You don't want to be gaping and wordless, during a job interview after being asked a zinger question. Killer job interview questions are designed to throw you off guard so that employers can see whether you think clearly on your feet or garble nonsense. Preparing appropriate, focused answers to tough interview questions can help you score the job.
Many interviews start with the prompt, “Tell us a little bit about yourself.” This may lure some interviewees into telling charming stories about their childhood or revealing their penchant for outer-space video games and homemade ice cream. Steer clear of these responses in favor of an answer that briefly and succinctly melds your education, previous work experience, most recent work experience and goals. Spend the most time highlighting your recent work experience with a few examples of your success.
Discussing salary during an interview can be a conversation-killer. Some employers ask about salary expectations in the hopes of screening out candidates naming too high a salary. Others may hope that you’ll name a bargain-basement salary far below their budgeted figure. Defer salary conversations for as long as possible by stating that it’s too difficult to name a salary without a deeper understanding of job expectations. Turn the tables by asking interviewers to share their expected salary range for the job.
Naming your greatest strength and weakness an oldie but goodie for killer interview questions. This isn’t the time to admit that you’re hopelessly disorganized and have been known to misplace key files or miss crucial meetings. Don’t attempt to pass off the question with false modesty by stating that your greatest weakness is “working too hard” or being a perfectionist. Instead, pick an improvement area with an easily identifiable target and describe your plan for meeting that target. For example, a teacher might state, “I understand that many students at this school come from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, and I’m not a native Spanish speaker. But my strong linguistics background helps me understand language acquisition, and I’m currently enrolled in a community college Spanish course.”
Employers may ask whether you’re comfortable working weekends and long hours. Don’t look visibly frightened at the possibility of losing your Friday night cocktail hour or Sunday golf course session, but don’t fearlessly commit to working every weekend and midnight brainstorm session if that’s not possible. Employers may hold you to your commitment. Instead, explain that you’re comfortable working unusual hours but have a track record of “working smarter, not longer” and not procrastinating to avoid last-minute work sessions in the first place.