Expect to be asked several probing, hardball questions during your next job interview. The following are 10 typical stress questions and strategies on how you might answer them.
1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
This seemingly innocuous, open-ended question can be intimidating. If you aren't prepared, you won't know what to say or how long to talk, especially since the interview is just beginning.
Don't launch into a mini-speech about your childhood, schooling, hobbies, early career and personal likes and dislikes. Instead, cite recent personal and professional work experiences that relate to the position you're seeking and that support your resume credentials.
"Everything you say about yourself should fit together to form a cohesive pattern that conveys the message: I have unique qualities that make me the right person to fill this position,"
One caution: This question is a great opportunity to sell yourself. At this stage of the interview, however, it's best to remain concise and low-key.
2. Why did you leave your previous employer, or why are you leaving your present job?
Don't be defensive, especially if you left due to problems with your boss or co-workers. Career experts agree that it isn't wise to air your frustrations about a previous or current job or co-workers during interviews. You may be perceived as a chronic malcontent or difficult to work with.
Perhaps the best answer is that you're seeking greater opportunity, challenges or responsibility. Don't use "more money" as a reason. It's usually obvious that if you're changing jobs, you hope to obtain a better salary.
3. What are your greatest strengths?
This question allows you to describe your strongest attributes and skills. Be sure to mention assets that are directly related to the responsibilities of the open job. Briefly summarize your work experience and your strongest qualities and achievements.
Expert advises job seekers to include four specific skills that employers value highly: self-motivation, initiative, the ability to work in a team and a willingness to work long hours. Additional qualities employers admire include good communication skills, loyalty, reliability, integrity, promptness and self-confidence.
4. What are your weaknesses?
This question is potentially more harmful than helpful and can also intimidate applicants. Realize that most interviewers don't expect you to be perfect or reveal your true weaknesses. They're just probing for soft spots.
If you give a flip answer, or respond with, "Well, I don't really have any weaknesses," you may be perceived as arrogant or lacking in candor or self-knowledge.
Most career advisers recommend turning this question around and presenting a personal weakness as a professional strength.
You can turn these weaknesses around by saying that you're very meticulous and remain involved in projects until you've ironed out all the problems, even if it means working overtime. This way you've cast your weaknesses into positives most bosses would find irresistible.
5. What type of salary do you have in mind?
Interviewers usually ask this question to determine whether the company can afford you. If possible, defer your answer until the end of the interview when you'll know if you're a serious candidate. By answering too quickly and stating a salary that's too high or too low, you may be disqualified from consideration.
If the interviewer still insists that you name a figure, ask about the position's salary range. If you don't receive a satisfactory answer and you can't stall further, cite a figure that meets your requirements and the standards within the industry. It's better to err a little on the high side since the final offer is invariably going to be lower than you requested. Then, say that it's the job, not the salary, that interests you.
Be honest if the interviewer asks what you're currently earning, or earned previously, because the amount can be verified.
6. What do you like most and least about your present job?
This question allows the interviewer to gather clues about the type of environment or corporate culture that suits you. Concentrate your answer on areas that are relevant to the position and be specific.
When discussing least-liked aspects of your present or previous job, try to mention an area of responsibility that's far removed from the functions of the job you're seeking. This shows that you stick with tasks that don't particularly interest you.
7. Are you applying for any other jobs?
Hardly anyone expects you to say "no" to this question in today's job market. If you do, the interviewer may think you're either naive about business conditions or not serious about job hunting. Instead, say you're exploring several openings that might fit your talents and potential.
Don't say that you're already weighing job offers, however. You may be viewed as uninterested in the job
8. Why should we hire you?
This question entices job seekers to really sell themselves.
The interviewer who asks you this is really probing your readiness for the job, your ability to handle it, your willingness to work hard at it and your fitness for the job.
Show your readiness by describing how your experience, career progression, qualities and achievements make you an asset. Highlight your ability by discussing your specific skills and accomplishments.
9. Where do you hope to be in five years?
Without saying you want the boss's job, describe where you would like to be in your career in five years, as well as what you hope to have accomplished.
Employers prefer candidates who think in terms of the future and set realistic goals.
10. Do you have any questions? Can you think of anything else you'd like to add?
Don't say "no," or that everything has been thoroughly discussed.
By saying you don't have any questions, the interviewer also may assume you're not interested in the job.
Have some intelligent questions ready that show you're knowledgeable about the company and the opening. This presumes that you've done your homework.