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Top 10 interview questions and their hidden meaning

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression when it comes to job interviews. When you meet new people in a casual setting, such as a club or a school campus there is always a chance to make amends later if you had a rough start. People for the better part are willing to forgive and forget. Not so with HR managers. Their time is money and they won’t give you any clean slates. Once they’ve decided, the deal is sealed. There is no way to undo that.


Those who interview have an upper hand in everything. They see your resume and make certain assumptions even before they meet you face-to-face, and they know well how to depose a question to their own advantage. They are taught that, you see. And then there are job seekers, who have little to no valuable information about the future place of work (what you can find on a company’s website isn’t always all the truth; nice pics and clever captions are designed to attract you as a potential client, but don’t provide the peculiarities of what to expect as an employee), who are much less experienced in answering questions simply because they don’t do it that often, who are trying to prove themselves apt and worthy in the eyes of a stranger. Enough to scare away the bravest of us.

There are ways though to pass an interview with flying colors.

Do not take interviews lightly. Scan you resume answers to find any potential trails for an interviewer to get to you and destroy your plans. After you have practiced all possible scenarios with your resume, turn to the following top 10 interview questions that you will probably be asked by a HR manager. Learn to read between the lines when the questions are voiced. Some of them are aimed at discovering your character traits, while others – your professional skills. Depending on the position being sought you will be asked either all or some of these questions, so don’t mind the order.


#1 Why are you looking for a new job/place of job? (between the lines thought, – why are you so unhappy about your current job)

Choose your wording very carefully. No pouts or vivid examples of just how fairly you’ve been treated. Point out things that reflect your positive thinking even in the midst of crisis. Say things, like “I’d like to improve my skills at a job which requires more from me” or “I’d like to be rewarded for my additional training which I did after work hours in order to get a higher position”. There is always a silver lining.


#2 What reasons can you give us for applying to this particular job? (BTLT – what attracts you in this position primarily, what is your core motivation in trying to get this job)

Perhaps you shouldn’t begin with an amount that attracted you in the first place, even though everybody knows that money still is the main motivation for most people. Gather as much information about the position and the company prior to interview and incorporate it in your answer. Make it sound real. A mock interview with your friends or family members may work here. See if people believe what you are saying.


#3 How much would you like to be paid? (BTLT – what are you worth, what are your ambitions)

It’s tricky just because it’s awkward trying to estimate your own abilities. Research the market and stick to a medium figure that won’t shock either way, or name the figure which was stated by the employer. There’s little you can do to rock the pendulum in your favor, so just relax and don’t scare away your boss.


#4 Which one word best describes you? (BTLT – what’s your type, how confident are you, is your self-evaluation good enough for the job)

You are walking on a tight rope here. It’s easy to slip from being confident into pure bragging and from being modest into plain shy. Think of a word ahead of time and run it by some friends and relatives. The word should be directly related to your professionalism. Don’t say “creative” if you apply for an accountant.


#5 Sell this toothbrush to me. (BTLT – do you understand the sales philosophy)

A salesman who knows the trade will never start off with describing the goods. No matter how wonderful they may be, the reason a person buys something is because he/she sees the need to have it or the potential in using it in the future. So, before you plunge into the countless advantages of your product, ask questions to your client about his needs, his desires, about what he values the most in any product. Then you will be able to advertise your deal from the right angle. (BTW, why the toothbrush, not a pen, – it was a real question in my own experience J)


#6 Why do you think we should hire you? (BTLT – what are your priorities in doing the job, what do you value in yourself the most)

Avoid being overly general. Select the qualifications that best describe your professional side, like you would select finest fruit at a market. Words that have an odor or don’t look appealing should be left unspoken. Present yourself without bragging to be 100% fitting for the job.


#7 What would you do when your boss goes on a business trip? (BTLT – are you willing to take up responsibility and initiative in decision-making, are you capable of self-motivation)

Although some jobs may look like they are inseparable from the boss or other employers’ existence, you should be ready to give an articulate answer on what you’re going to do in case you are left on your own. When a boss or an entire department leaves for a team building event, they don’t mean for you to be an office-sitter or a security guard. So, be alert, people value the ability to stand up to unexpected tasks and step outside your box, so to say.


#8 What are your strong and weak points? (BTLT – what can you do to help the company’s success, or ruin it)

It may seem like an easy enough question, but in reality it’s pretty tricky. You shouldn’t contradict yourself, you should be honest but not wear your heart on your sleeve, you should think carefully which of your strong traits may be seen as disadvantages by some, and your weak points as totally unacceptable in those circles. Make sure your weak points aren’t in fact so weak (there’s no need to say that you are impatient or prone to fatigue after 6 pm). It’s best to put it this way – “I’d like to improve my ability to understand other people’s opinionated approaches” or “I’d like to be better at keeping my energy levels during overtime hours”.


#9 How would you deal with a conflict? (BTLT – are you service-oriented, are you a team player)

Try to present a clear plan of restoring any relationship (with a client or a colleague). It doesn’t help saying that he/she should come to me first for reconciliation and then I’ll see what I can do about that. Be nice. People live those hard lives just like yourself. Remember, you are not all that perfect either J 


#10 Describe your highest achievement in life. (BTLT – what’s been your maximum so far, how dedicated are you)

Be as detailed as you can here. It’s important to show your interest in the job and your reliability, as well as if there is room for growth.


Of course, the list is not exhaustive, there are so many more ways to catch you unawares, so don’t let yourself relax even if the questions sound familiar and you feel confident. You might be watched from a window as you go out and let your shoulders droop ‘cause you think the interview’s gone wrong and you feel discouraged or simply ‘cause that’s how you usually walk! Keep the game up till you are well out of sight. They may even ask a receptionist if you were polite with her or in what manner you talked on the phone with your spouse while waiting in a lobby. You never know.