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When the Going Gets Tough: Handling Difficult Interview Questions

Sunday, April 20, 2008   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Robert Half Technology
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Wouldn't it be great if, before job interviews, hiring managers gave you the questions they planned to ask? You would know what to expect and could prepare your answers beforehand. The reality, however, is that employers want unrehearsed, candid responses from interviewees, so you're likely to be presented with challenging questions. But that doesn't mean you still can't prepare yourself in advance.

To make the right impression, you need to maintain perspective. Tough questions aren't asked to make applicants miserable. Companies just want to make sure you can thrive under stressful conditions ? which are common in today's busy IT environments ? and that you don't have any issues that might prevent you from succeeding on the job. Here are some examples of tough questions and ways to answer them appropriately:

Why should I hire you?
This is your opportunity to explain how your skills match the company's requirements. Consider something like, "Your job posting mentioned that you need a web developer who not only has solid JavaScript, XML and SOAP skills, but who also is able to work well as part of a team. I possess those technical abilities and received an award at my previous employer for being a team player. I also share your firm's commitment to innovation and like to continue learning new technologies so I can bring creative approaches to my work."

What are your salary expectations?
Ask what the salary range is for the position, but be ready in case you aren't given the information you need. Read salary surveys, government data and association reports in advance so you have an idea of what comparable jobs pay right now. That way, you can give a response that's in line with current standards.

Tell me about your worst boss.
How you talk about previous managers can go a long way toward defining you as a job candidate. You can jeopardize your chances if you seem overly angry or critical. You do need to discuss a negative point, but balance it out by highlighting something you learned from the relationship. For instance, you might mention that your supervisor was constantly behind closed doors and difficult to reach, but that you found it valuable to have mentors in the organization who could guide you when you couldn't get advice from your boss. You could even add that the experience strengthened your ability to work independently.

What are your weaknesses?
Be honest and brief, concentrating on a minor shortcoming that doesn't have a profound affect on job performance. For example, you might note that your penmanship is difficult to read, so you've learned to type out notes to people instead.

Most importantly, as you interview, take a deep breath and listen carefully. If a question is unclear, don't be afraid to ask for clarification, and if it's very complex, it's okay to pause before giving a thoughtful response. You'll help to give the best possible answers during challenging points in the interview.

Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support.

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