5 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers


Amy, a colleague of mine who looks no older than 30, came to me to tell me of meetings she had just had with a job seeker and to give me some advice. In her rapid voice, she told me that she had just met with an older male who treated her as though she were a child. She was outraged and rightfully so.

Hmmm, I thought, here it comes.

Amy is well revered by the staff at our career center and the customers with whom she meets. She knows a great deal about the job search and training, so being disregarded by this man rubbed her the wrong way.

We sat and talked about her meeting with him and wondered aloud if this is how he presents himself at interviews to people younger than he. And if he does, what his chances of success in this job market are. Slim to none, we concurred.

Eventually she calmed down.

Her advice to me was to bring up in my Mature Worker workshop this attitude toward younger interviewers . (She told me three times.) I totally agreed with her and immediately made a change to the presentation slide: “Treat younger interviewers the way you would like to be treated.”

We career advisors often come to the defense of older workers who experience age discrimination; but we don’t talk as much about reverse age discrimination, such as what Amy experienced.

We are reluctant to tell people who are unemployed how the interviewer might feel about this type of rude behavior. But this is wrong of us. (Read 10 ways you can kill your job search with a negative attitude.)

This is the message I would impart. Think about if you were younger and on the opposite side of the table interviewing people for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities. How would you react if an older job candidate looked at you with disdain and without saying it, called you inexperienced and beneath his level? Further, what would you think if you were going to be his immediate supervisor?

Hiring him would not be a marriage made in heaven. You, as the younger hiring manager, would have to prove yourself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis. He would question your every decision and tell you how he would do things. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You’d be crazy to hire him.

The large majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models. These are but a few qualities of the older worker.

But there are a few older workers who think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced that they’ll experience age discrimination at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, director of the National Senior Network, wrote an article addressing reverse age discrimination practiced by older workers. She believes that sometimes it’s not intentional. She writes:

Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.

Susan Jepson is a mature worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who intentionally discriminates against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Also keep in mind that your livelihood might depend on how much they value you as a potential employee. More specifically, remember:

1. She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

2. Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

3. She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of older workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

4, She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

5. Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where age discrimination is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man/woman and leave with your pride intact, your head held high. The word humility comes to mind, as he who is humble can adapt to more demanding situations than he who is arrogant.

In the end, my colleague, Amy, told her customer that his behavior was unacceptable and would do him more harm than good; and he apologized, admitting his error. We are never too old to learn valuable lessons.

If you enjoy this post, read why younger interviewers shouldn’t discriminate against older workers.

2 vital areas where extraverts can improve their job search


With the plethora of job-search advice for introverts (Is) and approximately zero for extraverts (Es), it must make the Es feel…unloved. I’d like to give some love to the Es, because that’s the kind of nice guy I am. In this post I’ll advise the Es on mistakes they can avoid.

There are two components of a jobseeker’s marketing campaign, written and verbal communications, where Es can use some help. We’ll look at the résumé, networking, and the interview.

1. Written communications. For most, the job search begins with submitting a résumé and possibly a cover letter to the employer. The act of writing a résumé can sometimes be problematic for the Es, who prefer speaking over writing.

Is, on the other hand, prefer writing than conversing and, as a rule, excel in this area. The Is are more reflective and take their time to write their marketing materials. They prepare by researching the position and company—almost to a fault.

Es must resist the urge to hastily write a résumé that fails to accomplish: addressing the job requirements in order of priority, highlighting relevant accomplishments, and promoting branding.

One excuse I hear from my extraverted customers for faltering in this area is that they’ll nail the interview. At this point I tell them they “ain’t” getting to the interview without a powerful résumé.

Where the Es can shine in this area of the job search is the distribution of their written material. They are natural networkers who understand the importance of getting the résumé into the hands of decision makers and, as such, should resist simply posting their résumé to every job board out there.

This is where the Is can take a lesson from their counterpart, the ability to network with ease.

2. Verbal communications. Speaking of networking; extravers are generally more comfortable than introverts when it comes to attending formal networking events. But not all Es are master networkers.

The main faux pas of poor networkers is loquaciousness, which is a fancy word for talking too much. While Is are often accused of not talking enough, the Es have to know when to shut the motor—a tall order for some Es.

stop talkingNetworking isn’t about who can say the most in a three-hour time period. Take a lesson from the Is who listen to what others have to say. People appreciate being listened to.

