No matter how good you look, how much research you’ve done, or how perfectly your qualifications match the job description, if you’re not prepared with great answers to the toughest interview questions, you won’t get the job.
101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions is a manual that will help you home in on exactly what the interviewer is trying to learn . . . with each and every question he or she asks. If you’ve never done well on interviews, never even been on a job interview, or just want to make sure a lousy interview doesn’t cost you a job you really want, Ron Fry will help you get that job—as he has helped millions of people nationwide and throughout the world.
This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions is thoroughly updated to reflect the realities of today’s job market. Whatever your age and experience, whether you are seeking your very first job or finally breaking into the executive office, this is the one book you need to get that job.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
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The Interview Process
You'll probably have to go through more interviews than your predecessors for the same job, no matter what your level of expertise. Knowledge and experience still give you an inside edge. But these days, you'll need stamina, too. Your honesty, your intelligence, your mental health — even the toxicity of your blood — may be measured before you can be considered fully assessed.
You may also have to tiptoe through a minefield of different types of interview situations.
Do all you can to remain confident and flexible and ready with your answers. No matter what kind of interview you find yourself facing, this approach should carry you through with flying colors.
Let's take a brief tour of the interview circuit.
Is this the person to whom I am speaking?
Telephone screening is an effective tactic used by many interviewers, but some rely on the strategy as a primary means of qualifying candidates. For many of these interviewers, the in-person interview is little more than an opportunity to confirm what they feel they've already learned on the phone.
Interviewers who typically fall into this category are entrepreneurs, CEOs, high-level executives, and others short on time and long on vision. Their guiding philosophy could be summed up as: "I have a personnel problem to solve, and I don't plan to waste my valuable time talking in person to anybody but the very best."
A telephone screener is also often the dominant interviewer at small- to mid-size companies where no formal Human Resources (or Personnel) department exists or where such a department has only recently been created. The primary objective of the telephone screener is to identify reasons to remove you from active consideration before scheduling an in-person meeting.
Among the common reasons for abrupt removal from the telephone screener's short list: evidence that there's a disparity between your resume and actual experience, poor verbal communication skills, lack of required technical skills.
If you are expecting a call (or calls) from telephone screeners, make sure family members know how to answer the phone. Hint: A sullen "Huh?" from your teenage son or brother is not the best way. And by all means avoid cutesy answering machine tapes: "Hi!" [giggle, giggle] "We're upstairs getting nasty!" [giggle, snort] "So leave a message, dude."
What could be better than answering questions from the comfort of your own home?
For starters, conducting a telephone interview has cost you two valuable tools you can employ during in-person interviews: eye contact and body language. You're left with your skills, the facts on your resume, and your ability to communicate verbally.
Don't be discouraged. Always project a positive image through your voice and your answers. Don't overdo it, but don't let the telephone be your undoing either. If your confidence is flagging, try smiling while you listen and speak. Sure, it might look silly — but it absolutely changes the tone and timbre of one's voice. I also like to stand, even walk around, during a telephone interview. It seems to simultaneously calm me down and give me more energy.
You have a right to be prepared for any interview. Chances are the interviewer will call you to set a time for the telephone interview. However, if she fires a question at you as soon as you answer the phone, there's nothing wrong with asking her to call back at a mutually agreeable time. You need to prepare your surroundings for a successful interview.
Next to the phone, you'll want to have a copy of your resume (which you've quickly reviewed), the cover letter you sent or emailed, a list of questions you've prepared for them, a notepad, your research materials on that company, and a glass of water. You will also want to have already answered nature's call — you surely don't want to excuse yourself in the middle of the interview — and placed a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door, so family members or roommates don't interrupt. You never want to put the interviewer on hold for any reason.
Are you wheat or chaff?
Many personnel professionals fall into a different category: human screens. For them, interviewing is not simply a once-a-quarter or once-a-month event, but rather a key part of their daily job descriptions. They meet and interview many people, and are more likely than a telephone screener to consider an exceptional applicant for more than one opening within the organization.
A primary objective of a human screen is to develop a strong group of candidates for managers (the third kind of interviewer) to interview in person. To do this, of course, they must fend off many applicants and callers — a daunting task, because the human screen or the department in which he works is often the only contact provided in employment listings or posts.
Among the most common reasons for removal from a human screen's "hot" list are: lack of the formal or informal qualifications outlined in the organization's job description; sudden changes in hiring priorities and/or personnel requirements; poor performance during the in-person interview itself; and inaction due to uncertainty about your current status or contact information. That last reason is more common than you might imagine. Human screens are usually swamped with phone calls, emails, texts, resumes, and unannounced visits from hopeful applicants. Despite their best efforts, they sometimes lose track of qualified people.
