Interview questions and structured interviewing
Username: Password:

3 Tricky Interview Questions (and Answers!)

Kevin Donlin

Your next job interview -- will it be a torturous cross-examination or an effortless walk in the park?

It's really up to you.

Because if you prepare for the tough interview questions ahead of time, you'll likely do very well and actually enjoy the process.

To help you get ready for three typical (and tricky) questions, I talked to Carole Martin, an interview expert with 15 years of human resources management experience.

Interview Question #1 - "Can you tell me about yourself?"

"Your answer to this question sets the tone for the rest of the interview. Focus is the key -- avoid a rambling answer," says Martin.

The secret to success with this free-form question is to focus, script your answer and practice. Never "wing it."
What do you want the interviewer to remember most about you? List five strengths you have that are pertinent to this job -- experiences, traits, skills, etc.

"Practice your script until you feel confident. Your script will help you stay on track, but don't memorize it -- you'll sound stiff. Instead, aim for a natural and conversational tone," advises Martin.

Interview Question #2 - "What are your long-term goals?"

This and other open-ended questions, like: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" can throw you off balance. The employer wants to check your self-awareness and communication skills here.

"If you're an organized type of person, answering this question may be a piece of cake. If not, you'll need to give your answer some forethought."

The best answers will come from you thinking about what you want. Most successful employers believe that a key success factor is the ability to set and achieve goals. So begin by setting short-term goals for yourself. Right now your goal may be to get a job. But, what kind of job? And, where do you go from there?

"No one can tell you exactly how to answer this question -- it will come from what is important to you. However, the more focused and employer-centered you are about your goal, the better your chances of steering the interview in the right direction," says Martin.

Interview Question #3 - "Why should we hire you?"

This is another broad question that can take you down the wrong road unless you prepare thoroughly. This is about selling yourself as a product. Why should the customer buy?

"Develop a sales statement. The more detail you give, the better. This is not a time to talk about what you want. It is a time to summarize your accomplishments and relate what makes you unique," advises Martin.

Start by looking at the job description or posting. What is the employer stressing as requirements of the job? What will it take to get the job done? Make a list of those requirements.

Next, do a personal inventory. Think of two or three key qualities you have that match what the employer is seeking. Don't underestimate personal traits that make you unique -- your energy, personality type, working style and people skills, for example.

"Like snowflakes, no two people are alike. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from others," advises Martin.