How to answer 64 Toughest Job Interview Questions

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#21

Question 20 On confidential matters…

TRAPS: When an interviewer presses you to reveal confidential information about a present or former employer, you may feel it’s a no-win situation. If you cooperate, you could be judged untrustworthy. If you don’t, you may irritate the interviewer and seem obstinate, uncooperative or overly suspicious.
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. What to do? The answer here is easy. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former employer. By all means, explain your reticence diplomatically. For example, “I certainly want to be as open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the rights of those who have trusted me with their most sensitive information, just as you would hope to be able to trust any of your key people when talking with a competitor…”
And certainly you can allude to your finest achievements in specific ways that don’t reveal the combination to the company safe.
But be guided by the golden rule. If you were the owner of your present company, would you feel it ethically wrong for the information to be given to your competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse to reveal it.
Remember that this question pits your desire to be cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more valuable commodity than whatever information the company may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender the information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose respect for you.
One President we know always presses candidates unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn’t get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly inquisitive, It’s all an act. He couldn’t care less about the information. This is his way of testing the candidate’s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are hired.


#22

Question 21 Would you lie for the company?

TRAPS: This another question that pits two values against one another, in this case loyalty against integrity.
BEST ANSWER: Try to avoid choosing between two values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.
Example: “I would never do anything to hurt the company…”
If aggressively pressed to choose between two competing values, always choose personal integrity. It is the most prized of all values.


#23

Question 22 Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?

TRAPS: This question is usually asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that may continue to affect your personality and performance.
You do not want to give the interviewer anything negative to remember you by, such as some great personal or career disappointment, even long ago, that you wish could have been avoided.
Nor do you wish to give any answer which may hint that your whole heart and soul will not be in your work.
BEST ANSWER: Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing. Example: “It’s been a good life, rich in learning and experience, and the best it yet to come. Every experience in life is a lesson it its own way. I wouldn’t change a thing.”


#26

Question 23 Could you have done better in your last job?

TRAPS: This is no time for true confessions of major or even minor problems.
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.”
(If more explanation seems necessary)
Describe a situation that didn’t suffer because of you but from external conditions beyond your control.
For example, describe the disappointment you felt with a test campaign, new product launch, merger, etc., which looked promising at first, but led to underwhelming results. “I wish we could have known at the start what we later found out (about the economy turning, the marketplace changing, etc.), but since we couldn’t, we just had to go for it. And we did learn from it…”


#27

Question 24 Can you work under pressure?

TRAPS: An easy question, but you want to make your answer believable.
BEST ANSWER: Absolutely…(then prove it with a vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)


#28

Question 25 What makes you angry?

TRAPS: You don’t want to come across either as a hothead or a wimp.
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.
Examples: If you are a reserved person and/or the corporate culture is coolly professional:
“I’m an even-tempered and positive person by nature, and I believe this helps me a great deal in keeping my department running smoothly, harmoniously and with a genuine esprit de corps. I believe in communicating clearly what’s expected, getting people’s commitment to those goals, and then following up continuously to check progress.”
“If anyone or anything is going off track, I want to know about it early. If, after that kind of open communication and follow up, someone isn’t getting the job done, I’ll want to know why. If there’s no good reason, then I’ll get impatient and angry…and take appropriate steps from there. But if you hire good people, motivate them to strive for excellence and then follow up constantly, it almost never gets to that state.”
If you are feisty by nature and/or the position calls for a tough straw boss.
“You know what makes me angry? People who (the fill in the blanks with the most objectionable traits for this type of position)…people who don’t pull their own weight, who are negative, people who lie…etc.”


#29

Question 26 Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?

TRAPS: You don’t want to give the impression that money is not important to you, yet you want to explain why your salary may be a little below industry standards.
BEST ANSWER: You like to make money, but other factors are even more important.
Example: "Making money is very important to me, and one reason I’m here is because I’m looking to make more. Throughout my career, what’s been even more important to me is doing work I really like to do at the kind of company I like and respect. (Then be prepared to be specific about what your ideal position and company would be like, matching them as closely as possible to the opportunity at hand.


#30

Question 27 Who has inspired you in your life and why?

TRAPS: The two traps here are unpreparedness and irrelevance. If you grope for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired. If you ramble about your high school basketball coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.
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.
Be prepared to give examples of how their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements. As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.


#31

Question 28 What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?

TRAPS: Giving an unprepared or irrelevant answer.
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.


#32

Question 29 Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.

TRAPS: You give a very memorable description of a very boring job. Result? You become associated with this boring job in the interviewer’s mind.
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.
Example: “Perhaps I’ve been fortunate, but that I’ve never found myself bored with any job I have ever held. I’ve always enjoyed hard work. As with actors who feel there are no small parts, I also believe that in every company or department there are exciting challenges and intriguing problems crying out for energetic and enthusiastic solutions. If you’re bored, it’s probably because you’re not challenging yourself to tackle those problems right under your nose.”


