16 Difficult Interview Questions And Answers
Being prepared is half the battle. If you are one
of those executive types unhappy at your present
post and embarking on a New Year’s resolution
to find a new one, here’s a helping hand. The
job interview is considered to be the most critical
aspect of every expedition that brings you face-
to- face with the future boss.
One must prepare
for it with the same tenacity and quickness as
one does for a fencing tournament or a chess
match. This article has been excerpted from
“PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of
a Job and Find Another Successfully” by William
J. Morin and James C. Cabrera. Copyright by
Drake Beam Morin, inc. Published by Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich. Morin is chairman and
Cabrera is president of New York-based Drake
Beam Morin, nation’s major outplacement firm,
which has opened offices in Philadelphia.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Since this is often the opening question in an
interview, be extracareful that you don’t run off
at the mouth. Keep your answer to a minute or
two at most. Cover four topics: early years,
education,work history, and recent career
experience. Emphasize this last subject.
Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up
question. Don’t waste your best points on it.
2. What do you know about our organization?
You should be able to discuss products or
services, revenues, reputation, image, goals,
problems, management style, people, history and
philosophy. But don’t act as if you know
everything about the place. Let your answer
show that you have taken the time to do some
research, but don’t overwhelm the interviewer,
and make it clear that you wish to learn more.
You might start your answer in this manner: “In
my job search, I’ve investigated a number of
companies. Yours is one of the few that interests
me, for these reasons…”Give your answer a
positive tone. Don’t say, “Well,everyone tells me
that you’re in all sorts of trouble, and that’s why
I’m here”, even if that is why you’re there.
3. Why do you want to work for us?
The deadliest answer you can give is “Because I
like people.” What else would you like-animals?
Here, and throughout the interview, a good
answer comes from having done your homework
so that you can speak in terms of the company’s
needs. You might say that your research has
shown that the company is doing things you
would like to be involved with, and that it’s
doing them in ways that greatly interest you. For
example, if the organization is known for strong
management, your answer should mention that
fact and show that you would like to be a part of
that team. If the company places a great deal of
emphasis on research and development,
emphasize the fact that you want to create new
things and that you know this is a place in which
such activity is encouraged. If the organization
stresses financial controls, your answer should
mention a reverence for numbers. If you feel
that you have to concocts an answer to this
question – if, for example, the company stresses
research, and you feel that you should mention
it even though it really doesn’t interest you- then
you probably should not be taking that
interview, because you probably shouldn’t be
considering a job with that organization. Your
homework should include learning enough
about the company to avoid approaching places
where you wouldn’t be able -or wouldn’t want-
to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it’s
difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even
if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job
you don’t really want.
4. What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
Here you have every right, and perhaps an
obligation, to toot your own horn and be a bit
egotistical. Talk about your record of getting
things done, and mention specifics from your
resume or list of career accomplishments. Say
that your skills and interests, combined with this
history of getting results, make you valuable.
Mention your ability to set priorities, identify
problems, and use your experience and energy
to solve them.
5. What do you find most attractive about this
position? What seems least attractive about it?
List three or four attractive factors of the job,
and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.
6. Why should we hire you?
Create your answer by thinking in terms of your
ability, your experience, and your energy. (See
7. What do you look for in a job?
Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at
this organization. Talk about your desire to
perform and be recognized for your
contributions. Make your answer oriented
toward opportunity rather than personal
8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for
which you are being interviewed].
Keep your answer brief and task oriented. Think
in in terms of responsibilities and accountability.
Make sure that you really do understand what
the position involves before you attempt an
answer. If you are not certain. ask the
interviewer; he or she may answer the question
9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful
contribution to our firm?
Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to
meet pressing demands and pull your own
weight from the first day, it might take six
months to a year before you could expect to
know the organization and its needs well
enough to make a major contribution.
10. How long would you stay with us?
Say that you are interested in a career with the
organization, but admit that you would have to
continue to feel challenged to remain with any
organization. Think in terms of, “As long as we
both feel achievement-oriented.”
11. Your resume suggests that you may be over-
qualified or too experienced for this position.
What’s Your opinion?
Emphasize your interest in establishing a long-
term association with the organization, and say
that you assume that if you perform well in his
job, new opportunities will open up for you.
Mention that a strong company needs a strong
staff. Observe that experienced executives are
always at a premium. Suggest that since you are
so well qualified, the employer will get a fast
return on his investment. Say that a growing,
energetic company can never have too much
12. What is your management style?
You should know enough about the company’s
style to know that your management style will
complement it. Possible styles include: task
oriented (I’ll enjoy problem-solving identifying
what’s wrong, choosing a solution and
implementing it”, results-oriented (“Every
management decision I make is determined by
how it will affect the bottom line”, or even
paternalistic (“I’m committed to taking care of
my subordinates and pointing them in the right
direction”. A participative style is currently quite
popular: an open-door method of managing in
which you get things done by motivating people
and delegating responsibility. As you consider
this question, think about whether your style will
let you work happily and effectively within the
13. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some
examples? Do you feel that you have top managerial
Keep your answer achievement and ask-
oriented. Rely on examples from your career to
buttress your argument. Stress your experience
and your energy.
14. What do you look for when You hire people?
Think in terms of skills. initiative, and the
adaptability to be able to work comfortably and
effectively with others. Mention that you like to
hire people who appear capable of moving up in
15. Have you ever had to fire people? What were the
reasons, and how did you handle the situation?
Admit that the situation was not easy, but say
that it worked out well, both for the company
and,you think, for the individual. Show that, like
anyone else, you don’t enjoy unpleasant tasks
but that you can resolve them efficiently and -in
the case of firing someone- humanely.
16. What do you think is the most difficult thing
about being a manager or executive?
Mention planning, execution, and cost-control.
The most difficult task is to motivate and manage
employees to get something planned and
completed on time and within the budget.