Landing an interview in this economy is an accomplishment. The last thing that you want to do is give a less than stellar interview knowing that there are many other qualified candidates vying for the same position.
Here are some difficult (and commonly asked) questions along with coaching points on how to answer them effectively so that you do not knock yourself out of the running:
1. Why did you leave your last position? (This is very tricky if you got fired or quit shortly after being hired.)
If you were laid off, this is easy. You can simply state that you were laid off. It’s a good idea too to put it in context. This is a good statement: My company decided to reduce its workforce by 10%. I was one of the ones impacted by this business decision. I am now looking for a new opportunity that will enable me to use my skill set and make a contribution in my field.
If you were not laid off but were fired or had a very short tenure, you need to provide a truthful statement that will not create more questions than it answers. If you were laid off, you can give a reason that does not go into minute detail about what led up to it. For example, you might have had trouble keeping up with demands because your department was short-staffed. If the staffing levels were higher when you initially took the position, you can talk about the fact that you tried to maintain the quality of your work even with the reduced staff. This will work well if you know that the company that you are interviewing with is well staffed and has sufficient resources for you to maintain both quality and quantity.
If you had a short tenure on your previous job, you need to talk about why you were there such a short period of time and then pivot to why this position would work well for both parties.
2. Why all the gaps on your resume?
In some cases job seekers have gaps on their resumes because they moved from contract position to contract position. In this type of situation, job seekers should try to combine contract positions together wherever feasible to minimize gaps in employment. If there are still gaps, job seekers should be able to explain why this is the case. For example, the job seeker could have been a trailing spouse or could have been in school during the time periods where he or she was not actively participating in the paid work force.
3. What’s your salary requirement?
You want to avoid giving a specific dollar amount in response to this question. If you are really pressed by the interviewer on this issue, you should give a range based on your salary research. You can say something like, “Based on my salary research, I know that the going rate is between $____ and $_____. As someone with significant experience in the field, I am looking at the upper end of that range.
4. Why did you like/not like about your previous boss/employer?
The basic rule of thumb here is to never speak negatively about your previous employer. What you should say instead is that as human beings we all sometimes see the same situation differently, but you have learned from all the bosses that you have had. Even if you did not get along with your boss at all, you can still usually say something positive about what that person brought to the table.
5. Do you like to work independently or as part of a team?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of the work that you will be doing. For most positions you are expected to be a good team player. However, there are certain positions that require you to work independently. It may be best to play it safe and talk about the fact that you are flexible enough to do both—to work independently when needed and to work as part of a team when the situation calls for it.
6. What would your friends/former co-workers/former boss say about you?
This is a time to highlight your positive attributes. You should talk about your strengths as your co-workers and boss would perceive them and then give an illustration of those strengths. Instead of simply saying that you are hard-working, share a story with the interviewer that demonstrates that you are indeed hard-working. You might talk about how you have given up your weekends to finish a major project, for example. This is more compelling that simply making an assertion without proving it.
To polish your interview skills and nail your next interview, call 877-743-9521 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.