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?
POSSIBLE 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.