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5 Tough Job Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Topics: Career Advice

Few people claim to enjoy interviewing for a job. It’s nerve-wracking to try to showcase your skills and figure out whether the company is a good fit in an hour or two. And, the questions hiring managers ask can really throw you for a loop, especially if you’re not prepared. So, take a few minutes to ponder these commonly asked — but tricky — interview questions before your next interview.

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1. “Tell us about yourself…”

The first question on our list isn’t really a question at all. Posing the tell-us-about-yourself challenge to a perspective candidate is a very common way to begin an interview, though. For the interviewee, it can be tough to know how to tackle such an open-ended inquiry. So, be sure you’re prepared for this.

Review all of your related educational and career history, but don’t simply regurgitate your resume. Instead, articulate the ways in which your professional path led you to this job interview. And, explain how it’s prepared you for a bright future with the company.

2. “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

When asked to describe your greatest weaknesses, it’s important to avoid a few common missteps. First of all, do not say that you don’t have any weaknesses. Everyone does, so responding this way makes you come off as less self-aware than most employers would like. Also, stay away from doing that thing where you actually say a strength and dress it up as a weakness. “I care too much…” “…work too hard…” etc., are not good answers. Instead, be sure to be specific, and tell a bit of a story if you can. (People like stories — it helps them pay attention.) Explain a skill that you’re sincerely working on bettering right now. This will demonstrate that you are self-reflective and the kind of person who’s always trying to improve.

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3. “What are your strengths?”

Similarly, hiring managers seem to be awfully fond of asking potential hires to describe their strengths. So, prepare for these kinds of questions in advance. Come up with a couple of adjectives that describe your best professional attributes before you head to the interview. Be sure to think about the practical professional skills you bring to the table as well as the unique personal traits you’ll contribute to the team. Highlight both of these areas when enumerating your strengths. This will help the people interviewing you to be able to begin to picture you in their work environment.

4. “Why do you want to work here?”

Of all the questions on this list, this is probably the one you’re most likely to be asked during your interview, in one way or another. So, be extra sure to carefully and thoroughly prepare your response in advance.

Think about tackling this on two different levels: describe how this job is the best fit for you, and how you’re the best fit for the job. Explain how this arrangement will be benefit the company, and why you’re motivated and know it’s the right fit for you.

Also, be sure to do your homework in advance so that you have a good understanding of the company and its mission before you prepare your response. Try to be as specific as possible when answering this one.

5. “What are your salary requirements?”

There’s some debate about whether or not it’s really fair and ethical to ask employees for their salary history or requirements. In the past, job listings often included a salary range, but that’s increasingly less common. It benefits companies to try and nail down your expectations before showing their hand. This way, they might be able to get away with paying a new hire less than they anticipated.

So, when faced with this common question, try to avoid offering a number first. There are several strategies you can employ here that should be helpful. Bottom line, if you’re forced to give a range, make sure it’s based on what’s appropriate for the market, not what you earned in previous roles. Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and get a free salary report with all the information you need.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you been asked these questions in the past? How did you answer them? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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