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The Three Toughest Interview Questions

It’s incredibly hard to land an interview these days, so making the most of every opportunity is critical. In this email I’m going to give you advice on handling the three toughest interview questions that trip up the majority of job seekers. With a little practice you can turn these three questions into opportunities.

Below are the three questions that job seekers often have difficulty answering:

  1. Why should I choose you?
  2. What’s your greatest weakness?
  3. What are your salary expectations?

Part of the problem is that there is confusion about why the employer is asking these questions, and that people don’t like talking about themselves.

It’s incredibly hard to land an interview these days, so making the most of every opportunity is critical. In this email I’m going to give you advice on handling the three toughest interview questions that trip up the majority of job seekers. With a little practice you can turn these three questions into opportunities.

Below are the three questions that job seekers often have difficulty answering:

  1. Why should I choose you?
  2. What’s your greatest weakness?
  3. What are your salary expectations?

Part of the problem is that there is confusion about why the employer is asking these questions, and that people don’t like talking about themselves.

Here’s advice on how to answer these questions:

  1. Why should I choose you?
  2. When I ask this question in an interview, I truly don’t expect the job seeker to present a refined case on why they’re the best candidate for the position. Rather, I’m looking to understand their qualifications, motivations, as well as understanding how their brain works. The worst responses are when the person simply focuses on themselves.

    For example, “I think you should choose me because this position offers me a chance to learn new things and be part of a winning organization.” That’s all fine and good, but I want to know what’s in it for me. The best responses are when the person ties their candidacy back to the problem I’m trying to solve. Something like, “I’m a proven performer in the credit and collections area, and I’m confident that in a short time I can reduce your accounts receivable balance by 50%.”

  3. What’s your greatest weakness?
  4. Many seekers think this is a trick question, designed to make you confess the reason why you shouldn’t be hired. This leads to the, frankly, weak response of trying to turn a negative into a positive. “I get impatient with people who don’t share my drive.” Or, “I become so focused that I find myself working evenings and weekends.”

    While a nice try, most interviewers dislike this approach. In their mind they are thinking, “Do I really look that na├»ve?” When I’m the interviewer, I’m wanting to see if the candidate is self actualized, and is committed to personal development. A great answer might sound something like, “I’m committed to my own personal development, and every year I focus on two or three skill areas where I know can make improvement. This year I wanted to beef up my negotiating skills, so I’ve been taking a class and I’ve read three books on the topic.”

  5. What are your salary expectations?
  6. In today’s “new normal” economy, this question is confusing to nearly every interviewee. Many people are willing to take a cut in pay just to get a job, and they’re ready to say this to the interviewer. I’m even hearing about candidates saying they’ll work for free for the first month. The problem is, it positions you as a weak negotiator, as well as creates flight anxiety for the hiring manger. Meaning, he’s concerned you’ll take a 40% pay cut today, and then quit as soon as the economy recovers.

    My advice is to simply say that you want to be treated fairly for your relative level and experience within the group. Something like, “I know these are different economic times, so I’m really just looking to be treated fairly in relation to my prospective peers at the company. I’m confident that over time your company will value my skills and contributions which will be reflected in my compensation.”

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