Human resources personnel often craft interviews to gauge not only your responses to the questions but also how you react to the questions themselves. Some interviewers ask hard-hitting questions to see how you respond under pressure and how easily you think on your feet. It can be challenging to practice for the curve-ball questions some interviewers will throw at you because many of them will be unique, but you can prepare by rehearsing with some classic queries.
A classic example of an interview question that can be difficult to answer is being asked to list your biggest weaknesses. The interviewer knows that no one is perfect and each candidate will have a set of weaknesses, so the trick is to answer honestly but without incriminating yourself. Typical answers include being an "overachiever" and "too detail orientated," which can easily be spun as "good" problems in an employee. Because these responses are common, however, they will not set you apart from other candidates. You must dig deeper to come up with a response that is an actual weakness but not one that will decrease your chances of getting the position. For any weakness you list, follow up with a solution or a way you are fixing the problem. For example, if you say you like to have complete control over a project and have trouble letting others help, follow up by saying that you are working on looking at projects as team collaboration opportunities.
An interviewer also might ask you to list things you did not like about a previous job or manager. This can be tricky, because a cardinal rule of interviews is never to speak negatively about a past employer because it could make your interviewer wonder how you might one day speak of her. The trick is to talk in generalities without divulging specific information about an old boss or company. For example, instead of replying, "My old manager never replied to my emails," you could say that it can be a challenge to work with a manager who is unavailable or has too many other demands on her time.
Many hiring managers will ask about your professional goals. You don't want to seem complacent, but you also don't want to appear to be using the position as a stepping stone. Always stress that you want to continue to grow within the company and evolve your contributions to the company and department. A goal, for example, could be that "after five years I hope to be in a position of management in the department." This shows that you plan to invest substantial time into the position and want to grow within the department.
Questions regarding salary can be murky waters to navigate in an interview. If you don't have salary information associated with the position, this can be even more challenging. If an interviewer asks about your salary requirements before you know the pay range for the position, be as vague as possible. You don't want to price yourself out of the position, but you also don't want to undervalue yourself. Doing your homework beforehand is key to answering this question successfully. Research what similar positions pay in your area to come up with a range. Tell the interviewer that your industry research indicated that professionals earn in that range and that you would consider it appropriate as well. Leave the door open for negotiation, however. Let the hiring manager know that you are willing to be flexible depending on the duties and growth potential of the position. This allows you to bring your salary figure up or down as needed.
Michelle Barry graduated from Salve Regina University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Since then, she has worked as a reporter for the Wilbraham-Hampden Times, an editor for Month9Books and Evolved Publishing, editor and has spent the past seven years in marketing and graphic design. She also has an extensive background in dance.