The types of questions you are likely to encounter in
this style of interviewing include:
"Do you find it difficult to work with some
Indicate that you get along well with people and work hard to understand
other points of view. You can name one or two traits that disturb you,
but make sure they're not overly broad, and give preference to those
that a manager would also find hard to accept-such as dishonesty,
incessant talking, or unreliability.
"What are your weaknesses?"
You can say you don't know of any that would prevent your doing an
excellent job in the position you are discussing. If pressed, you can
turn this into an opportunity to talk about the kind of workplace you
hope to enter. You might say that you prefer not to work in an
environment where there's no teamwork or where you don't have a sense of
why your work matters. Another good answer along those lines, which
turns your "weaknesses" into strengths: "I work better in a team
environment, despite the fact that I'm a self-starter and think well
Bad answer: "Well, I often oversleep, and I'm
a terrible procrastinator." (You may get a few points for candor, but
your interviewer will almost always assume that you're worse than what
If you're asked to name your strengths as well as
weaknesses, follow the same principles:
Good answer: "I think my strengths are in my
ability to understand the intent of a project, master the details, and
organize and pursue a well-developed project plan. My weakness might be
that I can be a little impatient with people who don't keep their
commitments, although I'm learning that I get better results by being
tactful and persistent in asking questions, rather than making demands."
(Shows coherence and a learning attitude; turns a weakness into another
Pretty good answer: "I'm a good detail person.
I do what needs to be done, and I get it done on time. I don't know of
anything that would prevent my doing a good job." (Less compelling, but
Bad answer: "I'm good at numbers, as long as
I'm left alone to get the work done. I can't think of any weaknesses."
(Turns strength into a weakness! Refuses to think about weaknesses or
opportunities to learn).
"What would your most recent boss say about you?"
Say that you believe he or she would confirm whatever you have claimed
as your strengths or your accomplishments.
"Has your work ever been criticized, or have you
been told to improve your performance?"
If you say no, be prepared to back it up with a statement such as "I've
always received excellent reviews." (And be sure your references will
confirm this, or you will lose credibility completely.) If you can't say
this confidently, answer honestly-but it's best to choose a situation in
which your idea was criticized, not your behavior. All the better if you
can explain why the idea made sense to you.
Good answer: "I received some criticism when I
introduced the idea of a customer satisfaction survey in the placement
agency where I worked last year. It wasn't a popular idea with my boss,
who feared the results. But I felt that if we were ever to correct our
shortfalls, it would be important to know what mattered most to our
Bad answer: "I received a lot of criticism
from my last boss, who was pretty insecure. When I suggested a customer
satisfaction survey to deal with our loss of customers, he flew off the
handle. Eventually, with the help of top management, he came around to
my point of view." (Just a bit arrogant sounding, isn't it?)
"What would you do if you were asked to do
something that didn't make sense to you?"
Indicate that you would say something like "Perhaps I'm missing
something, but I'm not immediately seeing why that would be the best way
to handle the situation. Could you help me understand?" If you can,
provide an example of how you faced such as situation and successfully
Good answer: "That happened to me when I was
working on a cruise ship and the activities director wanted me to shut
down the entertainment early to save money. I felt that the several
passengers still in the lounge and all the others had paid their fares
and deserved their full value. When I realized that I wasn't able to
influence her, I took it on myself to find a dignified solution. I
explained to the passengers that the band really wanted to rest up for
the tremendous party I had planned for the next evening, and I hoped
they would plan to be there, because I would see that they got special
treatment. I offered, instead, to play a terrific video that none of
them had seen. All was accepted in good spirits, and my boss was
grateful that I handled the situation well." (Shows resourcefulness in
finding a solution that had integrity without undermining management).
Not-as-good answer: "My boss asked me to get
up on the roof to fix a sign that had been knocked about by a windstorm.
I have a fear of heights, told him so, and suggested he call the sign
company. He did, and they did a better job of fixing the sign than I
could have done myself." (Although the suggestion was sound, it would be
better to have pointed out the hazards involved and to have suggested
that the sign company was better equipped to deal with them).
Another mediocre answer: "My boss at the
newspaper told me to cover a traffic accident nearby. When I reported
what I had seen, he asked me to delete the part about the driver being
cited for driving while intoxicated, because he was the son of one of
the paper's executives. I went along, but didn't feel good about the
decision." (There's no quality being illustrated here except following
orders. Better to choose another illustration that allows you to
demonstrate skills in creativity, resourcefulness, communications,
diplomacy, mediation, or some other valuable attribute).
Bad answer: "I'd take advantage of the
company's open-door policy and make an appointment to see the CEO." You
also don't want to give an example in which you didn't handle the
situation to your boss's liking or in which the result was discredit to
"What kinds of work do you find difficult to do?"
Mention things that would run contrary to your values or your employer's
best interests. For example: "I'd find it difficult to promote a product
that I knew had flaws that weren't disclosed" or "I wouldn't want to do
anything that I thought could harm the company-although, of course, I'd
try to be sure I really understood the situation." Don't say something
like "I really hate clerical work." Though that may be true, it makes
you sound like a prima donna.
"If you encountered an unreasonable deadline, what
would you do?"
Good answer: "I'd prioritize, then seek out
best methods to employ, communicate with the manager about what was
going on, and go all out to achieve everything that was agreed to be
feasible-and more, if possible."
Pretty good answer: "I'd try to get my manager
to set the priorities, because I'd want to be sure the most important
work got done."
Bad answer: "I'd tell my manager the deadline
was impossible to meet and would have to be changed." (Shows
unwillingness to work hard or seek solutions).
"What else should we know about you?"
Here's your final chance for a sales pitch. Don't waste it on talking
about your pet parakeet or your passion for limericks. This is a good
place, however, to talk about some traits that would be valuable in the
workplace: You have always been a person others have come to for advice,
or people seem to like your ability to deal with stress using humor. For
example, you could say "I'm the person who goes out at five a.m. to get
a watermelon when we're pulling an all-nighter. " Or if you know of the
interviewer's interest in model trains, for example, this could be the
place to reveal that you're an enthusiast yourself.
If this is the close of your interview, however, you
should use the opportunity to make your closing statement to summarize
your qualifications and ability to add value in the position you've been
discussing and then inquire about the next steps in the process.