How to Answer The 16 Toughest Interview Questions

Question 17: What are your outside interests?

TRAPS:  You want to be a well-rounded, not a drone.  But your potential employer would be even more turned off if he suspects that your heavy extracurricular load will interfere with your commitment to your work duties.

Question 18: The “Fatal Flaw” question

TRAPS:  If an interviewer has read your resume carefully, he may try to zero in on a “fatal flaw” of your candidacy, perhaps that you don’t have a college degree…you’ve been out of the job market for some time…you never earned your CPA, etc.

A fatal flaw question can be deadly, but usually only if you respond by being overly defensive.

Question 19: How do you feel about reporting to a younger person (minority, woman, etc)?

TRAPS:  It’s a shame that some interviewers feel the need to ask this question, but many understand the reality that prejudices still exist among some job candidates, and it’s better to try to flush them out beforehand.

The trap here is that in today’s politically sensitized environment, even a well-intentioned answer can result in planting your foot neatly in your mouth.  Avoid anything which smacks of a patronizing or an insensitive attitude, such as “I think they make terrific bosses” or “Hey, some of my best friends are…”

Of course, since almost anyone with an IQ above room temperature will at least try to steadfastly affirm the right answer here, your interviewer will be judging your sincerity most of all.  “Do you really feel that way?” is what he or she will be wondering.

So you must make your answer believable and not just automatic.  If the firm is wise enough to have promoted peopled on the basis of ability alone, they’re likely quite proud of it, and prefer to hire others who will wholeheartedly share their strong sense of fair play.

Question 20: On confidential matters…

TRAPS:  When an interviewer presses you to reveal confidential information about a present or former employer, you may feel it’s a no-win situation.  If you cooperate, you could be judged untrustworthy.  If you don’t, you may irritate the interviewer and seem obstinate, uncooperative or overly suspicious.

Question 21: Would you lie for the company?

TRAPS:  This another question that pits two values against one another, in this case loyalty against integrity.

Question 22: Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?

TRAPS:  This question is usually asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that may continue to affect your personality and performance.

You do not want to give the interviewer anything negative to remember you by, such as some great personal or career disappointment, even long ago, that you wish could have been avoided.

Nor do you wish to give any answer which may hint that your whole heart and soul will not be in your work.

Question 23: Could you have done better in your last job?

TRAPS:  This is no time for true confessions of major or even minor problems.

Question 24: Can you work under pressure?

TRAPS:  An easy question, but you want to make your answer believable.

Question 25: What makes you angry?

TRAPS:  You don’t want to come across either as a hothead or a wimp.

Question 26: Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?

TRAPS:  You don’t want to give the impression that money is not important to you, yet you want to explain why your salary may be a little below industry standards.

Question 27: Who has inspired you in your life and why?

TRAPS:  The two traps here are unpreparedness and irrelevance.  If you grope for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired.  If you ramble about your high school basketball coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.

Question 28: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?

TRAPS:  Giving an unprepared or irrelevant answer.

Question 29: Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.

TRAPS:  You give a very memorable description of a very boring job.  Result?  You become associated with this boring job in the interviewer’s mind.

Question 30: Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?

TRAPS:  If you’ve had a problem, you can’t lie.  You could easily be found out. Yet admitting an attendance problem could raise many flags.

Question 31: What changes would you make if you came on board?

TRAPS:  Watch out!  This question can derail your candidacy faster than a bomb on the tracks – and just as you are about to be hired.

Reason:  No matter how bright you are, you cannot know the right actions to take in a position before you settle in and get to know the operation’s strengths, weaknesses key people, financial condition, methods of operation, etc.  If you lunge at this temptingly baited question, you will probably be seen as someone who shoots from the hip.

Moreover, no matter how comfortable you may feel with your interviewer, you are still an outsider.  No one, including your interviewer, likes to think that a know-it-all outsider is going to come in, turn the place upside down and with sweeping, grand gestures, promptly demonstrate what jerks everybody’s been for years.

Question 32: I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like in…

TRAPS:  This could be a make-or-break question.  The interviewer mostly likes what he sees, but has doubts over one key area.  If you can assure him on this point, the job may be yours.

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