Handling Difficult Interview Questions
What questions do you dread being asked in an interview? Some of the
more commonly asked dreaded questions include: "What are your strengths
and weaknesses?", "Where do you see yourself in five years?", "Why
should I hire you?", and "Why do you want to work here?". When you think
about it, they are all legitimate questions. You may not have done
sufficient soul searching or strategizing to handle them well, but each
presents you with an opportunity to sell yourself.
It is helpful to look first at why they ask the questions and then to
strategize a response.
"What are your strengths and weaknesses?" The employer may be
assessing how well you know yourself and how honest and open you are.
You have an opportunity to showcase your strengths and also to reveal a
not too serious weakness. It is best if you demonstrate how you are
working to improve your stated weakness. For example, you might say, "My
computer experience is somewhat limited. However, I recently took a week
long training program on using the MAC and I'm looking forward to
building on the skills I learned."
"Where do you see yourself in five years?" They want to know if
you are ambitious. If you find it hard to look five years out, try this:
"Five years seems like a long time. I can see myself as a programmer
analyst in two years. Five years from now, I might be a software
developer or a systems analyst. I won't know which direction I want to
take until I've been in the field for awhile."
"Why should I hire you?" Here's where they find out how well you
understand their needs and how confident you are of your qualifications
for the position. How about a response like this one? "I think you
should hire me because I have the skills you need in this marketing
support position. My technical skills exactly match the requirements as
I've been using your software in my Co-op job. And my interpersonal
skills are strong as a result of my student government experience."
"Why do you want to work here?" This is where the
employer finds out how much you know about their
organization. You want to convey your interest in contributing to their
mission or in being part of an important project they've been awarded.
For example: "I've read about your contract to develop tax accounting
software for the federal government and I want to be part of the
Then there are those questions that you hope no one asks but they
inevitably do -- important questions that demand a well-prepared
response from you. For example, if your resume doesn't show
continuous employment, you should expect to be asked for an
explanation. What positive results came out of your decision not to
work? An upbeat way to explain might be, "That's correct, I did not work
in 1988. I was nearing the end of my degree program at Northeastern. I
realized that if I attended school full time I could complete my
bachelor's degree in one year, rather than working and taking three
years to finish. I feel I made the right decision: when I went back to
work, I was offered a salary considerably higher than my previous
Perhaps you were laid off last year, so you dread being asked
why you left your last job. You want to frame your explanation in a way
that dispels any shame or guilt you may be harboring. "I was one of 180
people laid off last September when XYZ Corporation went through a major
What if you were fired for some reason? This can be very
worrisome to the job seeker. "To be honest with you, I just didn't fit
into the organization. Finally, my supervisor and I decided it was best
for me to leave. While this was a devastating experience, I feel I'm
ready to begin again."
These examples show honest, straight forward responses that will be
acceptable to an employer. The important thing is for you to come to
terms with the issue, see the positive side, and demonstrate that you
are eager to move on in your career.