How To Answer Five Tough Interview Questions

Interviewing is tough and there is added pressure to do well because you really want the job.  You don’t interview everyday, so it only makes sense that you have to spend time preparing. You are preparing, right?

Practicing how you are going to articulate your skills and experience is a great start but there is more you need to do.  Are you prepared to talk about some of the red flags on your resume?  Do you know you have red flags?  Are you prepared to explain why you left jobs or were asked to leave?  How about discussing salary?  Here is a list of tough interview questions and how you should answer them:

  • How do your skills/experience in ABC industry translate to XYZ industry?:  Are you moving from financial services into healthcare?  Publishing into IT?  If you are making a move from one industry to another where industry knowledge is an advantage, be prepared to discuss how your experience and knowledge translates.  Really all employers want to know is if you are going to ramp up quickly or lag behind.  You should even be prepared to discuss industry trends to demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Why have you been unemployed for months/years?:  Employment gaps are a red flag.  Prospective employers want to make sure your performance will meet or exceed expectations and you will be a good fit for their culture.  Be honest when you answer but be succinct.  Talk at a high level about being burned out and taking time off or personal matters that kept you out of the workforce.  Discuss the difficulties of the job search and how you have persevered over the two years and you will bring that determination into this role.  Own it but don’t be defensive.
  • Have you ever been terminated?: Honesty is always the best policy since lying is grounds for termination.  There is no shame in being terminated for cause, especially if you learned something from it.  I always advise clients to turn a negative into a positive.  Here is an example from one of my clients,  “Yes, I was terminated for acting unprofessionally.  I am confident I didn’t act in this manner and that instead, it was a personality clash with my manager which led to the separation.   I have never been terminated before or since during my 15 year career.  It is because of this experience I am more diligent about ensuring there is a culture fit.”
  • Why have you had five jobs in six years?: Job hopping is a red flag because most employers assume you are flaky or a poor performer.  It costs a lot of money to recruit and train new hires, so employers are understandably worried about bringing new hires that will leave in a year.  Turn this negative into a positive by highlighting contributions you made in these roles, articulating how these experiences have given you industry and organizational insight you can bring to your new employer and driving home the point that you are lookign for long-term employment.  Don’t be afraid to provide a quick summary about reasons for short-term employment.  Maybe the roles were contract positions, you were a victim of a reorganization or there was an issue with culture.
  • What are your salary requirements?  Many candidates don’t like to answer this question directly for fear of talking themselves out of the job before they have really had a chance to consider it. Decide whether you want to lay out your salary requirements up front or give a general answer.  There is no right or wrong way, it will depend on your situation.  Here are word tracks if you perfer to defer:   “My previous compensation package and job responsibilities probably differ from this opportunity, so I would like to discuss the job expectations and then discuss the fair market value with you,” or “Because I would consider the overall opportunity and compensation package, including benefits and bonus, my requirements are flexible.”

The toughest questions you’ll face are usually the ones you don’t anticipate.  Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes and look at your resume.  What are some of the questions you might ask yourself?

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