#33

Question 30 Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?

TRAPS: If you’ve had a problem, you can’t lie. You could easily be found out. Yet admitting an attendance problem could raise many flags.
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.
If you do have a past attendance problem, you want to minimize it, making it clear that it was an exceptional circumstance and that it’s cause has been corrected.
To do this, give the same answer as above but preface it with something like, “Other that being out last year (or whenever) because of (your reason, which is now in the past), I have never had a problem and have enjoyed an excellent attendance record throughout my career. Furthermore, I believe, consistent attendance is important because…” (Pick up the rest of the answer as outlined above.).


#34

Question 31 What changes would you make if you came on board?

TRAPS: Watch out! This question can derail your candidacy faster than a bomb on the tracks - and just as you are about to be hired.
Reason: No matter how bright you are, you cannot know the right actions to take in a position before you settle in and get to know the operation’s strengths, weaknesses, key people, financial condition, methods of operation, etc. If you lunge at this temptingly baited question, you will probably be seen as someone who shoots from the hip.
Moreover, no matter how comfortable you may feel with your interviewer, you are still an outsider. No one, including your interviewer, likes to think that a know-it-all outsider is going to come in, turn the place upside down and with sweeping, grand gestures, promptly demonstrate what jerks everybody’s been for years.
BEST ANSWER: You, of course, will want to take a good hard look at everything the company is doing before making any recommendations.
Example: "Well, I wouldn’t be a very good doctor if I gave my diagnosis before the examination. Should you hire me, as I hope you will, I’d want to take a good hard look at everything you’re doing and understand why it’s being done that way. I’d like to have in-depth meetings with you and the other key people to get a deeper grasp of what you feel you’re doing right and what could be improved.
“From what you’ve told me so far, the areas of greatest concern to you are…” (name them. Then do two things. First, ask if these are in fact his major concerns. If so then reaffirm how your experience in meeting similar needs elsewhere might prove very helpful).


#35

Question 32 I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like in…

TRAPS: This could be a make-or-break question. The interviewer mostly likes what he sees, but has doubts over one key area. If you can assure him on this point, the job may be yours.
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.
To get past this question with flying colors, you are going to rely on your master strategy of uncovering the employer’s greatest wants and needs and then matching them with your strengths. Since you already know how to do this from Question 1, you are in a much stronger position.

More specifically, when the interviewer poses as objection like this, you should…

  1. Agree on the importance of this qualification.
  2. Explain that your strength may be indeed be greater than your resume indicates because…
  3. When this strength is added to your other strengths, it’s really your combination of qualifications that’s most important.
    Then review the areas of your greatest strengths that match up most favorably with the company’s most urgently-felt wants and needs.
    This is powerful way to handle this question for two reasons. First, you’re giving your interviewer more ammunition in the area of his concern. But more importantly, you’re shifting his focus away from this one, isolated area and putting it on the unique combination of strengths you offer, strengths which tie in perfectly with his greatest wants.

#36

Question 33 How do you feel about working nights and weekends?

TRAPS: Blurt out “no way, Jose” and you can kiss the job offer goodbye. But what if you have a family and want to work a reasonably normal schedule? Is there a way to get both the job and the schedule you want?
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.
If however, you prefer a more balanced lifestyle, answer this question with another: “What’s the norm for your best people here?”
If the hours still sound unrealistic for you, ask, “Do you have any top people who perform exceptionally for you, but who also have families and like to get home in time to see them at night?” Chances are this company does, and this associates you with this other “top-performers-who-leave-not-later-than-six” group.
Depending on the answer, be honest about how you would fit into the picture. If all those extra hours make you uncomfortable, say so, but phrase your response positively.
Example: “I love my work and do it exceptionally well. I think the results speak for themselves, especially in …(mention your two or three qualifications of greater interest to the employer. Remember, this is what he wants most, not a workaholic with weak credentials). Not only would I bring these qualities, but I’ve built my whole career on working not just hard, but smart. I think you’ll find me one of the most productive people here.
I do have a family who likes to see me after work and on weekends. They add balance and richness to my life, which in turn helps me be happy and productive at work. If I could handle some of the extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends, that would be ideal. You’d be getting a person of exceptional productivity who meets your needs with strong credentials. And I’d be able to handle some of the heavy workload at home where I can be under the same roof as my family. Everybody would win.”


#37

Question 34 Are you willing to relocate or travel?

