which has "As Reprinted from FOCUS Magazine -- January 5, 1983" at the top.
The 25 most difficult questions you'll be asked on a job interview
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. Publised 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 concoct 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 question 4.)
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 security.
8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for which you are
Keep your answer brief and taskoriented. 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 for you.
9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to
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 talent.
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
As you consider this question, think about whether your style will
let you work hatppily and effectively within the organization.
13. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you
feel that you have top managerial potential?
Keep your answer achievementand ask-oriented. Rely on examples from
your career to buttress your argument. Stress your experience and your
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 the organization.
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
Mention planning, execution, and cost-control. The most difficult task
is to motivate and manage employess to get something planned and completed
on time and within the budget.
17. What important trends do you see in our industry?
Be prepared with two or three trends that illustrate how well you understand
your industry. You might consider technological challenges or opportunities,
economic conditions, or even regulatory demands as you collect your
thoughts about the direction in which your business is heading.
18. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?
Be brief, to the point, and as honest as you can without hurting yourself.
Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. where you considered
this topic as you set your reference statements. If you were laid off
in an across-the-board cutback, say so; otherwise, indicate that the
move was your decision, the result of your action. Do not mention personality
The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue, particularly
if it is clear that you were terminated. The "We agreed to disagree"
approach may be useful. Remember hat your references are likely to be
checked, so don't concoct a story for an interview.
19. How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new
Mention that you are concerned, naturally, but not panicked. You are
willing to accept some risk to find the right job for yourself. Don't
suggest that security might interest you more than getting the job done
20. In your current (last) position, what features do (did) you like
the most? The least?
Be careful and be positive. Describe more features that you liked than
disliked. Don't cite personality problems. If you make your last job
sound terrible, an interviewer may wonder why you remained there until
21. What do you think of your boss?
Be as positive as you can. A potential boss is likely to wonder if
you might talk about him in similar terms at some point in the future.
22. Why aren't you earning more at your age?
Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search.
Don't be defensive.
23. What do you feel this position should pay?
Salary is a delicate topic. We suggest that you defer tying yourself
to a precise figure for as long as you can do so politely. You might
say, "I understand that the range for this job is between $______
and $______. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it."
You might answer the question with a question: "Perhaps you can
help me on this one. Can you tell me if there is a range for similar
jobs in the organization?"
If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview,
you might say that you feel you need to know more about the position's
responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer to that question.
Here, too, either by asking the interviewer or search executive (if
one is involved), or in research done as part of your homework, you
can try to find out whether there is a salary grade attached to the
job. If there is, and if you can live with it, say that the range seems
right to you.
If the interviewer continues to probe, you might say, "You know
that I'm making $______ now. Like everyone else, I'd like to improve
on that figure, but my major interest is with the job itself."
Remember that the act of taking a new job does not, in and of itself,
make you worth more money.
If a search firm is involved, your contact there may be able to help
with the salary question. He or she may even be able to run interference
for you. If, for instance, he tells you what the position pays, and
you tell him that you are earning that amount now and would Like to
do a bit better, he might go back to the employer and propose that you
be offered an additional 10%.
If no price range is attached to the job, and the interviewer continues
to press the subject, then you will have to restpond with a number.
You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter, that
you'll accept whatever is offered. If you've been making $80,000 a year,
you can't say that a $35,000 figure would be fine without sounding as
if you've given up on yourself. (If you are making a radical career
change, however, this kind of disparity may be more reasonable and understandable.)
Don't sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the
job itself is the most important thing in your mind. The interviewer
may be trying to determine just how much you want the job. Don't leave
the impression that money is the only thing that is important to you.
Link questions of salary to the work itself.
But whenever possible, say as little as you can about salary until
you reach the "final" stage of the interview process. At that
point, you know that the company is genuinely interested in you and
that it is likely to be flexible in salary negotiations.
24. What are your long-range goals?
Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Don't answer,
"I want the job you've advertised." Relate your goals to the
company you are interviewing: 'in a firm like yours, I would like to..."
25. How successful do you you've been so far?
Say that, all-in-all, you're happy with the way your career has progressed
so far. Given the normal ups and downs of life, you feel that you've
done quite well and have no complaints.
Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don't overstate
your case. An answer like, "Everything's wonderful! I can't think
of a time when things were going better! I'm overjoyed!" is likely
to make an interviewer wonder whether you're trying to fool him . .
. or yourself. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence.