Understanding Difficult Interview Questions

John Dir

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There are lots of ways to deal with difficult interview questions. In these situations it helps to understand some of the possible motives interviewers have in asking you these questions, and what your own motivation should be in answering them. Here are a few insights to ponder for yourself. Whatever your approach, you should record the answers that work for you, and find new approaches for those that do not.

1. What are some of your significant accomplishments?

This question is an opportunity for you to express how your contributions have put dollars and cents into the company's growth. If possible, quote figures on how much money your ideas or actions have saved your previous employers, or added to their bottom line. If you have never been a higher paid employee, or offered any significant contribution beyond your good work, you can simply state that you have always earned what they paid you to do the job. If you are looking for a higher paying position, think of something you have done to improve work flow, customer base, or income for the company. There are lots of possibilities. Do not get caught without any answer to this question, but if you have nothing to say, simply say, ‘I have always found a way to increase my value with every company I have worked with. '

You might select contributions that you were not compensated for, or that do not have a dollar figure attached to them, but offer a creative expression of your talent. I might say something like this:

I have made contributions to every company I have worked with in the past. For two separate companies, I offered improvements to support operations that resulted in higher engineer productivity and improved customer satisfaction with services.

For another company, I contributed a marketing approach still being used in some capacity over 20 years later.

Some of my program concepts have been acknowledged by the press for making the use of computers easier and more productive.

2. What are your long term goals?

The interviewer is asking this to find out more about what kind of person you are, and how well you plan ahead. By penetrating your personal traits and perspective, they can determine if you have the personality they are looking for in filling the position. Do not open your mouth too wide on this question; give the impression that their company could be part of your long term plan. That's what they really want to hear anyway, whether it turns out to be true or not! You can make a good impression with a statement like this:

My long term goals are to continue making significant contributions to the organization I work with, and maintain adequate income for my family.

Use your own ideas for how to impress the interviewer that you will be a team player, excellent leader, or worthwhile employee.

3. What kind of work do you most enjoy doing?

If you are asked this question in an interview for a job, it would be wise for you to describe the position you are interviewing for. Do not eliminate yourself by describing what does not pertain to the job you want. You can turn it into a commercial for yourself by saying something like:

I enjoy doing the kind of work associated with what your company has to offer. I would welcome an opportunity to settle in and get busy. Of course I have other interests as well, but right now I am focused on getting a good job in this field.

4. What kind of work do you least enjoy doing?

When you answer this question, you should not get too deep, or talk about jobs that might be very similar to the one you are interviewing for. That may sound easy, but the hard part is to not trip yourself up with jobs similar to what the interviewer may perceive as similar. Even if your discussion of the position you are interviewing for makes you conclude that you do not particularly want the job, you should not turn it down before you receive an offer. The right salary and benefits can make any position look a whole lot better, but to keep your interviewing talents sharp, you should always try to get each company to make you an offer. When you do, you can always turn them down, but at least you know you have done your job, and met your objectives. With this advice rendered, I personally might answer the question with something like this:

My least favorite work is commission sales, phone sales, and heavy labor. I prefer working in an office environment.

5. Why should we hire you?

In most interviews this question is aimed toward seeing how much you are willing to brag on yourself, or beg for a chance to do the job. A good approach is not to launch a windy diatribe, undersell your capabilities, or act disinterested in the job. A good response to this question is to smile, make eye contact and reply with something like this:

That's what we are here to find out isn't it? I have a lot to contribute, and I'm willing to address any specifics you want to discuss. I know I am the best candidate for the position, what do you need to be convinced?

6. Do you believe the customer is always right?

This is another question to draw out your perspective, and see how well it fits into the company's view of dealing with customers. You can play along with the cliché, or provide a realistic view. You might say something like this:

Enforcing the company's policy is not always that simple. I believe the customer always thinks they are right, but there might be an occasion when they just don't have enough information. I would work to understand their point of view, and offer information to help them resolve any issues that need to be settled.

7. What would you do if you saw an employee doing something dishonest or unethical?

In some companies, there are problems with people behaving improperly. To answer a question like this, first determine if this kind of scenario is to be expected in working for the company, by asking the interviewer how often you could expect a situation like this to be encountered. Generally, you do not have to solve the problem, just respond to the question in simple terms. You could say something like this:

Resolving that type of issue would depend on the circumstances. Generally, I would find out what the company's policy or procedure is for that situation, and follow it. There are usually guidelines for that sort of thing.

In some professional instances, part of the interview process is to require a candidate to “prove” themselves by addressing a very detailed scenario or issue. The company might require a level of input that makes you feel as if they are asking for the solution to a problem they are presently struggling with themselves. When an interview moves to the level of requiring you to provide the company with some free consulting as part of their assessment process, you can decide if you want to work for free or insist on being paid to resolve an issue of this magnitude. In my own experience, I have encountered companies that ask for free consulting, then implement the suggestions offered, and refuse to hire the candidate as an employee. Business is not immune to unethical practices, and you should not feel obligated to participate in their plans.

Have you ever gone part way though an interview, then found yourself thinking, “What the heck am I doing here?” If this impulse strikes you, there is no need to waste time cruising through the rest of the formalities. If you have landed an interview you are absolutely not interested in finishing, there is no reason why you cannot politely excuse yourself from further participation. You might say something like, “Excuse me, I don’t think I need to waste any more of your time here. It does not look like this job is going to be a fit for me. Thank you for your time, but I think I’ll be leaving now. ” This type of exit can boost your self confidence and make you feel more like you are in control of your own destiny if you discover an appropriate moment to exercise this freedom.

If you are experiencing problems with answering specific questions you are encountering, try checking with someone else for insights on how to address these issues professionally. There are few questions that you cannot answer to satisfy your own perspective, while maintaining a completely acceptable professional demeanor.

Director of Software Concepts BHO Technologists - LittleTek Center http://home.earthlink.net/~jdir Please provide a rating for the article to help us determine future content choices.


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