Many of my extraverted customers tell me they talk too much, and some have admitted they botch interviews because they—you got it—talk too much. Some of them say they can’t help it.

Es are known to be very confident at interviews, which is a good thing. But they can also be over confident which leads them to ignore the tenets of good interviewing. That’s a bad thing.

At interviews the Es must keep in mind that it’s not a time to control the conversation. The interviewer/s have a certain number of questions they need to ask the candidates, so it’s best to answer them succinctly while also supplying the proper amount of information.

Lou Adler writes in an article about answers that are too long:

The best answers are 1-2 minutes long….Interviewees who talk too much are considered self-absorbed, boring and imprecise. Worse, after two minutes the interviewer tunes you out and doesn’t hear a thing you’ve said.

One more area the Es must work on is conducting the proper research before an interview. They are confident verbal communicators and may see no need to research the job, company, and competition; thus going in unprepared. Winging it is not going to win the job; the person with the right answers will.

The Is, on the hand, could take a lesson from the Es’ playbook in terms of confidence during the interview. They need to speak more freely and quicker; rather then reflecting and appearing to reflect too much. This is where the Is preparation comes in handy.

There has to be a middle ground, referred to by folks like Daniel Pink as ambiverts, when it comes to reaching the right amount of talking and listening at networking events and interviews. Accordingly, the Es who “score” slight in clarity on the continuum (11-13) are more likely to be better listeners, as well as comfortable with small talk. This is likely true for introverts who also score in the slight range.

When it comes to written and verbal communications in the job search, Es have to be cognizant of taking their time constructing their résumés and knowing when it’s time to listen as opposed to talking too much. Without understanding the importance of effective written and verbal communications, the job search for the Es can be a long haul.

Photo, Flickr, Source One Network Solutions

Don’t take the telephone interview lightly; be prepared for 4 potential problem areas


Recently a former customer of mine told me the great news that he was offered an engineering position. He was extremely happy about getting the job and thought he’d enjoy working for the company, even though he never met anyone at the company.

After five interviews he was offered the job. These interviews were all conducted over the phone.

If you think a telephone interview isn’t a real interview, you’re sadly mistaken. Telephone interviews are generally thought of as a screening device, but they carry a lot of weight and, in some cases, they’re full-fledged interviews. Often times job seekers don’t take the telephone interview seriously, and this is a huge mistake.

This is the type of response I sometimes get from my workshop attendees when they tell me they have a telephone interview, “It’s just a telephone interview. I hope I get a face-to-face.” I tell them to prepare as hard as they would for a personal interview. Don’t get caught off guard.

Yes, the face-to-face is the next step, but you can’t get there without impressing the interviewer on the other end of the phone, whether she’s a recruiter, hiring manager, HR, or even the owner of a company.

Generally the interviewer is trying to obtain four bits of information from you, areas to which you can respond well or fail.

1. Do you have the skills and experience to do the job? The first of the interviewer’s interests is one of the easiest to meet. You’ve applied for a public relations manager position that’s “perfect” for you.

You have experience and accomplishments required of a strong public relations manager. Your communications skills are above reproach, demonstrated by excellent rapport with the media, business partners, and customers.

In addition, you’ve written press releases, customer success stories, and assisted with white papers. You’ve added content to the company’s website that even project managers couldn’t supply. One of your greatest accomplishments was placing more than 50 articles in leading trade magazines.

2. Are you motivated and well liked? Your former colleagues describe you as amiable, extremely goal oriented, and one who exudes enthusiasm. The last quality shows motivation and will carry over nicely to your work for the next company. You’ve done your research and have decided that this is the company you want to work for; it’s on your “A” list.

When the interviewer asks why you want to work for the company, you gush with excitement and feel a bit awkward telling her you love the responsibilities set forth in the job description.

Further, through your networking you’ve learned about the corporate culture, including the management team. You tell her it sounds a lot like your former company and will be a great fit.

3. Why did you leave your last company? This one is tough for you, because even though you were laid off, you feel a bit insecure and wonder if you were to blame. But of the three reasons; you were laid off, you were let go, or you quit; this is the easiest to explain.

Your company was acquired and there would be duplication with the marketing department that exists for the company that bought yours. You keep this answer brief, 15 seconds and there are no follow-up questions. You’re doing great so far.

