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10 TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Getting interviewed for your first job is certainly one of the most uncomfortable
events in one’s life. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and
quickness of mind as one does for a fencing tournament of chess match. Even a
solid academic background, spiced with an impeccable extra-curricular record,
can fail to impress if you can’t wield the bat properly to face the verbal googlies
and bouncers. Some of these seemingly simple posers can actually leave you
stumped unless you are familiar with them ahead of time. Check out these tough
questions and the suggested answers if you want to avoid an interview disaster.

1. TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF: This is really a tricky question. All of us


love to talk about ourselves and its is difficult to decide where to stop.
What is too much and what is too little? Since this is often the opening
question, be extra careful that you don’t run off at the mouth. Remember,
this is likely to be a warm-up question. Says Anurag Bhartia, Senior Vice
President, human resources, Max New York Life Insurance, “keep it as
brief as possible, not exceeding 50-55 seconds. Share those details of
your personal and professional life that are not mentioned in the resume.”
Rahul Reddy, Director of Triumphant Institute of Management Education
(TIME), Calcutta, a training institute, says, “It is an opportunity to talk of
one’s strength and achievements. One should mention both functional
knowledge (accounting, sales) as well as general skills such as
determination, teamwork, integrity and time management.

Suggested Answer: “I love adventure sports, so I like taking up


challenges.” Give examples.

2. WHAT DO YOU KNO0W ABOUT OUR ORGANIZATION: A common


question, this can prove to be problematic as in the zeal to show how
thorough his research is, a candidate can end up boring or overwhelming
the interviewer with too many details. Let your answer show that you have
taken the time to do some research and make it clear that you wish to
learn more. Says Reddy, “Researching the organization one is being
interviewed for is critical and yet very few candidates bother to do so. It is
like discussing a marriage proposal with no clue about the groom and his
family. Sources of information may include the Internet, friends working
for the organization and even the people at the reception.”

Suggested Answer: “I have read everything that is in the public domain.


I know that this organization believes in equal opportunity (any other
specific information that is the USP of the firm) and is the leader in its
segment. That is why I’am here to learn more.”
3. WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR US THAT SOMEONE ELSE CAN’T? Here
you have every right, and perhaps obligation, to toot your own horn. Talk
about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your
resume or list of career accomplishments. Bhartia advises, “Read the
question as ‘why should we hire you.’ Link your past experience and
accomplishments to what you bring to the table and in turn to this
organization.” The problem is we are not as unique as we think we are.
“Hence please give examples of strengths and be prepared to discuss
these examples in depth.” Says Amal Banerjee, Chief operating office of
Calcutta based information and network security firm iViZ Security.
Banerjee has been volleying questions across the table to nervous
candidates for more than three decades.

Suggested Answer: “I’m good at coming up with innovative answers to


difficult-to-solve problems. For example, when I was part of the college
fest organizing committee, we couldn’t afford to put up a shamiana and
build a huge stage. So we decided to hold the fest at night and do away
with the shamiana. That became the USP of the fest.”

4. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR US? Here, and throughout the
interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that
you can speak in terms of the company’s needs. You might say that your
research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be
involved with, and that it’s doing them in ways that greatly interest you.
Reddy cautions, “An irony of life is that the more desperately you want a
job, the more difficult it is get one. So, do not appear desperate in any
manner. One way is to focus of the points that an organization is most
proud of, the key achievements as mentioned in the advertisements and
website.”

Suggested Answer: “Because I’d love to be part of a company that has


invested a substantial amount in research and development of eco-friendly
industrial processes.”

5. HOW LONG WOULD YOU STAYN WITH US? Just as one does not go
into a marriage thinking of a future divorce, similarly it is not possible to
say how long you would be staying at an organization. “Explain how you
are exploring the organization for a long-term career and not just for a job
option. Also, state the factors which will aid you completing a long tenure
in the organization,” says Bhartia. A resume showing a lot of job hopping
can reflect poorly on a candidate’s consistency. Make sure that you have
strong reasons to back up why you quit your prior job/jobs. “Honesty is
what matters. A candidate who is candid about why he quit his earlier
workplace and talks about his future plans wins brownie points for his
honesty,” says Banerjee.
Suggested Answer: “I’m looking for a career in this organization, not just
a job. If I continue growing and am justly rewarded for my contribution,
there is no reason I would not have a long association with this company.”

6. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A JOB? Acording to Bhartia, “Factors


can range from the scope of role, significance of fuction within the
organization to opportunities to learn and grow.” It is better to keep your
answer oriented to opportunities at the organization. Talk about your
desire to perform and be recognized for your contributions. Do not harp
on personal security.

Suggested Answer: “It should be challenging, give me the opportunity to


contribute significantly and bring recognition for my work.”

7. WHAT DO YOU FEEL THIS POSITION SHOULD PAY? Salary is a


delicate topic. If you are asked the question during an initial screening
interview, you might say that you fee you need to know more about the
position’s responsibilities before you could vie a meaningful answer. Don’t
sell yourself short, but continue to stress that fact that the job itself is the
most important thing in your mind. Link questions of salary to the work
itself.

Suggested Answer: “It should justify the contribution of the role and be
in line with industry standards.”

8. HOW WILL YOU WIN OVER A COLLEAGUE NOT WELL DISPOSED


TOWARDS YOU? Diplomacy is the name of the game here. Watch
politicians, beauty pageant winners and you will come with all the right
things to say.

Banerjee, the veteran of many years, advises, “Say that you would have a
talk with the other person. There might be reasons why he does not like
you. Show that you are willing to go that colleague and keep the channels
of communication open.”

Suggested Answer: “I would be willing to go that colleague and talk it


out. He or she may have misunderstood something I said, leading to his
or her dislike. Airing the problem is the first step to solving it.”

9. HOW SUCCESSFUL DO YOU THINK YOU’VE BEEN SO FAR? Present


a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don’t overstate your case.
The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence. Reddy
advises candidates to “be specific, give examples and datga wherever
possible. Highlight your achievements in the best possible way but do not
lie.”
Suggested Answer: “I have always delivered on time and, oftener than
not, more than expected. In my last position….”. Give a concrete
example.

10. YOUR RESUME SUGGESTS THAT YOU MAY BE OVERQUALIFIED


OR TOO EXPERIENCED FOR THIS POSITION. WHAT’S YOUR
OPINION? This can be a dangerous question. Trying to justify your
selection, you might end up blowing your trumpet or underselling yourself.
Says Bhartia, “This rate question may be asked to create stress and
gauge its resistance. Calmly justify how you fit the role offered.”

However, if you feel genuinely overqualified then reconsider the decision.


“Otherwise talk about learning and exposure and say that you are looking
at performance-based growth from that position,” is what Reddy has to
say.

Suggested Answer: “I think I’m qualified for this position. And I expect
to grow in this company, and then I’ll need the experience. Also, I might
have the degree but this job will give me the exposure that matters.”

From the moment you learn you are invited to an interview, preparation should
be your priority. After all, that upcoming interview could change the entire course
of your life.

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