5 Job Interview Questions You Must Be Prepared to Answer

January 30, 2013

job interviewer asking questionsIt’s often easy to think that interviewers ask unfair questions on job interviews, and that is true some of the time. But there are several job interview questions that you must be prepared to answer if you’re to have any hope of landing the job. They are tough questions, and not only should you be prepared to answer them, but you should be able to do so with some level of comfort. You can’t count on your resume alone to get a job. Here’s what you need to know!

1. Why should we hire you?

What the interviewer is asking for here is for you to provide a brief summary of your skills and abilities. Your explanation will need to be concise, but it will also have to fully answer the question.

In today’s job market there can literally be hundreds of candidates applying for the same job. You’ll need to be able answer this question in a way that will make you stand out above the rest. The interviewer isn’t just asking for a factual answer either. They’re looking to see how well you think under pressure, how well you present yourself, and how much confidence you have in your own abilities.

There’s also a relevancy factor to the question. That is to say that your answer must in some way indicate that you have a grasp of the position you’re applying for, and can articulate the skills that you have that enable you to do the job.

For most people, it will be impossible to answer this question off the cuff. The best way to handle it then is to have a brief summary that you’ve prepared and rehearsed in advance. You should be able answer the question confidently in about 2 to 3 minutes. If you can answer it in 15 seconds the answer will almost certainly be unsatisfactory. And if it takes much longer than three minutes, the interviewer may detect uncertainty.

2. Why do you want to leave your current job?

The interviewer is usually looking for problems with this question. What is your opinion of your current employer? Do you get along with your supervisor? Do you get along with your coworkers? Do you have an attitude problem?

Your task will be to convince your interviewer that all is well in your current position. You feel good about the company, you like your boss, and you get along well with your coworkers. The only reason that you would even consider leaving is because the job of the interviewer’s company is to good to ignore!

Once again, advance planning for this question is essential. Rehearse your answer over and over, and have it ready to roll the moment you’re asked.

3. Sell me this pen.

Okay, this is not really a question but it is a request. If you are not in sales, another variation of the request could be what would you do about Problem X? Once again, the interviewer is asking you to prove your abilities.

As a job candidate this is one of the most irritating and embarrassing requests an interviewer could make. But if you refuse to participate in addressing the request, your candidacy for the job will almost certainly be over.

It will be difficult to prepare for this request in advance since you can never know what the specifics will be. The best strategy to deal with it will be probe and delay.

Start by asking the interviewer questions either about his or her needs for the pen (or whatever they ask you to sell them), or for more specific details about Problem X. While the interviewer is answering your questions, you should be silently building your presentation or solution.

Sometimes, in the course of your line of questioning, the interviewer gets off track and the “sell me this pen” or “what would you do about Problem X” requests go away. But even if they don’t, you’ll have bought yourself time and information to make a more impressive presentation.

4. What salary are you looking for?

This question can be a disqualifier, so you should do everything you can to not answer it. You may be able to get around the question by turning it back on the interviewer. Ask them, “What salary range are you looking to pay for this position?”

If the question doesn’t go away, insist that you would like to hold salary discussions after the interview, when you have had more time to assess the position. The interviewer will probably appreciate your position on this. In truth, salary should not be discussed in an interview, but held until there is mutual agreement to move forward.

5. What are your greatest weaknesses?

This one is something of a trick question. If you fail to indicate that you have any weaknesses, the interviewer may perceive it as either arrogance or lack of self-awareness. Either way you lose, so you will have to be prepared to answer the question.

Answer it as diplomatically as you can. Once again be prepared in advance, with a short list of two or three weaknesses that you have that are unlikely to damage your candidacy. For example, you could answer it with “I just don’t have a lot of tolerance for people who come to work late too often.” Or, you could say, “I don’t like office gossip.” Either answer makes your weaknesses appear to be a lack of tolerance for the very same issues that are likely to bother the employer as well.

When you go on a job interview you should not only expect tough questions, but you should also be fully prepared to answer them. With some advance preparation and rehearsal, you’ll be fully prepared for whatever questions that come your way.

Note: Once you land the job, make sure to implement some ways to get ahead at work.

What is the toughest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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