4. What is your salary expectation? “So Bill, what are your needs?” The question hits you like a brick. “Excuse me,” you say. “What do you expect for salary? What will it take to get you to the next step?” the interviewer says. Your mind goes blank. You’ve been instructed to handle the question in this order:

  1. Try to deflect the question.
  2. If this doesn’t work, ask for their range.
  3. And if this doesn’t work, give them your range.
  4. When all else fails, you cite an exact figure based on your online research and networking.

You’ve forgotten everything your job coach told you and blurt out, “At my last job I made $72,000.” But this isn’t the question asked. The interviewer wants you to tell her what you expect for salary, not what you made at your last company. “Is this what you had in mind?” you timidly say.

There’s a pause at the other end, and finally the voice thanks you for your time. She tells you if you’re suitable for an interview at the company, you’ll be notified within a week. She says it looks promising for you….

But you know right then that the position hangs in the balance. You’ve spoken first and within 10 seconds said something you can’t take back. You were prepared, but not prepared enough. You didn’t think this interview counted; you’d do better at the face-to-face, if you get there.

Photo: Flickr, Dwight Anthony

6 ways to interact with one of the most important people in the interview process


Who is one of the most important people in the interview process? The recruiter? Sure they’re important; you go through them to get to the interview.

Human Resources? They’re important, as well. Like the recruiter, you may have an initial phone interview with them.

The hiring manager? Definitely important. They make the final decision. You don’t have the goods, you don’t get the job.

There’s one other person you may not be considering. That person would be the office guardian.*

Why the office guardian is so important in the interview process

Read the following brief story which illustrates why the office guardian is important in the interview process.

A job candidate was applying for a position at the organization for which I currently work. He called for directions to the career center, which is common practice; however, he was so belligerent that he reduced our office guardian to tears.

Apparently this man thought he was all that and could treat our office guardian like a third-class citizen. This was a huge mistake on the candidate’s part.

This interaction was relayed to the director of the career center. He took it upon himself to promptly call the applicant to tell him not to bother coming in for the interview, and lectured the candidate on how NOT to treat one of an organization’s most important assets.

If you’ve never considered the importance of the office guardian, than you should change your thinking. Whether you’re applying for a CEO, vice president, middle management, or individual contributor position, you damn well better treat this person with respect.

How to interact with the office guardian

1. Getting the call for an interview. In some cases—especially at a small company—the call for an interview may come from the office guardian. Answer the phone professionally, e.g., “Hello, this is Bob McIntosh. How may I help you?”

Then thank the office guardian for calling and that you look forward to the interview and hopefully meeting as many people at the company as possible.

For good measure, ask the office guardian to restate their name. And repeat their name to show you’re paying attention.

2. Calling for directions or the agenda. As depicted in the story above, calling for directions is appropriate, and most likely the office guardian can provide the best possible directions, including when rush hour occurs, or if there’s road construction along the way.

You were astute enough to ask the office guardian for the interview agenda, including who will be present in the interview. The office guardian gladly disclosed the information, giving you an advantage for the interview.

Make the office guardian feel special for the help they’ve given you.

3. Meeting the office guardian. This is it. The time you’ve been waiting for, the interview. So the question is when the interview actually begins. You guessed it: meeting the office guardian. They are your first point of contact. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Smile, but don’t overdue it. You don’t want to come across as insincere.
  2. Extend your hand, especially if the office guardian is a female, and initiate eye contact.
  3. Say, “I’m Bob McIntosh. I’m here for the interview for the marketing specialist position. Please don’t announce me until they’re ready to interview me. By the way, Steve, I appreciate the directions you gave me. I made it here without any trouble. Thanks!” Saying their name shows you payed attention during the phone call.
  4. If the office guardian asks if you’d like water or coffee, say that you would if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. (Some suggest against accepting a drink, but I feel if you’re thirsty, accept it.)
  5. You may want to ask for the interviewer/s business cards before the interview begins. If the office guardian doesn’t have them, thank them anyways, always being polite and grateful for their help.

Go into the interview and kick ass!

4. Dropping by unannounced. This rarely succeeds. However, one of my customers stopped by the HR department of a bank to deliver a pain letter. She was greeted with warmth, asked if she’d like to meet the HM, and promptly left.

Her introductory letter was well received. She was offered an interview and landed the job. This is one of a few instances I’ve heard that yielded a positive result. I don’t discourage it, but be ready for rejection.

