Interview Questions

30 Tricky Interview Questions

During the interview, you may be asked a variety of questions. There are no perfect answers, yet some thought and discussion about potentially tricky subjects can help you avoid disaster.


1. Tell me about yourself.
This is the classic opener and gives the interviewer time to size you up – if you let him or her. Give a brief overview of your career (prepared and rehearsed in advance), beginning with your education and taking him or her through key job changes. Add one or two major achievements and then turn the interview back to him or her with, “So I can better relate my experience to you, could you please tell me a little about your (company, department, etc.)?”

2. What is your opinion of the last company you worked for?

Stay neutral or positive, no negatives. Try to focus on situations in which you learned and/or contributed something.

3. Have you changed jobs frequently? Are you a job hopper?
Work out in advance a good rationale for your moves. People do change jobs and if your reasons are sound, say so. Try not to be defensive.

Some acceptable reasons: Reorganization (a new manager arrives and brings in her team), the company was in difficulty and had a massive lay off, a major contract or customer was lost resulting in loss of sales, the company was sold, you were offered a relocation that would have meant no apparent opportunity, or.

Reasons to avoid: Did not get along with employer or other people, did not like the management policies, passed over for an increase in salary, too much pressure, too much work, too much overtime, too many arguments, problems of health, personal problems interfering with work, or… Avoid long stories and negatives.

4. What salary are you looking for?
Stress opportunity and potential. A return question: “It’s hard to discuss salary without knowing more about the job or responsibilities.” Relate your experience to the range without being necessarily precise: “I think my experience would put me near the high end of your range, don’t you?” Do not volunteer information about your past salary.

5. What were you earning in your last job?
If you are in front of a recruiter, tell him or her your salary and total package. If you are in an interview, try to put the salary question aside. A good reply is, “I was reasonably compensated in my previous company but really do not wish to prejudice myself here by being too high or low. Can we delay this until after we have looked at all the aspects of your current need?” or “The recruiter represented me to this opportunity because I am in your range”.

6. Have you ever been fired?
If yes, have a good explanation worked out and tested with friends. “We had a change in general managers and although I had been doing a great job as you can see from my achievements, I was replaced by one of his former associates.


“The company decided to close down its Toronto operation and offered me a job in Cambridge. We would like to stay in this area so that’s why I’m looking around.”

7. Can you work under pressure?
Indicate that you can, and give them a few examples of how you have handled pressure in the past.

8. What did you think of your supervisor?
Whatever your true feelings, be positive. “She was the kind of person I could learn from.” or, “We were able to communicate well and things got done quickly.”

9. What is your greatest strength?
Think of your list of strengths and then tie each of them to an achievement. Then ask, “Is that the kind of quality that would help your company?”

10. What is your greatest weakness?
Think of your biggest weakness/Area of improvement and relate the area back to your strength. “I like to get things done quickly”. “Sometimes I get impatient, but I’m learning how to overcome this.”

11. How much do you know about our company?
You should have done your homework! Have you uncovered information about their products, sales, profits (or losses), news or personnel? Ask you recruiter for the companies web address prior to the interview.

12. Are you willing to relocate?
Do not pause – have your answer ready. “Yes, for the right opportunity. What did you have in mind?”

13. You have moved around. How long would you stay with us?
Again, this needs preparation. “I’m seeking a long-term opportunity where I can learn and develop. Does this come with the position we are discussing?” See question 3 for additional idea

14. What were your reasons for leaving each former job?
Think this out clearly. Be positive about discussing former companies. See Question 3 for additional ideas.

15. Do you have a drinking problem?
Believe it or not, some candidates have had this question. A possible answer might be: “No, is that a problem you have encountered previously?” If you have had a drinking problem in the past and are on the road to recovery, there is no sense in bringing it up, especially as the question referred to the present.

16. What kind of manager are you?
Have a few key examples tied to achievements that show your management capabilities. Then say, “Is that the kind of performance you are looking for?”

17. What motivates you?
Opportunity, growth, a chance to learn, environment, fair play, good compensation package… any others?

18. What do you not like to do?
A loaded question; A positive reply might be, “I’m the kind of person who does whatever is necessary to get the job done. When I do run into something disagreeable, I like to tackle it first and get it behind me. I have no particular dislikes.”

19. Would you compete against me for my job?
Take this one easy. “I would like to think that when you are promoted I could be a candidate for your position.”

20. Why have you left your present job?
You know you are going to get this one, so here’s your cue. Be positive. See Question 3.

21. Did you increase sales’ profits in your last job?
Here is your chance to elaborate on your best achievements. Try to include specific numbers. “Is that the kind of employee you seek?”

22. How did your boss, co-workers and subordinates get on with you?
Have some examples of the kind of team member you are. This is a good time to bring up that you are a non-political person.

23. Do you know how to motivate people?
This is a leadership question. Know what it takes to be a quality leader. In preparation, think of the best people you have worked for and list their attributes in leadership. Recognition and helping the people who depend on you often weigh as heavily in motivation as monetary reward.

One important key to being a great manager is to be able to delegate while maintaining control. If you can show some achievements demonstrating this ability, you are top management material.

24. What are your short, medium and long-term goals?
Tie your answer to goals that could conceivably be realized in the interviewing company. Limit your goals to just the short and medium range. Be realistic A good reply is oriented toward growth in one’s job through learning, experience and achievements.

25. Do you prefer working in small, medium or large companies?
Remember where you are when you answer. Be prepared to follow up with a reason.

26. Have you helped your company reduce costs?
Again, try to link the question to your achievements. Then add a question, “Are those kinds of savings of interest to you?”

27. What is the toughest job of being a manager?
A good reply is. “To surround myself with people who are better than I am in their individual specialties.”

28. Why do you want to work for our company?
Your reply could be based on their reputation for product, management, international scope, technology, or as a nice place to work and grow. Know their products, policies and potential for you. Do not respond, “The recruiter sent me, I am not looking!”

29. Why should we employ you?
If you know the job requirements, and match up some achievements, say, “If there are opportunities to do that and more here, then this is a great fit. What do you think?”

30. What do you look for in a new job?
Be careful! Better know a little about the company and the job you are after. If not, push in the direction of excellence based on former achievements.

In today’s technologically driven society ensure ALL cell phones pagers or other electronic devices are deactivated/turned off during the interview process.

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Sr. HR Business Advisor
Sr. HR Business Advisor, Petro-Chemical

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