15 tricky job interview questions and how to answer them

CIO
Sharon Florentine

Tough job interview questions and how to answer them

If you want to be prepared for your next interview, you need to practice. But don't ignore seemingly innocuous questions because you think they're no-brainers; sometimes the most benign questions can make or break your chances of landing a role. Here are the 15 trickiest interview questions and how to nail your answers.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

This seems like a no-brainer, but it's trickier than you think. You don't want to start waxing poetic about your knitting hobby or your cat; nor do you want to launch into an unabridged employment history, says Rick Gillis, job search strategist, consultant, speaker and author of Job! and Promote! Your work doesn't speak for itself. You do.

Gillis recommends an accomplishments-based resume that highlights the top four most impactful achievements to catch the eye of hiring managers; this is where you have the chance to talk those through in more depth.

"You want to show instances in the past where you've made a company money or saved a company money. Give a concise and compelling pitch about how you've added value," Gillis says. Then, you can segue into how those accomplishments and experiences uniquely qualify you for the role.

2. How did you hear about the position?

This is another question that seems benign, but is actually quite loaded. Since most employers feel referrals make the best hires, here's where you should play up your connections to the company, says Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace. The recent Active Job Seeker Dilemma survey, from Future Workplace, a research firm and workforce management consultancy and Beyond.com, a career and hiring marketplace, polled 4,347 U.S. job seekers and 129 HR professionals and found 71 percent of HR pros surveyed felt referrals were the best way to find candidates. Leveraging your network also signals to a potential employer that you have the necessary soft skills to succeed, Schawbel says.

"[Communication, networking and teamwork] are skills that you need not just on the job, but for your entire life. People have to understand how this works -- it doesn't have to be a family member or a good friend, just someone you know. Figure out how to get some common ground and set up a lunch or a coffee date with them. Leverage that relationship to figure out how you can work together," he says.

If you learned of the position through an event or article, or if you stumbled on the listing randomly, explain what it was about the position that caught your eye and why you're the perfect candidate to fill the role.
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