TRAPS: Answer with a flat “no” and you may slam the door shut on this opportunity. But what if you’d really prefer not to relocate or travel, yet wouldn’t want to lose the job offer over it?
BEST ANSWER: First find out where you may have to relocate and how much travel may be involved. Then respond to the question.
If there’s no problem, say so enthusiastically.
If you do have a reservation, there are two schools of thought on how to handle it.
One advises you to keep your options open and your reservations to yourself in the early going, by saying, “no problem”.
You strategy here is to get the best offer you can, then make a judgment whether it’s worth it to you to relocate or travel.
Also, by the time the offer comes through, you may have other offers and can make a more informed decision. Why kill of this opportunity before it has chance to blossom into something really special? And if you’re a little more desperate three months from now, you might wish you hadn’t slammed the door on relocating or traveling.
The second way to handle this question is to voice a reservation, but assert that you’d be open to relocating (or traveling) for the right opportunity.
The answering strategy you choose depends on how eager you are for the job. If you want to take no chances, choose the first approach.
If you want to play a little harder-to-get in hopes of generating a more enticing offer, choose the second.


#38

Question 35 Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?

TRAPS: This “innocent” question could be a trap door which sends you down a chute and lands you in a heap of dust outside the front door. Why? Because its real intent is not just to see if you’ve got the stomach to fire, but also to uncover poor judgment in hiring which has caused you to fire so many. Also, if you fire so often, you could be a tyrant.
So don’t rise to the bait by boasting how many you’ve fired, unless you’ve prepared to explain why it was beyond your control, and not the result of your poor hiring procedures or foul temperament.
BEST ANSWER: Describe the rational and sensible management process you follow in both hiring and firing.
Example: "My whole management approach is to hire the best people I can find, train them thoroughly and well, get them excited and proud to be part of our team, and then work with them to achieve our goals together. If you do all of that right, especially hiring the right people, I’ve found you don’t have to fire very often.
“So with me, firing is a last resort. But when it’s got to be done, it’s got to be done, and the faster and cleaner, the better. A poor employee can wreak terrible damage in undermining the morale of an entire team of good people. When there’s no other way, I’ve found it’s better for all concerned to act decisively in getting rid of offenders who won’t change their ways.”


#39

Question 36 Why have you had so many jobs?

TRAPS: Your interviewer fears you may leave this position quickly, as you have others. He’s concerned you may be unstable, or a “problem person” who can’t get along with others.
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.
Example: Instead of showing three positions this way:
6/1982 - 3/1983, Position A;
4/1983 - 12/1983, Position B;
1/1984 - 8/1987, Position C;
…it would be better to show simply:
1982 - 1983, Position A;
1984 - 1987 Position C.
In other words, you would drop Position B altogether. Notice what a difference this makes in reducing your image as a job hopper.
Once in front of the interviewer and this question comes up, you must try to reassure him. Describe each position as part of an overall pattern of growth and career destination.
Be careful not to blame other people for your frequent changes. But you can and should attribute certain changes to conditions beyond your control.
Example: Thanks to an upcoming merger, you wanted to avoid an ensuing bloodbath, so you made a good, upward career move before your department came under the axe of the new owners.
If possible, also show that your job changes were more frequent in your younger days, while you were establishing yourself, rounding out your skills and looking for the right career path. At this stage in your career, you’re certainly much more interested in the best long-term opportunity.
You might also cite the job(s) where you stayed the longest and describe that this type of situation is what you’re looking for now.


#40

Question 37 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.
TRAPS: These and other “proper role” questions are designed to test your understanding of your place in the bigger picture of your department, company, community and profession….as well as the proper role each of these entities should play in its bigger picture.
The question is most frequently asked by the most thoughtful individuals and companies…or by those concerned that you’re coming from a place with a radically different corporate culture (such as from a big government bureaucracy to an aggressive small company).
The most frequent mistake executives make in answering is simply not being prepared (seeming as if they’ve never giving any of this a though.)…or in phrasing an answer best suited to their prior organization’s culture instead of the hiring company’s.
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.


#b90x - DAY 8 - What are you Consuming?
#41

Question 38 What would you say to your boss if he’s crazy about an idea, but you think it stinks?

TRAPS: This is another question that pits two values, in this case loyalty and honesty, against one another.
BEST ANSWER: Remember the rule stated earlier: In any conflict between values, always choose integrity.
Example: I believe that when evaluating anything, it’s important to emphasize the positive. What do I like about this idea?"
“Then, if you have reservations, I certainly want to point them out, as specifically, objectively and factually as I can.” “After all, the most important thing I owe my boss is honesty. If he can’t count on me for that, then everything else I may do or say could be questionable in his eyes.”
“But I also want to express my thoughts in a constructive way. So my goal in this case would be to see if my boss and I could make his idea even stronger and more appealing, so that it effectively overcomes any initial reservation I or others may have about it.”
“Of course, if he overrules me and says, ‘no, let’s do it my way,’ then I owe him my full and enthusiastic support to make it work as best it can.”


#42

Question 39 How could you have improved your career progress?

TRAPS: This is another variation on the question, “If you could, how would you live your life over?” Remember, you’re not going to fall for any such invitations to rewrite person history. You can’t win if you do.
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.
But all things considered, you take responsibility for where you are, how you’ve gotten there, where you are going and you harbor no regrets.