How do I deal with those tough interview questions?

While many people look at interviews as something to endure, it would be a good idea to instead see it as an opportunity to let the interviewer know that you are unique – and just the one that they are looking for. During the interview process, some questions may come up that will seem easy enough to answer – but don’t be deceived – because the answers you need to give can either strengthen your position, or weaken it terribly. In general, the interviewer wants to see well-prepared answers.

One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for an interview is to prepare for answers to questions that might be given. Failing to do this is only going to show who considered the interview important – and who did not. Seeing the questions for what they really are is a great opportunity to show that you are sharp and unique, which will also let them know that you are prepared and ready for work – qualities that an employer would want in any employee on their team.

Your answers to the questions should be well thought out in advance. Kate Lorenz at CareerBuilder recommends that you spend about three hours in studying questions that might be asked. Some questions may seem to be a test – which they may very well be. Recognizing what they might be looking for is very important. Here are some questions that will probably be asked and what they really are looking for when they do.

“Tell me about you. What do we need to know.”

Remember the purpose for the interview is to find a qualified candidate. Karen Burns at Money.USNews says you should stay on the things that show why you are qualified for the position and what talents you have that will benefit their company – avoid the rest. You only have so much time for the interview so don’t get taken off track by this question and start rambling on about your family, your pets, your hobbies and definitely not your current problems and/or experiences growing up. Keep your answers relatively short, focused on your skills and abilities,  and to the point. If more information is needed, the interviewer will be sure to ask for more later on.

“Why should I hire you?”

Briefly relate how your experience, education,  and goals fit the job description and how you meet them. Avoid inflating your value falsely, don’t boast or brag or take credit for things you weren’t directly and verifiably responsible for, but honestly set yourself apart and show how you would be the better choice. Your answer will probably lead to more in-depth questions about your qualifications. Kate mentions that this is your opportunity to set yourself apart and give some specifics.

“What bad things have you heard about our company?”

Your answer should focus on how you normally do not bother applying at companies that you think are bad. You had looked at the company’s information and job opening and liked what you saw. Never throw mud as you only lose ground! They know what challenges they have in their company –  every company has them. Complaining about your current or past company/bosses,  or pointing out challenges for your new employer, will only make you look like a part of the problem.

“What do you feel are your greatest weaknesses?”

This question will test your honesty, and it will enable you to turn it around and present what you have done to turn a weakness into a strength. It is a great way to show that you recognize you have faults, but that you also are seeking to deal with them to become a better person. Gear your answer to be able to say that you have developed a specific quality that this company would be interested in now. If pushed on this question you can say something like: “Well, I admit I’m a work in progress and will welcome help growing in these areas.”

“Why did you leave your last job?”

It’s very easy to get into the rut of strong criticism of your last company or boss if there were problems. Don’t go there.  Instead, you want to be positive, truthful, and constructive. Avoid being negative. If you were laid off, mention with how many others and in what round of layoffs, and why you specifically? That little detail sometimes explains logically why it probably wasn’t your fault. Keep your answers short and sweet and then – say no more! Rambling will destroy your answer and look like a coverup.

“What are you hoping for in terms of salary?”

This can be a troublesome question especially if the job ad did not mention an approximate salary. You will want to research the salary average for the position so that you can be informed about a fair range.  Just remember your research is a benchmark and may not apply to this role,  location or circumstances. Tell the interviewer that you prefer waiting until after you receive a job offer to further discuss salary. Kate says that if you are pushed for an answer, it will be better to provide a salary range rather than a specific amount. Say something like, “I’ve been earning between X and Y;” or,  “I would like to see something between X and Y, but am open and flexible and am sure we can find a way to make total compensation work.”

Always come prepared to provide interview balance

Be prepared to ask some questions of your own.  Interviewers know that interested people will have questions. Create your top 10(at least) question list. Include things you’d want to know about the company, the hiring manager, the peer group or team you’ll be working with, and the day to day roles, responsibilities and expected outcomes… and you should know before you’re asked to accept an offer. Make them well thought-out questions and you may be able to impress the interviewer even more.

Save all the compensation, vacation, benefits and related questions until the company has decided you’re the one they want –  then the information request on those issues from your end can begin. Finally,  be sure to ask the most significant question – Do you get the job? Never leave any interview where you haven’t in some way, shape, or form, asked for the job.