JSD Consulting

Tough Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself

  1. Provide a brief introduction
    Introduce attributes that are key to the open position
  2. Provide a career summary of your most recent work history
    Your career summary is the “meat” of your response, so it must support your job objective and it must be compelling. Keep your response limited to your current experience. Don’t go back more than 10 years
  3. Tie your response to the needs of the hiring organisation
    Don’t assume that the interviewer will be able to connect all the dots. It is your job as the interviewee to make sure the interviewer understands how your experiences are transferable to the position they are seeking to fill
  4. Ask an insightful question
    By asking a question you gain control of the interview. Don’t ask a question for the sake of asking. Be sure that the question will engage the interviewer in a conversation. Doing so will alleviate the stress you may feel to perform

2. Why are you leaving your current position?

This is a very critical question. Don't "bad mouth" your previous employer. Don't sound "too opportunistic." Best to relate major industry problems, a buy-out, or shutdown. Also good is to state that after long personal consideration, a chance to make a contribution is very low due to company changes.

3. What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?

This can get you the job. Prepare extensively. Score points. Tell a two-minute story, with details and discuss personal involvement. Make the accomplishment worth achieving.

4. Why do you believe you are qualified for this position?

Pick two or three main factors about you and your job that are most relevant. Discuss for two minutes with specific details. Select a technical skill, a specific management skill (organising, staffing, planning), and a personal success attribute to mention.

5. Have you ever accomplished something you didn't think you could?

Interviewer is trying to determine your goal orientation, work ethic, personal commitment, and integrity. Provide a good example where you overcame numerous difficulties to succeed. Prove you're not a quitter, and "that you'll get going when the going gets tough."

6. What do you like/dislike most about your current position?

Interviewer is trying to determine compatibility with open position. Stating that you dislike overtime or getting into details, or that you like "management" can cost you the position. There is nothing wrong with liking challenges, pressure situations, opportunity to grow, or disliking bureaucracy and frustrating situations.

7. How do you handle pressure? Do you like or dislike these situations?

High achievers tend to perform well in high-pressure situations. Conversely, question also could imply that position is pressure packed and out of control. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you know what you're getting into. If you do perform well under stress, provide a good example with details giving an overview of the stress situation.

8. The sign of a good employee is the ability to take the initiative. Can you describe situations like this about yourself?

A proactive, results-oriented person doesn't have to be told what to do. This is one of the major success attributes. To convince the interviewer you possess this trait you must give a series of short examples describing your self-motivation. Try to discuss at least one example in-depth. The extra effort, strong work ethic and creative side of you must be demonstrated.

9. What's the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your business career? How would you have done things differently now with 20/20 hindsight?

This is a general question to learn how introspective you are and to see if you can learn from your mistakes. If you can, it indicates an open, more flexible personality. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures, particularly if you learned from them.

10. How have you grown or changed over the past few years?

This requires thought. Maturation, increased technical skills, or increased self-confidence are important aspects of human development. To discuss this effectively is indicative of a well-balanced, intelligent individual. Overcoming personal obstacles or recognising manageable weaknesses can brand you as an approachable and desirable employee.

11. What do you consider your most significant strengths?

Be prepared. Know your four or five key strengths. Be able to discuss each with a specific example. Select those attributes that are most compatible with the job opening. Most people say "management" or "good interpersonal skills" in answer to this. Don't, unless you can describe the specific characteristics of management (planning, organising, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success.

12. What do you consider your most significant weaknesses?

Discuss tolerable faults that you are working towards improving. Show by specific example how this has changed over time. Show how a weakness can be turned into strength; for example, how a concentration on the details results in higher quality work even though it requires much overtime.

13. Deadlines, frustrations, difficult people, and silly rules can make a job difficult. How do you handle these types of situations?

Most companies, unfortunately, face these types of problems daily. If you can't deal with petty frustrations you'll be seen as a problem. You certainly can state your displeasure at the petty side of these issues, but how you overcome them is more important. Diplomacy, perseverance, and common-sense can often prevail even in difficult circumstances.

14. One of the biggest problems is - What has been your experience with this? How would you deal with it?

Think on your feet. Ask questions to get details. Break it into sub-parts; it is highly likely you have some experience with the sub-sections. Answer these, and summarise the total. State how you would go about solving the problem, if you feel you can’t come up with an example. Be specific. Show your organisational and analytical skills.

15. How do you compare your technical skills to your management skills?

Many people tend to minimise their technical skills, either because they don't have any, or they don't like getting into the detail. Most successful managers possess good technical skills and get into enough detail to make sure they understand the information being presented by their group. Try for a good balance here if you want to be seriously considered for the position.

16. How was your technical ability been important in accomplishing results?

Clearly the interviewer believes he needs a strong level of technical competence. Most strong managers have good technical backgrounds, even if they have moved away from the detail. Describe specific examples of your technical wherewithal, but don't be afraid to say you are not current. Also, you could give an example of how you resolved a technical issue by "accelerated research."

17. How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, and inadequate resources?

If you pull this off effectively it indicates you have strong management skills. Be creative. An example would be great. Relate your toughest management task, even if it doesn't meet all the criteria. Most situations don't...

18. Are you satisfied with your career to date? What would you change if you could?

Be honest. The Interviewer wants to know if he can keep you happy. It's important to know if you're willing to make some sacrifices to get your career on the right track. A degree of motivation is an important selection criteria.

19. What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 10 years?

Most importantly, be realistic! Blue sky stuff, brands you as immature. One or two management jumps in 3-5 years is a reasonable goal. If your track record indicates you're on line for a senior management in 10 years, it's okay to mention. However, if you've had a rocky road, better to be introspective.

20. Why should we hire you for this position? What kind of contribution would you make?

Good chance to summarise. By now you know the key problems. Re-state and show how you would address. Relate to specific attributes and to specific accomplishments. Demonstrate a thoughtful, organised, strong effort kind of attitude.