” because it makes you look like a jerk, but the company won’t want you to say “no” because it means you might just ditch them. Answer in the affirmative, but make sure it’s clear that’s because you want to help the business along, not because you’re a doormat.

Conclusion

The last couple of questions will tie things off and bring the interview to an end. This is your chance to make a strong lasting impression.

Why should I hire you? It’s time to sum yourself up. Tell your interviewer the talents you have that match the job description and why you’ll be a good fit. Don’t talk about anyone else; just focus on yourself.

Do you have any questions to ask me? You probably should. Although you should have already done some research into the actual company, you may want to ask about things like benefits, how soon you would start, what you’ll be working on and how what you’ll do affects the company. Ask questions because a blank stare never works.

No matter where you interview, most interviewers will follow this format. So know the answers to these questions, and you’ll be well on your way to a new job!

Lena Paul is a medical school graduate who is an enthusiastic blogger and holds an editorial position at Prepgenie, a test prep provider that offers exam preparation courses for UKCAT, GAMSAT, PCAT, UMAT, LNAT and HPAT.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=172339646152677 Spark Hire

    These are all great questions you should be prepared to answer. Whether your interview is in person or through online video, it’s likely you’ll end being posed a majority of these questions. If you’re ready with good, composed answers that show your value as a future employee you’ll be in a better position to score the job.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510658879 Michael Goldberg

    Great questions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678764516 Suzanne Levison

    Excellent points.”Why should I hire you?” Stress more about how the company/department/direct report/ will benefit with you in the position. It’s about them at this point, not so much about you..what can you bring to the table better than anyone else interviewed. Do ask questions. Yes, you are being interviewed, but so is the person on the other side of the desk. It’s a two way exchange~.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000660904880 Larry Mayberry

    Helpful suggestions and reminders to be prepare for and know in advance to an interview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1384404956 Katrina Lerchen

    Extremely helpful, thank you!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000224222267 Evelyn Magera

    This article is really helpful. There is one question that I wonder how anyone should handle and that is “where do you want to be in 5 years?”

  • Isiah Wilkerson

    Very helpful article. I would consider being more honest about monetary ambition in sales/commission based jobs. Many sales managers would not consider a candidate that is not financially motivated.

  • Chris

    I think that in some respects, it’s important to try to feel the interviewer out in terms of how honest to be about certain questions. When I was interviewing candidates, I actually appreciated the potentials who (while not bashing or pointing fingers) would give honest answers to the questions of conflicts with coworkers or bosses. That said, if you can’t feel them out, it’s important to stay positive. I tried to make the interviewees feel as comfortable as possible, because I realized that the perfunctory answers to these questions would almost always be lies, and I wanted them to feel like they could share with me without me judging them. For example, I ended up offering a position to a candidate who explained to me about a workplace conflict she had when she was hired on to a previous job, and her supervisor hadn’t fully explained her duties prior to offering the position. If they had, she wouldn’t have taken the job. She felt this was a communication issue that continued long after she had accepted the job. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; they thought they had explained the job perfectly and she did not. She went on to be a very valued and successful employee at the company I worked for. Point being, she wasn’t overly negative, but honest and not trying to cater to what she thought I wanted to hear, which I respected rather than those who would just lip service me.

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