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Winning Responses to 10 Tough Interview Questions

"Winning Responses to 10 Tough Interview Questions

Here are some commonly asked, somewhat sticky questions, and suggestions for how to handle them gracefully. The more you practice and prepare yourself to answer the tough questions, the more successful you will be at answering them, so spend some time answering these for yourself.

What is your greatest weakness?
None of us likes to admit weakness, but answering this question by stating that you don't have weaknesses will put you on a fast track to interview's end. Spouting off a laundry list of professional shortcomings is hardly the answer either. The key to answering this question successfully is that you choose a weakness that is not job related, and more importantly, is not a trait that is central to the job. Your best bet is to talk about a weakness that is really a strength in disguise: "I love what I do, and I work hard to ensure that each of my projects is completed to the very best of my ability. I find it discouraging when people on my team don't make an effort to contribute to their full potential." What employer doesn't want to hear that?

Tell me about the worst boss you ever had.
What is the interviewer trying to accomplish with this line of questioning? Questions of a negative nature, phrased with words such as worst and dislike, are measuring your tolerance level, and testing your ability to be diplomatic and tactful. They are measuring the degree to which you make an effort to turn a negative into a positive, and how effectively you do so. In answering this question, it is important that you stay away from negativity; if you have a history of nothing but glorious relationships with your bosses, praise them for all they have taught you. If you can't do that then you should concentrate on the ways in which your boss' shortcomings taught you lessons or enriched your experience at the job. Maybe your boss' lack of involvement in your project work resulted in you receiving a great deal of experience and independence. Consider your audience very carefully when answering a question like this-you could be describing the management style of the person across the desk. Better to stay positive, isn't it?

What is your dream job?
That doesn't sound like such a hard question-and it's not, really-but it is one of those that could be mistaken for an innocent question, asked out of genuine interest in your hopes and dreams. Before you confess your desire to become a shepherd, remember that there is no such thing as an innocent question in an interview; every question is asked in an effort to learn a little bit more about you, how interested you are in the position, and how well-suited you are for the job. Best answer to this question? Describe the job you are interviewing for!

Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten.
Yikes, who wants to answer this one? If you rate yourself a 6, why do they want to hire you? On the other hand, if you think you're a 10, you have marked yourself as unmanageable and miserably egotistical. Your safest middle ground lies between 8 and 9. This says-and you should explain- that you are confident, capable, and hard-working, but you know there is always room for improvement.

Tell me about yourself.
This is a big question, and it is not one that you should attempt to answer off the top of your head. This could go in a number of directions, but the interviewer at a software company wasn't looking to hear about your starring role in your high school's production of "Oliver". You should compose a brief biography-2 minutes in length is reasonable-consisting of a short personal background, and highlighting your most important accomplishments, strongest skills and personal traits, and your professional goals. The bio, of course, should be appropriate to the company and industry to which you are applying.

Describe your best friend.
In what ways are you different from one another? The assumption here is that you and your best friend probably have a great deal in common, and in describing your friend, you are describing yourself, and possibly uncovering flaws in your own personality. For the purpose of this interview, your best friend is the embodiment of the ideal employee, whose strengths are the traits that you have been highlighting throughout the interview. If you are describing your friend's flaw, you should be doing so only to talk about the ways in which you two are different.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Are your goals for progression consistent with what the position, or even the company can offer? Are your desires realistic and compatible with the company's objectives? You want to paint the picture of someone who always strives for excellence and progress, but whose current focus is learning and excelling at this job. It is good to let the interviewer know that you have aspirations of taking on more responsibility, but you don't want to give the impression that you are expecting to go straight to the top.

Tell me about your greatest error in judgment.
You can use this opportunity to show how your experiences have made you a model employee, or to raise questions in the interviewer's mind about your ability to do the job. The story you choose to tell in response to this question should be one that is unrelated to work. It should also be something that happened in the distant past, so you can talk about the ways in which you have grown and learned from this mistake. If you choose something recent and/or work related, you are highlighting a weakness that could very well mark an incompetence that they will have to worry about.

How did you get the day off of work today?
If you are still employed and you are interviewing during work hours, this question could very well arise. It may seem like details, really just an icebreaker question, but you are establishing your integrity. You will be declaring yourself a liar and dashing your chances of getting the job by answering that you called in sick or told your boss that you had a doctor's appointment. The only answer to this question is that you are interviewing on your own time, either utilizing a vacation day or your lunch hour." - from monster.com; attributed to Peter Newfield

Copyright 2004 - Monster Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles visit <http://content.monster.com>.

<Note from JobFairy.com: Your greatest weakness is that you're a perfectionist or someone who works too hard. You have never had a worst boss - you simply describe someone whose management style was different than what you were used to and how YOU adapted to suit their needs. Your dream job is this one. Don't laugh; they buy it. Your rating is 8 1/2 - tell them there will always be someone more technically skilled than you, so no 10. Tell me about yourself means rattle off a rehash of your objective statement on your resume, because I didn't really bother to read it. This is your chance to rephrase it all in light of this particular position only and how it's a perfect fit with your career goals. I have never been asked to describe my best friend. Maybe because management people are scared us geeks will start to list the attributes of our home computer network and cause their ears to bleed from boredom. Be vague when they ask you where you'll be five years from now. They don't want to hear that you're ambitious. Tell them you expect to have taken more technical training, you'll be completely familiar with your job and that you may be in a position to mentor new hires to your group - things like that. Say that you want to learn and grow with the position. Management types have no conception of how short the IT cycle is. In five years, you'll be two - three companies away from where you currently sit! Your greatest error in judgment should be that you didn't take enough math or science in college, or that conversely, you didn't take enough art or literature courses. And that you've taken ongoing education classes or you're involved in the museums in order to make up for the whims of your distant youth. Nothing from work and it has to be benign. About getting time off from work - make sure you schedule your interview very early in the morning, or very late in the day. Claim you have scads of work to do at your old job and you can't "drop the ball". If you have to interview during the lunch hour, make sure it's a phone screen. You always want to try to be the last one interviewed for a job, if possible.>

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· Winning Responses to 10 Tough Interview Questions
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