There is no worse feeling than when you’re in an interview and the interviewer asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer. The best way to handle this dreaded debacle is to go to the interview prepared. Familiarize yourself with some very common but difficult questions and arm yourself with answers ahead of time.
Check out these tough questions and some suggested responses in order to avoid an Interview Disaster.
- Tell me about yourself.
This is usually the opening question in an interview and it’s the perfect moment to toot your own horn – not to tell your life history. Your answers should be a quick rundown of your qualifications and experience. Talk about your education, work history, recent career experience and future goals.
Suggested answer: I graduated from University X and since then, I have been working in public relations with an agency where I have generated millions of PR hits for my clients. While I’ve enjoyed working on the agency side, I’m looking to expand my horizons and start doing PR for corporate companies such as this one.
- Why did you leave your last job?
This is your chance to talk about your experience and your career goals, not to badmouth a former boss or give a laundry list of reasons for your exit. Instead, focus on what you learned in your previous position and how you are ready to use those skills in a new position.
Suggested answer: The company just wasn’t a good fit for my creativity, but I learned that organizations have distinct personalities just as people do. Now I know where I’ll be a better fit.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Let the employer know that you are stable and you want to be with this company for the long haul. Keep your aspirations to take over the firm with which you are interviewing, own your own company, retire at 40, or be married with five children to yourself.
Suggested answer: I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer.
- What are your weaknesses?
The key to answering this age-old question is not to respond literally. Your future employer most likely won’t care if your weak spot is that you can’t cook, nor do they want to hear the generic responses, like you’re “too detail oriented” or “work too hard”. Respond to this query by identifying areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. If you didn’t have the opportunity to develop certain skills at your previous job, explain how eager you are to gain that skill in a new position.
Suggested answer: In my last position I wasn’t able to develop my public speaking skills. I’d really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others.
- Why were you laid off?
This question is now more and more common since the economy has taken such a hard hit. Often people are not told why they are being laid off. The best way to tackle this question is to answer as honestly as possible.
Suggested answer: As I’m sure you are aware, the economy is tough right now and my company felt the effects of it. I was part of a large staff reduction and that’s really all that I know. T
- Tell me about the worst boss you ever had.
Never, ever talk badly about your past bosses. A potential boss will anticipate that you’ll talk about him or her in the same manner somewhere down the line.
Suggested answer: While none of my past bosses were awful, there are some who taught me more than others did. I’ve definitely learned what types of management styles I work with the best.
- How would others describe you?
You should always be asking for feedback from your colleagues and supervisors in order to gauge your performance; this way, you can honestly answer the question based on their comments. Keep track of the feedback to be able to give to an employer, if asked. Doing so will also help you identify strengths and weaknesses.
Suggested answer: My former colleagues have said that I’m easy to do business with and that I always hit the ground running with new projects. I have more specific feedback with me, if you’d like to take a look at it.
- How will you add value to this company?
This is when you talk about your record of getting things done. Go into specifics from your resume and portfolio; show an employer your value and how you’d be an asset.
Suggested answer: The first thing that you must know about the company you are interviewing with is how they make money. Secondly, you must know how the job you are interviewing for touches that money. If you are a claims adjuster, you touch the money when you adjust claims. Your value is your customer service and your ability to adjust a claim correctly.
- If you could choose any company to work for, where would it be?
Never say that you would choose any company other than the one where you are interviewing. Talk about the job and the company for which you are being interviewed.
Suggested answer: I wouldn’t have applied for this position if I didn’t sincerely want to work with your organization. Continue with specific examples of why you respect the company with which you are interviewing and why you’ll be a good fit.