How To Answer Tough Interview Questions

A job interview can be a stressful event, even when you feel fully prepared and the interviewer seems to genuinely like you. There are times, however, when "stressful" only begins to describe the experience. Once in a while you will be in the unfortunate position of sitting across the desk from an interviewer who asks difficult questions and seems to be trying to get you to fail. Not to worry; if you ready yourself for this possibly ahead of time, you'll handle yourself just fine.

  1. Keep a positive attitude. Even if you are feeling anxious, take a deep breath and smile. Maintain a pleasant appearance. The interviewer will never know that your knees are knocking and you have sweaty palms!
  2. Always be honest. Most interviewers are experienced at deciphering the truth from exaggeration, so be sure to present yourself as trustworthy right from the start.
  3. Be aware of which questions the potential employer has no legal right to ask, but be prepared to address them, anyway. If you were to respond, "Legally, I do not have to answer that question," you wouldn't be likely to get the job. You may be right, but you have to ask yourself if you would rather be right or be employed.

    Once a question is out there, whether it is fair or not, you'd be wise to calmly deal with it. It helps if you try to understand why they feel the need to know the answer. For example: If an interviewer asks if you have children, you may want to say something like, "Be assured that my family responsibilities would not interfere in any way with my ability and willingness to be a dedicated employee." This way you have addressed his/her likely concerns and since he/she knows that they have already asked an unacceptable question, they aren't likely to press you further on the subject.

  4. If you had a previous employer with whom you had difficulties, be honest, but be sure to put a positive spin on the situation. You can say something like, "The working environment at Company ABC was very stressful, but I learned how to work well under pressure and with tight deadlines."
  5. Never, under any circumstances, should you share gossip or private information about a previous employer. Nor should you comment negatively on your previous employer's personality, intelligence or business sense. You want the interviewer to view you as ethical and honorable; if you are willing to bad-mouth a previous employer, he/she will assume that you will someday do the same to him/her.
  6. At every opportunity, highlight what you can offer the company. Even your challenges can be turned into positive attributes. Do not put yourself down on the interview; instead, try to find the most constructive way to present your weaknesses. For example, if you are sometimes hard to please, you can say that you are a perfectionist. They are basically the same thing, but the perception of a perfectionist is preferable. Other characteristics: stubborn = diligent, social = friendly and able to promote a pleasant work environment, introverted = all business; nose-to-the-grindstone. You get the idea!
  7. Above all, be friendly and relaxed. If your qualifications are comparable to the next candidate's, the final decision may come down to something as simple as who the interviewer liked more.


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