The Ten Most Difficult Interview Questions
Written by: James R. Weiss
Congratulations, your well written, chock-full of benefits resume and cover letter have been selected over the hundred or so other candidates who have applied for the same position as you. Please don’t let this go to your head. You should know that at least ten other men and women who are as qualified as you have also been selected to be interviewed.
Now comes the second hurdle. You are about to be interviewed by someone who has probably interviewed more than a thousand candidates. This man or women is no one to trifle with during your interview. You must walk into his office well dressed, confident and armed with the answers to some of the toughest questions you will ever have to answer. Note: Of course this does not include your audit by the IRS.
To help you successfully navigate your interview I have compiled a list of the ten questions that will in all likelihood be asked during your interview. Experience has taught me that if your answer to any one of these questions is wrong or misleading you will be immediately dismissed with a polite “thank you for coming in today. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
What exactly do most corporations look for in a new employee?
Here are the three main criteria for hiring or not hiring you.
· Can you make my company money?
· Can you make your boss look good?
· Will you be loyal enough to take the bullet for me or the company?
That’s it… and never forget that most interviews are often lost within the first two minutes.
How To Correctly Answer The Ten Toughest Interview Questions
Question # 1 What do you know about our company? (Why are you knocking at my door looking for work?)
Answer: Several days before the actual interview invest two or three hours researching the company you are applying to. In all likelihood you will find all the information you need on the internet. You must avoid talking about company gossip. “I understand that your CEO is going through a messy divorce.” Please leave their dirty laundry alone if you want to work for this company.
Question # 2 Tell me about yourself (What can you do for us?)
Answer: This all important question eliminates 50% of all candidates. Do not give this person a long winded autobiography. This is not what the interviewer is looking for. The correct answer goes something like this: “Mr. Gordon, if you notice (hand him your resume if he does not have it with him) while I was in high school I held a part time position as a bookkeeper at Target. I also completed two internships with accounting firms in Manhattan while I was in my junior year of college. I graduated with a 3.8 average in accounting, and I am currently enrolled in a M.S.in Cost Accounting. I plan to take the CPA Exam this spring. I am also working at the Bates Accounting firm where I am helping my department develop a new systems program so we can accommodate more clients.”
You have answered this question by letting the interviewer know that you have been working with numbers since high school. Your credentials speak for themselves. You have also let him know that you know how to make money for the people who employ you.
Question # 3 Why are you applying for this particular position? (Ok hot shot what’s story?)
Answer: I am applying for the position of cost accountant at Smith and Jones because I have been working in this field for over ten years. If you notice on my resume (continue to refer back to this important document) that at my last position I developed a new system for entering end of month data which saved hours of unnecessary work and thousands of dollars in over time. With my experience and background I am sure that I can help to increase your company’s productivity as I did Smith and Jones.
Question # 4 Tell me about one of your weaknesses. (Are you being honest with me?)
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer. Do not walk into the same trap some of my clients have by giving an answer such as: “I try too hard”. You are toast. The best answer is to admit to one of your lesser faults such as: “My desk is often not as neat as I would like it to be, but I’m working to correct this problem. Every Friday before I leave the office I empty my desk and clean it out.” What you have done here is present a fault also told the interviewer how you are trying to correct it. Does this seasoned professional believe you? No, not for one second, but she knows that you are clever enough to know how to “play the interview game”, and that’s what really matters here.
Question # 5 What is the first thing you would want to accomplish here if I hired you? (The person interviewing you is picking your brain for information)
Answer: Since you have done your homework by researching this company on the net you can easily handle this question with a few well pointed suggestions such as: “The first thing I would want to do is to increase our client base by contacting some of our former clients and letting them know that our new high speed programs can save them thousands of dollars every month.” Note: To successfully navigate this interview or any other for that matter you must research the company before your interview.
Question # 6 “When I was your age my friends and I hung out at Rudy’s Pub on Front Street. Where is your favorite watering hole?” (Be careful. This is a trap) The interviewer is trying to gain your confidence to find out if you are one of those TGIF guys who puts his social life before the company and his career.
Answer: There is only one type of correct answer to this loaded question. Please feel free to use my answer as your guide. “My schedule doesn’t afford me much time to hang out. As you can see on my resume (back to this document again) I’m busy studying for my master’s degree and working twenty five hours a week at my second accounting internship with Nance and Brody. Most of my weekends are spent studying, catching up on errands and helping my friends and neighbors resolve their financial problems. This says it all.
Question # 7 How do you stay current? (Can you see the big picture?)
Answer: Although I do not have much free time right now I try to stay current by watching CNN while I’m eating breakfast and dinner. I also subscribe to the Journal of American Accountants and The New Yorker. (This is an extremely valuable magazine that is chocked-filled with all types of information that will help you navigate those not so friendly company cocktail parties.)
Question # 8 What color is your brain? (The interviewer wants to know if you can think on your feet)
Answer: Do not mess around or laugh at this question. I’ve seen too many well qualified men and women blow this one by not giving it the attention it rightly deserves. There is only ONE correct answer for this mind numbing question. Your answer must be: “my brain is bright red because I am burning to succeed”.
Question # 9 Why did you received a grade of C- in American History? (Do not blame anyone else for your mistakes)
Answer: Actually the interviewer is not that concerned about your C-. She probably racked up a few herself. What she is really interested in knowing is if you are going to wiggle out of this by blaming dear old Professor Dumont. “The professor didn’t like me” or “his class was so boring I could barely stay awake”. Wrong answers. The correct answer is something like this: “It’s my fault. All I can say is that I did not give this course the attention it rightly deserved”
Question # 10 What do you see yourself doing five years from now? (Are you planning to stay with us or just using us as a spring board for your career)
Answer: In five years I will have sharpened my accounting and managerial skills enough to become a mentor to our new junior employees. Also I will have completed my second master’s degree in forensic accounting so I can continue helping our company increase revenue and cut unnecessary expenses
Why Didn’t I Get The Job?
“Jim, why didn’t get this job? I thought the interview went very well.”
Unfortunately you may never know why you were not hired. There could be any number of reasons including the following:
· You were not dressed properly for the interview.
· You did not speak clearly and you were not focused during the interview.
· You failed to sufficiently answer one or more of the questions
· The person interviewing you selected someone better qualified that you
· The interviewer was told to hire one of his bosses relatives or family friend (Today nepotism is a very serious problem in corporate America)
· You were just at the wrong time and place when management ordered a hiring freeze