5. Saying good bye. Make sure you say good bye to the office guardian, even if it means waiting for them to return from a task. Say, “I just wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to thank you for all your help. I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future.”

You may have forgotten to ask the office guardian for the interviewer/s’ business cards. This is your opportunity to get them if the office guardian has them. If they don’t have the business cards, simply ask if they can clarify how to spell the interviewer/s’ names.

6. The thank you note. You may not have considered sending the office guardian a thank you note. This would be a mistake. Because the office guardian is an important part of the interview process, they deserve to be thanked as well.

Whereas you might send a unique email to the interviewer/s, I suggest you consider sending a thoughtfully written thank you card. The reason for a thank you card, as opposed to an email, is that cards can be hanged on cubicle walls for everyone to see. They’re a reminder of the good work you’ve done.

I hope after reading this, you realize how important the office guardian’s role is in the interview process. No, they don’t conduct telephone interviews. No, they don’t ask difficult questions in the face-to-face interview.

But they do observe your first impressions and if asked what they think, they will give an honest account of your first impressions, over the phone and in person. Do the right thing; treat the office guardian with respect.

*Instead of calling this individual the receptionist, I’m referring to them as the office guardian. I could be snarky and call them the “gatekeeper,” but this would be derogatory.

Photo: Flickr, vperkins

3 major Skype interview tips you must know

for skype

As my second daughter prepares to go to college in Maine, my wife and I are figuring out how we can see her frequently. The solution that comes to mind is Skype. How does our concern about communicating with my daughter have anything to do with the job search?

The future of job interviewing may very well be Skype or some other video interviewing software. If you’re a job seeker and haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you’ll have one soon.

Following are important facts and tips concerning this form of interviewing.

Why do companies conduct Skype interviews?

One reason companies use Skype is because it saves time and money. Instead of having job candidates come in for in-person interviews, companies can put the candidates through the drill over computers, tablets, and even smart phones.

An interviewer can see the candidate’s nonverbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions. Does the person come across as relaxed or nervous? Are they maintaining eye contact? Do they look and sound enthusiastic? More so than a telephone interview, Skype is more personal.

One of my close connections, Angela Roberge, recruiter and owner of Accurate Staffing, says this about Skype interviews: “We are in the people ‘business,’ so face-to-face interviews (including Skype) can help you assess the candidate on their ability to present themselves.”

A negative aspect of Skype interviews is their use for discriminating against candidates based on their appearance, including age, race, nationality, etc. Unfortunately the isms exists. On the other hand, interviewers are naturally curious and simply want to see a person before inviting them in for an in-person interview.

A nasty trick an interviewer played on one of my career center customers was turning his camera off, while my customer had to keep hers on. He could see her, but she couldn’t see him. My response to this was to end the interview immediately.

How seriously should you take them?

Do you take pneumonia seriously? This answers the question. In some cases you could be hired after only being interviewed via phone and Skype, particularly if this precludes the need to fly you to meet with someone at the company.

In essence, treat your Skype interview as you would an in-person interview. This means conducting rigorous research on the position, company, and industry/competition. Make sure you’ve memorized your research, as you don’t want to be caught looking to the side at your notes.

Make sure you’re prepared for the difficult questions. A a telephone interview, when the salary question and a rundown of your qualifications to do the job will take place, will most likely precede a Skype interview.

So during the Skype interview you’ll receive behavioral-based and situation questions that will be more challenging. Your response to the answers will have to be delivered as well as if you were in an in-person interview.

As well, your physical reactions will be gauged by the interviewer in terms of your facial expressions and body language. Will you squirm when answering the weakness questions? Or will you answer it with little emotion? Remember, interviewers are watching you.

Logistics of a Skype Interview?

Along with treating the Skype interview seriously, you must make sure your setting and camera are set up for the best possible conversation. As simple as this may sound, improper lighting, sound, and other logistics could blow the interview.

