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How to Answer 12 Make or Break Interview Questions

  1. What have you been criticized for in recent years? How to answer: You must admit to something revealing enough that the interviewer learns something significant about you and doesn’t feel like you’re taking the question lightly.  At the same time, don’t reveal something so serious that it compromises your shot at the job.  Go for an answer like “I was told that I was rocking the boat, but my intention was to add value and bring new ideas to the table” or “My co-workers criticized me for being anti-social because while they were meeting for happy hour I was taking a course.”
  2. How did you respond to the criticism? How to answer: If you agree with all—or none—of the criticisms, you’ll look like a schmuck.  Show some balance by expressing where there’s truth and where you disagree.
  3. What aspects of your position do you like most? How to answer: This is, in fact, a sneaky way of enquiring into what you like least  which, if you’re not careful, could reveal your weaknesses.  A sure-fire answer is: “Being part of a winning team”.  How can anyone argue with that?  Low performance and low morale are things you’ll be respected for loathing.
  4. How would you change this job? How to answer: If you’re ready to change a job you haven’t even started yet, there’s a problem.  There is a time for innovation—it’s commonly known as after you get the job!  Going into a new position, your first goal should be to master its challenges, not change them.
  5. How would you respond to a colleague who you discover is falsifying expense records? How to answer: The best answer is to confront the co-worker and convince them to report accurately. If the co-worker cannot be redirected, indicate that you’d be forced to report them.  This shows your commitment to doing the right thing without potentially coming off as a tattle tale.
  6. If I gave you $1,000 with this company to use in the first year of employment in any way you saw appropriate, how would you use it? How to answer: This question begs for you to inadvertently admit to areas of weakness.  It may sound reasonable enough to say that you’d use the money for graphic design courses, but if graphic design is a core competency required in the position your answer may make you look underqualified.  Don’t seek compensation for required skills you lack!   To use the money for coursework is a great answer, but be sure to qualify it by saying that you’re well-versed but it never hurts to take a refresher to maximize your skills.
  7. What is your key objective when you need to fire someoneHow to answer: Express a commitment to the best interests of the company as well as the best interests of the individual.
  8. What type of management do you thrive under? How to answer: This is a truly tricky question since you’re clearly being assessed for “fit” and may have no clue as to the management style of your potential future boss.  You want to come across as manageable and cooperative without needing handholding.  Cover your bases with something like: “I’ve been micromanaged and I’ve worked with little oversight and have been successful in both cases.  My ideal would be to receive enough direction that I’m crystal clear on expectations then to be entrusted to meet those expectations in the best way I see fit.”
  9. How would you describe yourself using three adjectives? How to answer: If you say “efficient, reliable, and disciplined” you might sound like an automaton.  If you say “warm, cooperative, and cheerful” on the other hand your technical skills may appear to be lacking.  Again, strike a balance between underscoring your hard skills AND your human qualities with an answer like” focused, friendly, team player” or “driven, productive, people person”
  10. 10.  What need would you hope to fulfill by accepting this position? How to answer: Speak to your goals.  This shows logic and can demonstrate to the employer that you not only have inner motivation to perform the job, but you have enough ambition to set and achieve goals and move on to bigger ones.
  11. 11.  When would you threaten an employee? How to answer: There’s only one appropriate situation in which to threaten an employee and that is as part of a formal disciplinary process.  It, in essence, serves as fair warning that if a change in behavior doesn’t occur, the employee will be terminated. It’s an attempt to thwart legal action because the employee can’t say they weren’t warned.
  12. 12.  What about this job scares you? How to answer: If you’re truly scared about being able to fulfill the duties of the job, you either shouldn’t be applying or you should be talking to a career counselor or therapist about your fear.  If there are little things you can brush up on later, admit to it and do it (later), but now is the time to paint with a broad brush stroke.  If you believe you have what it takes to do the job, exude nothing but confidence.  The message to convey is: “My only concern is that I have the opportunity to excel and, based on what I know about this company, that should not be a problem here.”

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