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Tough Interview Questions: How to Answer Them

During your job search, keep in mind that all employers will try their best to detect problems or limitations with your skills, since they will affect how you benefit their company. For example, if you listed a two-year gap in employment on your resume, many interviewers will consider it a problem or a “red flag.” Do you have a good reason for it? Do you know how to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself?” Open-ended questions such as this are difficult to answer, and many candidates respond by rambling.  Knowing how to respond is critical to securing a job offer.

There are three steps involved in answering interview questions:

  1. Understand what the interviewer wants to know.

    He or she may be wondering if you are dependable, able to adapt to a changing environment, and a team player.  If you are unsure what the interviewer is asking you, ask for clarification.

  2. Don’t give too much information. This may make a bad impression.

    Think before you respond to any question, and present the answer in a way that is to your best advantage.  Respond fully, but don’t ramble on, and avoid repeating what you have previously said to the interviewer.  Don’t get into personal information, e.g.: “Well, when I was working at ComputerTecho, I had my third child, and that meant I had to take off for three months, so I didn’t get that promotion I wanted.”

  3. Respond to the question and present your relevant skills.

    If you know what a potential employer is looking for, you can respond by selling the skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the employer’s concerns.  Find out what the employer wants and needs before you go to the interview.  Prepare your answers to address the employer’s wants and needs.

    Some of the top problem questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you here?
  • You don’t have a college degree, and the ad specifically stated you needed one.  Why did you apply for the position?
  • What are your compensation expectations?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Why were you fired from your last job?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What experience do you have?

Keep in mind that some employers are more likely to hire someone who presents him or herself well, rather than a candidate with extensive credentials. The safest way to answer questions is to emphasize your strongest personal strengths, backing them up with examples that demonstrate your value to the employer.

  1. Inappropriate questions

    If the employer asks you a question that is illegal, such as, “How old are you?,” “What is your religion?,” or other questions that are personal, answer them politely.  If the legality of the situation bothers you, try to deflect the question with humor.  For example, “I am old enough to be very responsible and do a great job for you!”  Don’t be coy by providing an answer such as, “How old do you think I am?”  Remain calm and professional regardless of any question that the interviewer asks.

    If the interviewer asks a question that you think could make the difference between your being hired or disqualified, for example, “How many kids do you have?,” you need to stop and think quickly.  The interviewer is actually asking if you are going to be taking time off work due to child care problems.  You can answer by saying, “I do have a family.  I’ve already arranged for very reliable child care, and I have two backups, if they are needed.  I missed only two days of work all last year.”

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