Interview Tips - Tough Interview Questions

Make sure you shine in your next interview by being prepared for these hardball questions.

OK, you're in the interview and you are prepared to talk about your past job experiences. Then, the interviewer starts to ask more general and possibly uncomfortable questions. Here are some of those questions and things to think about before you go to the interview!

1. Tell me a story about yourself.
Just talk for 2 minutes. Be logical. The interviewer is looking for communication skills and linear thinking. Also, try to score a point or two (describe a major personal attribute.)

2. Why are you leaving your current position?
This is a very critical question. Don't "bad mouth" your previous employer. Don't sound too opportunistic. Some reasons for leaving your current position could be downsizing, buy-out or positive career advancement.

3. What do you consider your most significant accomplishments?
This can get you the job. Prepare extensively. Score points. Tell a 2 minute story, with details and discuss your personal involvement. Make the accomplishment worth achieving. Discuss hard work, long hours, pressure, important company issues at stake.

4. Why do you believe that you are qualified for this position?
Pick two or three main factors about the job and about you that are most relevant. Discuss for two minutes, with specific details. Select a technical skill, a specific management skill (organizing, staffing, planning), and a personal success attribute to mention.

5. Have you ever accomplished something you didn't think you could?
The interviewer is trying to determine your goal orientation, work ethic, personal commitment and integrity. Provide a good example where you overcame a number of difficulties to succeed. Prove you're not a quitter, and that you'll get going when the going gets tough.

6. What do you like/dislike most about your current position?
Interviewer is trying to determine compatibility with open position. If you have interest in the position be careful. Stating you dislike overtime or getting into the details, or that you like management can cost you the position. There is nothing wrong with liking challenges, pressure situations, opportunities to grow, dislike for bureaucracy or frustrating situations

7. How do you handle pressure? Do you like or dislike these situations?
High achievers tend to perform well in high-pressure situations. Conversely, questions also could imply that position is pressure packed and out of control. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you know what you're getting into. If you do perform well under stress, provide a good example with details, giving an overview of the stress situation. Let the interviewer "feel" the stress by your description of it.

8. The sign of a good employee is the ability to take the initiative. Can you describe situations like this about yourself?
A pro-active, results oriented person doesn't have to be told what to do. This is one of the major success attributes. To convince the interviewer you possess this trait you must give a series of short examples describing your self motivation. Try to discuss at least one in detail. The extra effort, strong work ethic and creative side of you must be demonstrated.

9. What's the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your business career? How would you have done things differently now with 20/20 hindsight?
This is a general question to learn how introspective you are, also to see if you can learn from your mistakes. If you can, it indicates an open, more flexible personality. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures, particularly if you've learned from them. This is a critical aspect of high potential individuals.

10. How have you grown or changed over the past few years?
This requires thought. Maturation, increased technical skills, or increase self-confidence are important aspects of human development. To discuss this effectively is indicative of a well-balanced, intelligent individual. Overcoming personal obstacles, or recognizing manageable weaknesses can brand you as an approachable and desirable employee.

11. What do you consider your most significant strengths?
Be prepared. Know your four or five key strengths. Be able to discuss each with a specific example. Select those attributes that are most compatible with the job opening. Most people say "management" or "good interpersonal skills" in answer to this. Don't use this unless you can describe the specific characteristics of management (planning, organizing, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success.

12. What do you consider your most significant weaknesses?
Don't reveal deep character flaws. Rather discuss tolerable faults, that you are working towards improving. Show by specific example how this has changed over time. Better still, show how a weakness can be turned into a strength. For example, how a concentration on details results in higher quality work even though it requires overtime.

13. Deadlines, frustrations, difficult people, and silly rules can make a job difficult. How do you handle these types of situations?
Most companies, unfortunately, face these types of problems daily. If you can't deal with petty frustrations, you'll be seen as a problem. You certainly can state your displeasure at the petty side of these issues, but how you overcome them is important. Diplomacy, perseverance, and common-sense can often prevail even in difficult circumstances. This is part of corporate America, and you must be able to deal with it on a regular basis.

14. One of our biggest problems is ________. What has been your experience with this? How would you deal with it?
Think on your feet. Ask questions to get details. Break it into sub-sections. Highly likely you have some experience with sub-sections. Answer these, and summarize the total. State how you would go about solving the problem, if you can't answer directly. Be specific. Show your organizational and analytical skills.

15. How do you compare your technical skills to your management skills?
Many people tend to minimize their technical skills, either because they don't have any, or they don't like getting into the details. Most successful managers possess good technical skills and don't get into enough detail to make sure they understand the information being presented by their group. Try for a good balance here if you want to be seriously considered for the position.

16. How has your technical ability been important in accomplishing results?
Clearly the interviewer believes he needs a strong level of technical competence. Most strong managers have good technical backgrounds, even if they have gotten away from the details. Describe specific examples of your technical where with all, but don't be afraid to say you are not current. Also, you could give examples of how you resolve a technical issue by "accelerated research."

17. How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, and inadequate resources?
If you pull this off effectively, it indicates you have strong management skills. Need to be creative. An example would be great. Relate your toughest management task, even if it doesn't meet all the criteria. Most situations don't. Organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and handling pressure are key elements of effective management. Good managers should be able to address each issue, even if they are not concurrent. Deftly handling the question is pretty indicative of your skills

18. Are you satisfied with your career to date? What would you change if you could?
Be honest. Interviewer wants to know if he can keep you happy. It's important to know if you're willing to make some sacrifices to get your career on the right track. Degree of motivation is an important selection criteria.

19. What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years?
Most importantly, be realistic! Blue sky stuff brands you as immature. One or two management jumps in three to five years is a reasonable goal. If your track indicates you're on line for senior management in ten years, it's okay to mention. However, if you've have a rocky road, better to be introspective.

20. What do you think of your last boss? Favorite boss? Least favorite boss?
Realize that complainers are recognized as potential trouble-makers. Keep your answer short, sweet and move-on. "I like him as an individual and respect him professionally and I learned a great deal."Do not elaborate further. Find a growth opportunity in any situation.

21. What is your energy level like? Describe a typical day?
Demonstrate good use of time, include planning in advance and that review of your performance helps you reach your desired goals

22. How do you take direction? How do you take criticism?
The preferred situation is when a manager can provide fully detailed directions. Remember that managers have a larger agenda, which might not be shared. Learning what signals could have been recognized earlier is preferred to taking offense to criticism.

23. Why should we hire you for this position? What contribution would you make?
Good chance to summarize. By now you know the key problems. Re-state and show how you would address. Relate to specific attributes and specific accomplishments. Qualify responses with the need to gather information. Don't be cocky. Demonstrate a thoughtful, organized, strong effort kind of attitude.