October 31, 2011 6 Comments
How many articles have you read about tough interview questions? I’ve read many of them and find that a number of the articles come around to the questions you’ll find below, some of which are effective and others that aren’t.
What makes a question great? It challenges the applicant but doesn’t cross the illegal question boundary or insult the candidate’s intelligence. What makes an interview question stupid? It’s one to which you can rehearse the answer and arrive at the interview ready to shoot it off like cannon. Further, it shows the inexperience of the interviewer. Here’s one, “What is your greatest weakness?” Ironically this is one that jobseekers struggle with, but they really shouldn’t. More on this later on.
Here are 10 typical questions, some of which are good and others that suck. I’ll rank them from 1-10, 1 being idiotic and 10 being great.
- Tell me about yourself. This is more of a directive and is one you should expect at least at 7 out of 10 interviews. I give this an 8 because it challenges your nerve and sets the tone for the interview. You’re being tested on summarizing your strengths and accomplishments, as well as how you deliver your answer. Know your personal commercial (or elevator speech) and know how to adapt it to the job and company to which you’re applying.
- What is your greatest strength. This question earns a 5. Why? Because you can practice answering this in many different variations. It’s easy to adapt to the situation. The company needs a great leader, well there you go. Communication skills, bingo. Technical knowledge, you get the point. You should have not problem with this question, unless the interviewer has one in mind and posses it as a behavioral question, “Give me an example of when your leadership skills helped a team reach its goal.”
- What would your former boss say about you? This question actually isn’t that bad. I give it a 7 for the stress factor. You can think about your strengths and accomplishments till the sun sets, but the interviewer makes you think about what someone else thinks of you—not what you think of you. And there’s a chance your former boss might be contacted. Dorothy Tannahill-Moran writes an article in a series of how to answer this question and other questions.
- Why should we hire you? I like this question because it makes you address three major components employers look for in a candidate—your ability to do the job, your willingness to do the job, and your ability to fit in. This question is the most important one an interviewer will ask. It deserves a 9. Here’s a pretty decent article on this difficult question. Essentially if you can’t answer this question, you don’t deserve to be applying for the job. Expect it to be asked in different ways, e.g., “What makes you unique?” “Why should I hire you over 15 other candidates?”
- What is your greatest weakness? Here’s the thing, no one is going to admit to their greatest weakness, and everyone is so nontransparent that this question should be barred from all interviews. Because 1 is the lowest number, that’s what it gets. A word of advice, never tell the interviewer you’re a perfectionist. First of all, they’ve all heard it before. And second, it has too many negative connotations. A perfectionist is someone who expects things to be perfect and, therefore, doesn’t complete projects on time. As well, words like OCD, depression, and anxiety have been associated with it. Tell them for a non-writing job that your spelling could use work.
- What sort of pay do you expect to receive? If you haven’t gotten this one during a phone interview, you’ll certainly get it at a face-to-face. It’s a necessary question, as the employer has to know how much you’ll cost them, and you’re not going to work for peanuts.This is the biggest stressor to many people. They feel they’ll be raked over the coals, which is a possibility. Sometimes this question is phrased, “How much did you make at your last company?” This question earns a 9, but only because it has to be asked and answered.
- How does your previous experience relate to the jobs we have here? Really dumb question. Know the job requirements and how you qualify for every one of them. This question deserves a 3, only because it requires you to read the job description and connect the dots.
- What are your plans for the future? Better than, “Where do you expect to be five years from now” because it’s testing your career orientation and ambition, as well as what you know about the position. For example, if the position on the table is a dead-end one, don’t talk about rising to management. This is particularly true with grant-funded positions that will end in a year or two. I think this question is worth a 6.
- Why are you looking for this sort of position and why here? This two-part question is another way of testing your enthusiasm for the job and company. Be careful about revealing too much information, such as how you left your last company. Stick to the two parts of this question, which is pretty decent, an 8.
- Do you have any questions for me? I give this one a perfect 10. Why, you may wonder. It’s quite obvious that the interviewer wants to hear what you learned from the interview. What you questions you have about the job, company, company’s competitors, and even the industry. She wants to hear intelligent, thought provoking questions you’ve formulated during your meeting and ones you’ve brought with you. Go to the interview with 10-15 questions written down on note cards or a piece of paper. Ask if you can refer to your questions; this shows preparedness and interest in the position and company.
These questions have popped up in article after article. There are thousands that employers ask, but some of these are bound to pop up at your interview. Traditional questions are the easiest to answer; we’ll look at behavioral questions in future articles.