Friday, October 23, 2009

15 Toughest Interview Questions (and Answers!)

13. Describe a time when you did not get along with a co-worker.

Bad answer:
"I’m easy to get along with, so I’ve never had any kind of discord with another coworker.”

Interviewers don’t like these types of “easy out” answers. And besides, they know you are probably not telling the truth. Think of a relatively benign (but significant) instance, and spin it to be a positive learning experience.

Good answer:
“I used to lock heads with a fellow nurse in the INCU ward. We disagreed over a lot of things – from the care of patients to who got what shifts to how to speak with a child’s family. Our personalities just didn’t mesh. After three months of arguing, I pulled her aside and asked her to lunch. At lunch, we talked about our differences and why we weren’t getting along. It turns out, it was all about communication. We communicated differently and once we knew that, we began to work well together. I really believe that talking a problem through with someone can help solve any issue.”

14. What motivates you?

Bad answer:
"Doing a good job and being rewarded for it.”

It’s not that this answer is wrong – it’s just that it wastes an opportunity. This question is practically begging you to highlight your positive attributes. So don’t give a vague, generic response – it tells them very little about you. Instead, try and use this question as an opportunity to give the interviewer some insight into your character, and use examples where possible.

Good answer:
“I’ve always been motivated by the challenge of meeting a tough deadline – in my last role, I was responsible for a 100% success rate in terms of delivering our products on time and within budget. I know that this job is very fast-paced, and deadline-driven – I’m more than up for the challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.”

15. How would your friends describe you?

Bad answer:
"I’m a really good listener.”

While being a good listener is a great personality trait, your employer probably doesn’t care all that much. It’s unlikely that they’re hiring you to be a shoulder to cry on. You’ll want to keep your answer relevant to the job you’re interviewing for – and as specific as possible. If you can, insert an example.

Good answer:
“My friends would probably say that I’m extremely persistent – I’ve never been afraid to keep going back until I get what I want. When I worked as a program developer, recruiting keynote speakers for a major tech conference, I got one rejection after another – this was just the nature of the job. But I really wanted the big players – so I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I kept going back to them every time there was a new company on board, or some new value proposition. Eventually, many of them actually said “yes” – the program turned out to be so great that we doubled our attendees from the year before. A lot of people might have given up after the first rejection, but it’s just not in my nature. If I know something is possible, I have to keep trying until I get it.”

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