Human screens excel at separating the wheat from the chaff. Because they are exposed to a wide variety of candidates on a regular basis, they usually boast more face-to-face interviewing experience than members of the other two groups. They may be more likely to spot inconsistencies or outright lies on resumes, simply because they've seen so many over the years that they know when a candidate's credentials for a given position don't quite pass the "smell test."
And while interviews with a telephone screener or the hiring manager may be rushed because of their hectic schedules, human screens are often able to spend a comparatively long amount of time with particularly qualified candidates.
Not surprisingly, human screens often react with a puzzled look if others ask them to offer their "gut reaction" to a particular candidate. Because they're generally operating a step removed from the work itself, their assessments of candidates may be more black and white than gray: Either the candidate has three years of appropriate experience or she doesn't. Either he has been trained in computer design or he hasn't. Of course, this analysis may overlook important interpersonal issues.
Why you should avoid Human Resources
There aren't many career books that will advise you to make a beeline for the Human Resources department of a company you've targeted. In fact, most, if not all, will tell you to avoid it like the plague if at all possible. What have these poor (formerly personnel) people done to generate such animosity?
Nothing at all. I'm sure many of them are very nice people who do their jobs very well. The problem is that their jobs have little to do with actually getting you a job. They are not seeking candidates to interview and hire; they are trying to maximize the number they can eliminate. They can say no. And they do. A lot. But they can't say yes.
In addition to not being able to actually offer you anything more than coffee or tea (and maybe a personality or drug test), many Human Resources departments may have (surprisingly) little idea about what hiring managers really want in job applicants. The more technical or specialized the field, the truer this statement.
I know of a Human Resources director who recommended a candidate for whom English was a second — and not very good — language for the top editorial post on a major association magazine. Another passed along a candidate who scored 55 (out of 100) on a spelling test for a proofreading position. Still another recommended someone whose resume was filled with rather obvious or easily discovered lies for a vice president of finance position.
At many organizations, even hiring managers make it a point to bypass their Human Resources departments — bringing candidates in, interviewing them, and only then passing them along so Human Resources can take care of the paperwork.
Make it easier for the hiring manager to do just that. Make every effort to get in touch with him or her directly, preferably by dropping the name of a "friend of a friend."
If you have to go through Human Resources (and sometimes despite your best efforts you will), you can't ignore their power: They're the only ones who can get you to the next level — the real interview. So it certainly would be sensible to make friends with them and use them in whatever way you can.
Nevertheless, you will probably not go wrong if you presume that the Human Resources person conducting a screening interview has no time to become your best friend, knows little or nothing about the job you so desperately want, and knows even less about the hiring manager.
Meet your new boss
The hiring manager may not be the person for whom you will be working, but probably will be. Even where others have strong input, most companies still allow managers to hire their own staff, within certain parameters. He is probably a supervisor who has chosen (or is required) to shoehorn in-person interviews into his busy workdays. (In smaller companies especially, the president may be the ultimate decision maker, even if you won't be reporting to her.) A manager who has worked with a number of previous employees who held the same position will bring a unique perspective to the proceedings.
What's different about interviewing with the hiring manager as opposed to your time with a recruiter or headhunter or even Human Resources? This is the person you actually have to impress, the only one who can say those magic words, "You're hired. When can you start?" The hiring manager's primary objective is to evaluate your skills and measure your personal chemistry on a firsthand basis. These interviewers want to get to know everything they can about the people with whom they'll be working closely. (As we've seen, the telephone screener may well be an entrepreneur who delegates heavily and interacts only intermittently with new hires. And the human screen usually has nothing to do with the day-today operation of the company.)
Common reasons for being dropped from a hiring manager's hot list include: lack of personal chemistry or rapport; poor performance during the interview itself; and her assessment that, although you're qualified and personable, you would simply not fit in well with the team.
Many hiring managers have a highly intuitive sense of who will (and won't) perform the job well and achieve a good "fit" with the rest of the work group. On the other hand, it sometimes comes as a surprise to applicants that excellent supervisors can be less than stellar interviewers. But a great many managers lack any formal training in the art of interviewing.
Of the three categories of interviewers, this is the group most likely to interpret the interview as an opportunity to "get to know" more about you, rather than require specific answers to questions about your background, experience, outlook on work, and interpersonal skills.
The hiring interview
Your first interview with the person who will manage your prospective position is not likely to be a walk in the park. You may be stepping out of the range of the experience and interviewing talent of the Human Resources professional and into unknown territory.
