Be prepared to encounter most of
the following "tough questions" in your
interview, such as:
"Why do you want to
- To answer this question, you must have
researched the company. You need to reply with
the company's attributes as you see them. Cap
your answer with reference to your belief that
this can provide you with a stable and happy work
environment - the interviewer's company has that
reputation - and that such an atmosphere would
encourage your best work.
"What kind of
experience do you have for this job?"
- This is a perfect opportunity to sell yourself,
but before you do, be sure you know what is most
critical to the interviewer. The interviewer is
not just looking for a competent Director, or
Manager; they are looking for someone who can
contribute quickly to current projects. When
interviewing, companies invariably give a broad
picture of the job, but the person they hire will
be someone who can contribute to the needs of the
business in the first few months. Only by asking
will you identify the areas of your interviewer's
greatest urgency and interest.
If you do not know the projects
you will be involved within the first six months,
you must ask. Level-headedness and analytical
ability are respected, and you will naturally
answer the question more appropriately.
"What did you
like/dislike about your last job?"
- Interviews may start with a preamble by the
interviewer about his company. If this happens
pay attention; this information will help you
answer the question. Any statement the
interviewer makes about the job or corporation
can be used to your advantage. Use this to
highlight all your positives points
Note: criticising a previous
employer is a warning sign that you could be a
problem employee. Keep your answers short and
"Why are you leaving
your present position?"
- If your current company is not meeting your
expectations, you can often explain this in a
positive way. "I need to be challenged to
develop my potential further. I'm interested in
additional responsibility and new opportunity,
which unfortunately are limited at (name of
current employer) because of (company
size/limited product line/company restructuring
or downsizing). The reputation and market focus
of (name of prospective employer) offers many
opportunities for someone with my training and
experience. It's the ideal environment I've been
"How long would you
stay with the company?"
- The interviewer might be thinking of offering
you a job. But, employers are aware that the
marketplace is such that new hires often do not
stay with the company more than two years. Your
reply might be: "I would really like to
settle down with this company. As long as I am
growing professionally, there is no reason for me
to make a move."
"Have you done the
best work you are capable of doing?"
- Say "yes" and the interviewer will
think you're a has-been. As with all these
questions, personalise your work history and
include the essence of this reply: "I'm
proud of my professional achievements to date,
but my best is yet to come. I am always motivated
to give my best efforts, and there are always
opportunities to contribute when one is
"How long would it
take you to make a contribution to our
- You are best advised to answer this question
with a question, be sure to qualify the question
i.e. In what area does the company need a rapid
contribution? Or, do you have a special project
in mind you will want me to get involved
with?" This response could lead directly to
a job offer, but if not, you already have the
interviewer thinking of you as an employee.
"What would you like
to be doing five years from now?"
- The safest answer contains a desire to be
regarded and a true professional and team player.
"What are your
- Keep your answers job-related, a number of
achievements should spring to mind. Do not
exaggerate contributions to major projects. You
might begin your reply with: "Although I
feel my biggest accomplishments are ahead of me,
I am proud of my involvement with…I made my
contribution as part of that team and learned a
lot in the process. We did it with hard work,
concentration, and an eye for the bottom
line." Always remember to quantify your
"Can you work under
- You might be tempted to give a simple yes or no
answer, but don't. It reveals nothing and you
lose the opportunity to sell your skills.
Actually, this common question comes from an
unskilled interviewer, because it is closed and
does not give you the chance to elaborate.
Whenever you are asked one of these, provide a
brief yet comprehensive answer and seize the
opportunity to sell yourself. For example, you
could say: "Yes, I usually find it
stimulating. However, I believe in planning and
time management in order to reduce panic.
"How much money do
- This is a knockout question: give the wrong
answer, and you will immediately be eliminated.
It is always a temptation to ask for the moon
knowing you can come down, but that is a poor
approach. Generally, companies have salary ranges
for every job; so giving an ill considered answer
can reduce your job-offer chances to zero. The
solution? Try: "Currently/in my last job my
package is… I'm interested in this opportunity
and I will seriously consider any reasonable
offer you care to make me."
What are you looking for
in your next job?"
- Avoid saying what you want the company to give
you. You must say what you want in terms of what
you can give to your employer. The key word in
the following example is
"contribution": "My experience at
XYZ PLC has shown that I have a talent for
motivating people. This is demonstrated by … I
am looking for an opportunity to continue that
kind of contribution, and a company where I can
develop in a professional manner."
"Describe the most
difficult problem you've had to deal with."
- This is a favourite tough question. It is
designed to probe your professional profile;
specifically, your analytical skills: "Well,
I always follow a five-step format with a
difficult problem. One, I stand back and examine
the problem. Two, I recognize the problem as the
symptom of other, perhaps hidden, factors. Three,
I make a list of possible solutions to the
problem. Four, I weigh both the consequences and
cost of each solution, and determine the best
solution. And five, I go to my
CEO/Director/Manager, outline the problem, make
my recommendation, and ask for my advice and
approval." Then give an example of a problem
and your solution.
"What would your
- You have nothing to lose by being positive. If
you demonstrate how well you and your boss get
along, the interviewer does not have to ask,
"What do you dislike about your current
Note: The higher
up the corporate ladder you climb, the more
likely it is that references will be checked.