Five Tough Interview Questions…and How to Handle Them
Many a job seeker has spent the night before an eagerly-anticipated interview tossing and turning, haunted by visions of the difficult questions they’ll be facing the next day. Whether you’re asked to explain that gap in your experience, the terms under which you left your last job, or your worst professional mistake -- chances are good that you’ll be hit with at least one interview question that will make you cringe.
Let’s face it -- there’s just no way to predict in advance exactly which questions you’ll encounter in an interview. But in truth, you don’t have to be able to see into the future to answer even the toughest interview questions effectively and persuasively.
Plan Your Answer Strategy
According to Matt DeLuca, job interview expert and author of Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions, there’s no need to memorize answers to every possible interview question a hiring manager might pose to you. Instead, develop a game plan and use this formula as the basis for your answers throughout the interview.
Choose a few chief selling points that you want to emphasize throughout the interview, and subtly weave these themes into your answers. This kind of consistency and message discipline will impress the interviewer and drive home your top qualifications. In addition, having a few key concepts you want to reinforce will help you narrow down and focus your answers.
It’s up to you to craft the unique message you want to convey in the interview, as well as to develop the answer strategies you’ll use to achieve that goal. In the meantime, to help you get started, here are a few examples of answer strategies that can be used for some of the toughest interview questions.
What salary do you expect?
Address compensation questions in a three-step process, beginning with a broad statement that you’re open to negotiation. Then, if pressed further, name a salary range based on your history, experience, and market research. If possible, decline to be pinned down to a specific figure until later in the interview process.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
The three-step process also works well for the dreaded “future” question. Begin with a general vision statement that encapsulates your broad career goals, and then follow up with a specific, realistic objective you’d like to attain in the next few years. Finally, connect the dots by describing the way that the current position connects with your overarching career plan.
Why should we hire you?
For this type of question, hearken back to the three or four key themes that you’ve identified as your chief selling points. Weave the most salient features of your education, experience, skills, talents, and abilities into your answer. Don’t offer a never-ending list of your attributes; instead, focus on a handful of your best points and explain how these qualities will create value for the organization.
What’s your biggest weakness?
The key with questions like this is to be honest, but not too honest! Don’t give the hiring manager a lengthy laundry list of your foibles, shortcomings, and bad habits. Instead, focus on one or two professional issues that aren’t too negative – and that you’re working hard to overcome. It’s vitally important that you conclude this type of question with a clearly-defined action plan for improving on your weaknesses.
What kind of animal would you be?
Believe it or not, many interviews include at least one off-the-wall question. Try not to look like you’ve been caught off-guard; interviewers often include these queries to see how you’ll respond under pressure. Remember, there’s no wrong answer. Take a moment to compose yourself, think it through, and give it your best shot. Don’t be afraid to unleash a little creativity in the process!