And you could wander there for a while.
Why? Experienced interviewers are trained to stay in charge of the interview, not let it meander down some dead-end, non-productive track. There is a level of predictability to the way they conduct interviews, even if they utilize different techniques.
On the other hand, the hiring manager is sure to lack some or all of the screening interviewer's knowledge, experience, and skill, making him an unpredictable animal.
Foiling the inept interviewer
A majority of corporate managers don't know what it takes to hire the right candidate. Few of them have had formal training in conducting interviews of any kind. To make things worse, most managers feel slightly less comfortable conducting the interview than the nervous candidate sitting across their desks from them!
A manager might decide you are not the right person for the job, without ever realizing that the questions he asked were so ambiguous, so off the mark, that even the perfect candidate could not have stumbled on the "right" answers. No one monitors the performance of the interviewer. And the candidate cannot be a mind reader. So more often than is necessary, otherwise perfectly qualified candidates walk out the door for good ... simply because the manager failed at the interview!
But that doesn't have to happen to you. You can — and should — be prepared to put your best foot forward, no matter what the experience or expertise of the manager interviewing you.
You'll be a step ahead of the game (and the other candidates) if you realize at the outset that the interviewer is after more than just facts about your skills and background. He is waiting for something more elusive to hit him, something he may not even be able to articulate: He wants to feel that, somehow, you "fit" the organization or department.
Knowing what you're up against is half the battle. Rather than sit back passively and hope for the best, you can help the unskilled interviewer focus on how your unique skills can directly benefit — fit — the department or organization by citing a number of specific examples.
What other unusual problems could you face during an interview?
Yada, yada, yada
Dwayne thinks he's a pretty good interviewer. He has a list of 15 questions he asks every candidate — same questions, same order, every time. He takes notes on their answers and asks an occasional follow-up question. He gives them a chance to ask questions. He's friendly, humorous, and excited about working at Netcorp.com ... as he tells every candidate ... in detail ... for hours. Then he wonders why so many candidates decline additional interviews and only a small fraction of his hires pan out.
I've never really understood the interviewer who thinks telling the story of his or her life is pertinent. Why do some interviewers do it? Partly nervousness, partly inexperience, but mostly because they have the mistaken notion they have to sell you on the company, rather than the other way around. There are occasions when this may be necessary — periods of low unemployment, a glut of particular jobs and a dearth of qualified candidates, a candidate who's so desirable the interviewer feels, perhaps correctly, that he or she has to outsell and outbid the competition.
Under most circumstances, you should be expected to carry the conversational load, while the interviewer sits back and decides if he or she is ready to buy what you're selling.
Is it to your benefit to find yourself seated before Mr. Monologue? You might think so. After all, while he's waxing poetic about the new cafeteria, you don't have to worry about inserting your other foot in your mouth. No explaining that last firing or why you've had four jobs in three months. Nope, just sit back, relax, and try to stay awake.
But I don't believe Mr. M. is doing you any favors. Someone who monopolizes the conversation doesn't give you the opportunity you need to "strut your stuff." You may want to avoid leaving a bad impression, but I doubt you want to leave no impression at all. As long as you follow the advice in this book and, especially, this chapter, you should welcome the savvy interviewer who asks the open-ended, probing questions he needs to identify the right person for the job — the same questions you need to convince him it's you.
Let's all get stoned
Yes, interviewers have been known to be drunk, stoned, or otherwise incapacitated. Some have spent virtually the entire time allotted to a candidate speaking on the phone or browsing email. Others have gone off on tirades about interoffice disputes or turf wars.
If the interviewer treats you with such apparent indifference or disrespect before you're even hired, how do you expect him to act once you are hired?
There is a boss out there willing to treat you with the same respect she would expect from you — it's just not this one. Move on.
Approach and be seated
There are a number of styles and guiding philosophies when it comes to person-to-person interviews. The overall purpose, of course, is to screen you out if you lack the aptitudes (and attitudes) the company is looking for.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "101 Great Answers To The Toughest Interview Questions"
Copyright © 2016 Ron Fry.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
You Are in Charge,
Chapter One The Interview Process,
Chapter Two Who Are You?,
Chapter Three So, Tell Me About Yourself,
Chapter Four Questions About Your Education,
Chapter Five Questions About Your Experience,
Chapter Six Questions About Core Competencies,
Chapter Seven Questions About Your Current (or Last) Job,
Chapter Eight So Why Us?,
Chapter Nine Questions About Your Personal Life,
Chapter Ten Questions to Wrap Things Up,
Epilogue I've Got a Secret,