Former Headhunter Explains How To Answer 11 Tough Interview Questions

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When you’re on a job interview, you need to be armed with knowledge better than any other candidate. We’ve given you some answers to tough interview questions in the past, and now we have some more suggestions for you — from a former headhunter.

“Apart from a healthy and perfectly natural case of pre-performance nerves, the only rational worry you have left is fear of the unknown,” Martin Yate, former director in Training & Development at Dunhill Systems and a career management coach for the past 35 years, writes in his book “Knock ’em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide.”

With Yate’s suggestions, you can now be better prepared for those unexpected questions meant to baffle interviewees.

We compiled some of the toughest questions accompanied with answers and explanations that will get you to the next interview round.

Q: Walk me through your job changes.

Smart answer: 'My last company was a family-owned affair. I had gone as far as I was able to go. It just seemed time for me to join a more prestigious company and accept greater challenges.'

Explanation: When an interviewer asks you this, your answer should come from the following acceptable reasons:

  • Challenge: You weren't able to grow professionally in that position.
  • Location: The commute was unreasonably long.
  • Advancement: There was nowhere for you to go. You had the talent, but there were too many people ahead of you.
  • Money: You were underpaid for your skills and contribution.
  • Pride or prestige: You wanted to be with a better company.
  • Security: The company was not stable.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: What interests you least about this job?

Smart answer: '_________ are probably the least demanding part of my job. However, I know they are important for _________, so I do them at the end of the day as part of my performance review and next-day planning.'

Explanation: The question is potentially explosive but easily defused. Regardless of your occupation, there is at least one repetitive, mindless duty that everyone groans about but that nevertheless goes with the territory. Use that as your example.

Notice how this response also shows that you are organised and possess critical thinking and multitasking skills; it also shows you understand that it is necessary to take the rough with the smooth.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?

Smart answer: 'I bring to this job a determination to see projects through to a proper conclusion. I listen and take direction well. I am analytical and don't jump to conclusions. I understand we are in business to make a profit, so I keep an eye on cost and return. How do these qualifications fit your needs?'

Explanation: You cannot know other candidates' capabilities, so smilingly disarm your interviewer with this fact, then say, 'But what I bring is...' Your answer will then demonstrate your grasp of the job's responsibilities, the problems that occur in each area, and how you are prepared to deal with them.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?

Explanation: You want to position yourself as someone who's decisive but not precipitate, who considers the implication of decision, any side effects they might have on other activities, and whether the decision conflicts with existing systems and procedures or other company priorities.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: What bothers you most about your job?

Explanation: Keep your answers focused on those aspects of your work that everyone agrees are annoying, and end your answer on a positive note about how you deal with them: You take the rough with the smooth and take the time to do ________ well so you don't have to do everything over. It is important that your answer show you remaining objective and calm.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: When do you expect a promotion?

Smart answer: 'That depends on a few criteria. Of course, I cannot expect promotions without the performance that marks me as deserving of a promotion. I also need to join a company that has the growth necessary to provide the opportunity. I hope that my manager believes in promoting from within and will help me grow so that I will have the skills necessary to be considered for promotion when the opportunity comes along.'

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: Tell me about a time when an emergency caused you to reschedule your workload/projects.

Explanation: The question examines multitasking skills and how to handle emergency imperatives. You'll make points when you explain how your planning and time management skills help you stay on top of your regular responsibilities even when emergency priorities throw normal scheduling off.

The story you tell should illustrate your flexibility and willingness to work extra hours when necessary. Demonstrate that your multitasking skills allow you to change course without having a nervous breakdown.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: Tell me about the problems you have living within your means.

Smart answer: 'I know few people who are satisfied with their current earnings. As a professional, I am continually striving to improve my skills and to improve my living standard. But my problems are no different than those of this or any other company -- making sure all the bills get paid on time and recognising that every month and year there are some things that are prudent to do and others that are best deferred.'

Explanation: If you have experienced severe financial difficulties, you'll need to address them and how they have been handled. The answer needs to be carefully thought out and short, emphasising that you are in control of the situation.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: We have tried to hire people from your school/your major before, and they never seem to work out. What makes you different?

Smart answer: 'First, may I ask you exactly what problems you've had with people from this school/background?'

Explanation: Once you know what the problems are, you can illustrate how you are different -- but only then. Otherwise, you might run the risk of your answer being interrupted with, 'Well, that's what everyone else said before I hired them. You haven't shown me you are different.'

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: Have you ever had to make unpopular decisions?

Explanation: Your answer needs to show that you're not afraid to make unpopular decisions when they are in the best interests of your job or the department goals.

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

Q: How would you evaluate me as an interviewer?

Smart answer: 'This is one of the toughest interviews I have ever been through, and I don't relish the prospect of going through another. I have great professional skills, but interviewing is not one of them; it's not something I have had much experience doing. Yet I do realise that you are just trying to determine if I have the skills you need.'

Source: Knock 'em Dead 2012: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

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