  • Make sure you’re on time for the interview. Discuss with the interviewer who’ll be calling, them or you, and make sure you’re at your computer.
  • Be certain that you’re dressed as if you are attending an in-person interview. Some say you can dress well from your belt up only, but what if you have to get something during the discussion? The fact that you’re wearing pajama bottoms will not bode well.
  • Make sure the connections is strong. I Skyped with a client in St. Lucia and we had to reconnect a number of times. If you have a weak Internet connection, this could cause problems.
  • Your computer’s camera or webcam needs to be eye level; that’s what you’ll be looking at, not the interviewer’s face. Place your laptop on a platform that makes the camera eye-level.
  • Your background should be clear or have very little on the wall. Make sure it’s not cluttered, which can say something about your personality or that you were too “busy” to tidy up.
  • Sound quality is also important. If you’re in an open room, there may be an echo that is quite noticeable. The more objects in the room the better, as long as they’re not visible to the interviewer.
  • Background noise is a no no, just as it is with the telephone interview. Be free of any distractions to you and the interviewer. Your children fighting in the other room can be heard, as well as a loud telephone.
  • Lighting is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of a Skype interview. Here are some pointers: Have your laptop facing a window, not behind it. Lamps placed below you will cause an eerie appearance.

What this outstanding video of the logistics of a Skype interview. http://tinyurl.com/zby4u6n

As said earlier, Skype interviews are becoming more common; so you need to be prepared. I suggest you take some time two nights before the interview to set up an account and practice Skyping with a close friend or relative to make sure things go smoothly.

When my daughter goes off to school, my wife and I will Skype her. We’ll be able to hear how things are going in Maine, as well as read her facial expressions; much like interviewers do with candidates.

Photo: Flickr, Aleta Pardalis

10 reasons why you’re not a fit for the job

Nervous Candidate

And you’ll never know which one.

“You aren’t the right fit.”

This is the default answer recruiters and hiring managers give job candidates when the hiring manager (HM) doesn’t hire them. But it’s as vague as the answer my son gives me when I asked how school went. “Fine.”

Though you may never know why exactly you weren’t hired, keep in mind that it may not be something you did wrong. You didn’t screw up the interview because you said your greatest weakness is you don’t spell well. Or you couldn’t come up with a story about when you saved a project from failing.

No, there were other reasons why you weren’t “a good fit.” Here are some possibilities:

You’re not a purple squirrel. This is a term to describe a candidate who has 15 out of 15 qualifications for the job, which is nearly impossible. Of if you have all the qualifications, there’s something else you lack.

Perhaps you don’t have the personality the HM is looking for. Don’t worry if this is the reason, because the position will remain open forever, or at least until you find your next job.

You’re too old. Sadly—a word my daughter likes to use—this is a fact of life. Some, not many, HMs look at age as a reason to disqualify candidates from consideration. They’re ignorant to the value of the mature worker.

The major concern is money, or output, or flexibility. You did your best to dispel theses bogus reasons, so move on to employers who value you for your extensive experience, maturity, dependability, etc.

Legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction.

Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment—no fault of yours.Trudge on to the next opportunity with lesson learned.

They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search.

You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees. Unfortunately, some organizations will hold interviews, despite knowing they’ll hire from within.

You’re too good. Many job seekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. This was apparent the minute the conversation began.

Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.

Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications.

In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect other important aspects of the job—motivation to do the job, and being able to work with other.

Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her.

And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. I remember working at a company where the director of sales coincidentally hired beautiful, incompetent women. It was a running joke among the employees.

You’re brought in for the wrong position. Has this happened to you? You applied for a particular position but are surprised to learn that the questions being asked are not ones you prepared for.

Job responsibilities change midstream possibly because the HM is new and has other needs she needs met. This can throw anyone off their game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t do as well as you’d like at the interview.

Sometimes hiring managers don’t have a choice. As a favor to a “friend,” an HM will have to hire someone who most likely isn’t qualified. This is the most bogus reason, in my mind, especially if there are qualified candidates.

Usually this is a strong suggestion from someone higher up in the organization, and there’s not much an HM can do about it, except to argue against hiring someone who isn’t a fit for the position. This comes at great risk to the HM and is probably not worth it.

Okay, you didn’t do too well at the interview. But this doesn’t mean you were wrong for the position. There are times when job candidates are not on their A game, when they don’t answer the tough questions or show enthusiasm for the position or company. It happens.

This can explain being the wrong fit; a poor performance at the interview. It’s time to move on to the next position. (The good news, if you’re dying to work at a particular company, you can apply for other positions, interview with other HMs, and quite possibly get a job.)

What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened job seeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job.

There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.

