No, not boss as in CEO. “Boss” as in you are completely ready for the deluge headed your way. You can keep that spiffy suit clean and perspiration-free by preparing answers to tough interview questions before you ever step inside the conference room.
Here are some of the toughest questions you’ll face in an interview and the best ways to answer them:
- Tell me about yourself. Seems like a softball, right? Except this is just a warm-up question that will allow you to communicate the most important qualities you’d bring to a new job. Don’t get too personal, and don’t talk about your family and hobbies. Instead, focus on your career development and recent professional experiences to get the conversation started on the right foot.
- Why are you looking for a new job? This one is tricky. You want to clearly communicate to the potential employer that you have identified what you are seeking (and hope to avoid) in a new position, but you can’t throw a previous employer under the bus. Instead, be gracious by acknowledging how different all organizations are and offer concrete examples of what you want out of your career. An interview is not a place to gossip, so keep your answer professional and upbeat.
Why should we hire you? You can tell them because you’re the best person for the job, but you need specific reasons. Highlight experiences or past positions that demonstrate why you are the most qualified candidate; refer specifically to the job description where your skills match with those listed. This is also a good time to bring up the company’s values or principles that align with yours, as well as projects or clients that interest you. Show that you’ve done your homework about who the company is so you can show precisely how you’re the best fit.
- What is your greatest weakness? Anyone who has been in more than two job interviews understands that this isn’t a real question about what you’re bad at. Take a perceived weakness, like impatience or overcommitting, and discuss it positively. The hiring manager expects you to do that. This question is also a chance to demonstrate humility and self-awareness. Discuss your weakness in terms of growing and improving; admit you have faults, but provide real-life examples of how you’re genuinely working to overcome them in the workplace.
- Where do you hope to be in three to five years? If you have a concrete career plan you are working toward, share that. If your plan is a bit more fluid, explain what motivates you (especially about the position you’re seeking or company you’re interviewing with) and talk about professional development. Don’t say, “I have no idea” even if that’s the truth. At minimum, discuss your excitement about the opportunity this new position provides and communicate your commitment to developing a worthwhile career at the company.
- Have you ever had a conflict with a supervisor or coworker? How did you resolve it? This is an opportunity to talk about your behavioral process regarding conflict resolution, not a chance to rag on someone you didn’t get along with at your last job. And don’t skirt the question. Everyone has conflict in the workplace; what truly matters is how you handled the situation and the steps you took to resolve the issue. Be honest with the hiring manager and stay positive.
- What are your salary requirements? Probably the most dreaded of all interview questions. Don’t offer a figure too low, or you’ll be short-changed. On the other hand, if you request a high amount, you could be eliminated from the search because the company can’t afford you. Do your homework. Research what the median salary for the position you’re seeking is and provide an amount that is $5,000 higher. If you’re flexible, say so. If you’re not, say so. Honesty is key whenever you’re discussing salaries so expectations are clear from the start.
Be Prepared… Not Rehearsed
Job interviews are tough. They’re supposed to be. Alleviate some of the stress and anxiety you’ll naturally feel by considering ahead of time what you’ll be asked and preparing your possible answers. Be careful not to sound rehearsed. Job interviews are about honesty and authenticity, not completing a performance.
For even more practice preparing for tough interview questions, ask a friend to interview you for practice. Have your friend generate a list of questions and play out the entire scenario as though the situation were a real interview. You’ll have a chance to organize your thoughts and receive valuable feedback about how you answered the questions.
Preparing for an interview demonstrates that you care about the position you are seeking as well as the company potentially hiring you. Sure, the hiring manager may not know how many hours you’ve spent considering questions, preparing answers, and practicing the interview, but you will exude interest and enthusiasm.
Plus, you won’t be sweating through your shirt. Instead, you’ll be calm, articulate, and confident…like a boss.