9 smart answers to tough job interview questions

9 smart answers to tough job interview questions

A job interview is like a card game – while the hiring manager deals the cards, you hold all the aces.

And what does it take to play your cards right and ultimately win the game? An awesome strategy and a whole lot of preparation!

Every beginner in the job hunting will undoubtedly need to prepare for whatever it is that comes their way during the interview process. But so should more “seasoned” professionals. After all, even those who are going for their umpteenth interview will always need a refresher to help them in their job search.

In her book, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, Vicky Oliver says that in order to prepare for a “rigorous, psychologically draining interview” job seekers need to “treat it like a final exam (or trial) that it really is and study for it.” The book includes a few basic interview questions to some of the most difficult ones to help job seekers get their interview preparation off to a flying start.

Below is a short list of job interview questions taken from the book which can help you plan your answers. That way, you’ll be ready to deliver your responses with confidence during your job interview.

1. What do you view as your risks and disadvantages with the position we are interviewing you for?

A: I think that with the home office located halfway across the globe, there is a very small risk that one might not have the chance to interact with the key decision makers as often as might be ideal. On the other hand, teleconferencing, email, faxing, and having a 24/7 work ethic will go a long way towards bridging the gap.

2. Are you telling me that, after earning years of experience in your field, you would be willing to start at an entry-level position just to get your foot in the door here?

A: Sometimes you need to take a step backward to move your career forward. Starting in an entry-level role would allow me to learn your business from the ground up. The career that I’ve been in is so different than yours that I would love the opportunity to start over again in your field. The salary cut will be well worth it.

3. Why did you take so much time off from work, and why do you wish to get a job now?

A: When I first had the twins, my husband was working 24/7, and I really needed to be there to raise the kids. But during that time, I really missed working. Fortunately, I kept my hand in the business during those years by consulting for several of my ex-clients.

4. What is your biggest weakness that’s really a weakness and not a secret strength?

A: I am extremely impatient. I expect my employees to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they fail, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing everything myself. To compensate for my own weakness, however, I have started to really prep my people on exactly what will be expected of them.

5. What would you do if you really wanted to hire a woman under you, and you knew the perfect candidate, but your boss really wanted to hire a man for the job?

A: I’d recommend that we perform an on-site “test,” by hiring both candidates on a freelance basis for two weeks each.

6. Are you better at “managing up” or “managing down”?

A: If you aren’t good at “managing up,” you rarely get the opportunity to “manage down.” Fortunately, I’ve always been quite good at self-management. I’ve never had a deadline that I didn’t meet.

7. If you were running a company that produces X and the market was tanking for that product, what would you do?

A: I would search for new markets for the product while I spurred the engineers to change the product to make it more marketable to its original core audience.

8. When do you think you’ll peak in your career?

A: I come from a long line of healthy, hardy, mentally active types and so I confess that I never even think about “peaking” in my career. That having been said, I do think it’s important to have some self-knowledge, and to recognize when one is past one’s prime.

9. Will you be out to take my job?

A: Maybe in about 20 years, but by then, I suspect you’ll be running the entire company and will need a good, loyal lieutenant to help you manage this department!

Note that while most of these tough job interview questions are likely to appear on your job interview, the answers provided may not specifically apply to you. The point of providing these sample answers is to give you a sense of the kind of responses you should give to show them that you are the right person for the job. 


Further reading: 

7 common mistakes you might be making on your resume (even as an experienced professional)

The value of a “thank you” note after an interview

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