Photo: Flickr, bm_adverts

10 common interview questions; the good, bad, and the ugly

Nevervous Interviewee

Preface: I will always believe that behavioral-based and situational questions are better than the ones discussed in this post; however interviewers feel differently.

There are interview questions that have survived the test of time and are still being asked at interviews. Some of these classics are good, others are bad, and still others are ugly. In this post I talk about these questions and rate them from 1 to 10.

Your opinion might be different, so feel free to add your comments at the end of this post.

The Good

Do you have any questions for me?  This is my favorite classic question. Why, you may wonder. It’s a question that many candidates have difficulty answering. Their response may be that they asked questions during the interview, so they have none left. Not good enough.

The interviewer wants to hear intelligent, thought-provoking questions you’ve formulated during the interview 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.

I give this one a 9.

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 one of the most important of the classics an interviewer will ask.

The interviewer asks this question to hear how you’ll articulate the answer. After all, she’s trying to determine why she’ll hire you. Make it clear why she should hire you with a concise, value-added answer. Telling her you’re a hard worker, well liked, outgoing is not going to impress her, nor should it be a reason for her to hire you.

This question deserves an 8.

Tell me about yourself. This is more of a directive and one you should expect in least in 7 out of 10 interviews. It challenges your nerve and sets the tone for the interview. You’re being tested on how well you summarize your strengths and relevant accomplishments, as well as how confidently you deliver your answer.

Knowing your personal commercial (or elevator speech) and knowing how to adapt it to the job and company to which you’re applying will make this directive easier to answer. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t answer this question easily, yet many a candidate slide under the table when faced with this directive.

In my mind this question is also an 8.

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, as well as asking why you left your previous company (or are leaving your current company). Well played by the interviewer.

Talk about the challenges you look forward to facing and how you want to make the company stronger. Also be careful about revealing too much information about your departure from your last company. There are three possible scenarios for leaving your last company: you were laid off, let go, or quit. (Click on the links for great post on how to handle each one.

This one is also an 8.

The Bad

What would your former boss say about you? 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.

I suggest you contact your former boss, providing you’re on good terms, and ask him how he would answer this question. It’s best to be on the same page, and you can lead your answer with, “My former supervisor often told me I was someone people in the office would go to if they had questions regarding technical marketing content.”

I give this question a 7.

What are your plans for the future? Better than, “Where do you expect to be five years from now?” because it’s testing your self-awareness. Do you want to advance in the new company, remain an individual contributor, or even take a step back from your management responsibilities?

All three answers are fine, as long as you will add value to to the company. Talk about how you plan to develop new skills, contribute to the company’s bottom line, and show your leadership skills (whether you manage or not).

This question is worth a 6.

What is your greatest strength?  This is one of my least favorite questions. 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 no problem with this question as long as you know the most important skill required for the position. Review the job description and assume the first requirement is the most important.

This question also earns a 6.

The Ugly

How does your previous experience relate to this position? Really dumb question. The interviewer wants to know if you have the job-related skills, something that should be obvious from reading your resume.

To answer this question you need to know the job requirements and how you qualify for every one of them. Do your homework. Also think of transferable skills that can contribute to the position.

This question deserves a 4, because it only requires you to read the job description and connect the dots.

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. A word of advice, never tell the interviewer you’re a perfectionist. Read why here.

On the plus side the interviewer is trying to gauge your ability to say a fraction of the truth. In other words show some transparency. He wants to see if you are aware of your faults and how you are trying to correct them.

Nonetheless, the score for this question is a 2 out of 10.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Resist the urge to giggle; some argue that there is a good reason for asking this question and questions like it. They say it determines your knowledge of the work environment. For example, the environment is fast and progressive, so you want to be flexible like a birch.

My suggestion for answering this question is to play along. Most interviewers who ask this question are inexperienced and have no idea of why they’re asking it. However, some interviewers do.

Regardless, I give this question the lowest score, 1 out of 10.

These questions have popped up in article after article. My clients report being asked them in their interviews. These questions, as good or ugly as they are, are timeless. So expect some, if not many of these classic questions, in your next interview.

Final thought: questions like these are the easiest to answer because you can arrive at the interview with the answers already in mind. If you’re wondering which questions deserve a perfect 10 our of 10, behavioral-based interviews like “Tell me about your greatest challenge, what you did about it, and what did you learn from your actions?” is more like it.