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Job Interviewers' Trick Questions

About to go on a job interview?

Good thing you took a minute to read this first. Because most interviewers booby trap the process with a few trick questions. Still, if you see them coming, you can turn trick questions to your advantage.

Here are some of the most common trick interview questions, and strategies for answering them:

  • "Tell us about yourself?" Many interviewers open with this query. It's vague, and potentially maddening. After all, who could possibly summarize themselves in an hour, much less in a minute -- which is all you should take to answer this question. The key is to cast yourself in terms of the job you're seeking. Filter down your life to the essentials that prepared you for this position. State them confidently and concisely.

  • "Can you tell us about your strengths?" This is a more challenging question than it would seem. Your job is to edit down your list of strong points to the ones that are relevant to the job you're applying for. Avoid clichés ("I'm a people person") and offer concrete examples to back up the characteristics you list.

  • "What are your weak points?" Although this question seems to beg for a joke, take it seriously. Prepare a story about a minor weakness and how you overcame it in your last job. The key is to prove that you're in the habit of turning negatives into positives.

  • "Why did you quit your last position?" Resist the temptation to go negative about a former employer, even if the situation was dreadful. Explain, instead, that you are looking for a better opportunity for career growth. Be prepared to get specific about just what type of growth you're looking for and how it applies to the job you're interviewing for.

  • "What did you like least about your last job?" Your interviewers are fishing for information as to why not to hire you. Don't give them any. Prepare an answer about a problem task that you didn't like in your last job, but which wouldn't be part of your job at this company. Give the story a positive spin and relate how you overcame your dislike through perseverance.

  • "What are your career goals in the next five years?" Say that you'd like to be in a position a few steps up from the one your interviewing for. Don't go wide-eyed and babble about your far flung dreams. Be rational and realistic. Tell interviewers what they want to hear -- that you can see a future for yourself within their company.


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