1) Are you the best person for this job? Why?
A typical interview question, asked to get your opinion, or to validate the interviewer’s opinion, on why you would be the best candidate for the position, is “Why should we hire you?”
The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company and the position.
2) Are you overqualified for this job?
Joyce Lain Kennedy is the nation’s first syndicated careers columnist. Her work is distributed by Tribune Media Services and appears in more than 100 newspapers and web sites. In addition, Joyce is author of eight career-related books including Job Interviews for Dummies, where you can read additional excellent interview advice, Cover Letters for Dummies and Resumes for Dummies.
Keep in mind that you can customize these answers to fit your particular circumstances and the job you are applying for.
Joyce Lain Kennedy’s sample answers to the interview question “Are you overqualified for this job?”
- Overqualified? Some would say that I’m not overqualified but fully qualified. With due respect, could you explain the problem with someone doing the job better than expected?
- Fortunately, I’ve lived enough years to have developed the judgment that allows me to focus on the future. Before we speak of past years, past titles and past salaries, can we look at my strengths and abilities and how I’ve stayed on the cutting edge of my career field, including its technology?
- I hope you’re not concerned that hiring someone with my solid experience and competencies would look like age bias if once on the job you decided you’d made a mistake and I had to go. Can I present a creative idea? Why don’t I work on a trial basis for a month — no strings — which would give you a chance to view me up close? This immediately solves your staffing problem at no risk to you. I can hit the floor running and require less supervision than a less experienced worker. When can I start?
- I was proud to be a charge nurse but I really like getting back to working with patients.
- I’m flattered that you think I’m headhunter bait and will leap to another job when an offer appears. Not really. This job is so attractive to me that I’m willing to sign a contract committing to stay for a minimum of 12 months. There’s no obligation on your part. How else can I convince you that I’m the best person for this position?
- I’m here because this is a company on the move and I want to move up with you. With more than the minimal experience to just skim by, I offer immediate returns on your investment. Don’t you want a winner with the skill sets and attitudes to do just that?
- My family’s grown. And I am no longer concerned with title and salary — I like to keep busy. A reference check will show I do my work on time, and do it well as a team member. I’m sure we can agree on a salary that fits your budget. When can we make my time your time?
- Downsizings have left generational memory gaps in the workforce and knowledge doesn’t always get passed on to the people coming up. I could be an anchor or mentor — calm, stable, reliable and providing day-to-day continuity to the younger team. For my last employer, I provided the history of a failed product launch to a new marketing manager, who then avoided making the same mistakes.
- As you note, I’ve worked at a higher level but this position is exactly what I’m looking for. You offer opportunity to achieve the magic word: balance. I’m scouting for something challenging but a little less intense so I can spend more time with my family.
- Salary is not my top priority. Not that I have a trust fund but I will work for less money, will take direction from managers of any age, will continue to stay current on technology and will not leave you in the lurch if Hollywood calls to make me a star. And I don’t insist that it’s my way or the highway.
3) Describe a difficult experience at work and how you handled it.
There is no right or wrong answer to questions like “What are the most difficult decisions to make?” or “Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.” These are behavioral interview questions designed to discover how you handled certain situations. The logic behind these type of questions is that how you behaved in the past is a predictor of what you will do in the future.
Give concrete examples of difficult situations that actually happened at work. Then discuss what you did to solve the problem. Keep your answers positive (“Even though it was difficult when Jane Doe quit without notice, we were able to rearrange the department workload to cover the position until a replacement was hired.”) and be specific. Itemize what you did and how you did it.
The best way to prepare for questions where you will need to recall events and actions, is to refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You can use them to help frame responses. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.
4) Describe yourself.
You walk into the interview room, shake hands with your interviewer and sit down with your best interviewing smile on. Guess what their first question is? “Tell me about yourself.”
Do you “wing it” and actually tell all manner of things about yourself? Will you spend the next 5 minutes rambling on about what an easy-going, loyal, dedicated, hard working employee you’ve been? If this is the case, you stand a good chance of having bored your interviewer to death thus creating a negative first impression.
Because it’s such a common interview question, it’s strange that more candidates don’t spend the time to prepare for exactly how to answer it. Perhaps because the question seems so disarming and informal, we drop our guard and shift into ramble mode. Resist all temptation to do so.
Your interviewer is not looking for a 10-minute dissertation here. Instead, offer a razor sharp sentence or two that sets the stage for further discussion and sets you apart from your competitors.
Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Give them “your synopsis about you” answer, specifically your Unique Selling Proposition. Known as a personal branding or a value-added statement, the USP is a succinct, one-sentence description of who you are, your biggest strength and the major benefit that a company will derive from this strength. Here is an example of a Unique Selling Proposition: “I’m a seasoned Retail Manager strong in developing training programs and loss prevention techniques that have resulted in revenue savings of over $2.3Million for (employer’s name) during the past 11 years.”
What a difference you’ve made with this statement. Your interviewer is now sitting forward in her chair giving you her full attention. At this point, you might add the following sentence: “I’d like to discuss how I might be able to do something like that for you.” The ball is now back in her court and you have the beginnings of a real discussion and not an interrogation process.
The key is that you must lead with your strongest benefit to the employer. Be specific and don’t wander about with some laundry list of skills or talents. Be sure to put a monetary value on your work if at all possible and be ready with details when you’re called upon. Give an estimated value to the $$ you’ve either helped to make or save for your employer.
When you walk into an interview, remember to always expect the “tell me about yourself” question. Prepare ahead of time by developing your own personal branding statement that clearly tells who you are, your major strength and the clear benefit that your employer received. The advantages of this approach are that you’ll quickly gain their attention and interest them in knowing more. You’ll separate yourself from your competitors. You’ll also have a higher chance of being positively remembered and hired.
5) Describe your best boss and your worst boss.
With the question “Who was your best boss and who was the worst?” the interviewer is trying to discover if you assess blame or carry a grudge.
- I’ve learned from each boss I’ve had. From the good ones, what to do, from the challenging ones – what not to do.
- Early in my career, I had a mentor who helped me a great deal, we still stay in touch. I’ve honestly learned something from each boss I’ve had.