If you've ever sat through a job interview, chances are you've wished for smart answers to the dumb questions that always seem to be asked.

One of the things I work on when I consult with clients is knowing how to reframe a question to get to the answer you want to communicate.

In an interview, that means remembering that the interviewer is likely looking for someone who can solve problems, who has good interpersonal skills and the ability to get things done using good judgment and effectiveness.

With that in mind, here are some smart answers to those stupid interview questions.

1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Don't fall into the trap of recounting your whole life story; keep your response (to this and every question) concise and clear. This is your elevator pitch, your chance to sell yourself. Focus on professional accomplishments instead of personal details.

2. Why should we hire you over the other applicants? How can you compare yourself to people you don't even know? Say, "I don't know why you should hire others, but I do know why you should hire me," then highlight your strengths and your talents. Let them know how you will bring value and contribute.

3. What's your greatest weakness? The smart way to answer this ever-present question is to turn it into a positive--but not the old chestnut about being a perfectionist. Instead, say, "I'm sure I have weaknesses, but I am a person who concentrates on strength and bringing quality and excellence to all I do. When a weakness presents itself, I work through it and leverage it by concentrating on my strengths."

4. What would you like me to know about you that's not on your resume? There are lots of stupid ways to answer this curveball. A smart response: "I have the right mix of interpersonal and work-related skills to be successful. I am good at doing what this job requires, and I also bring a personality that will do well in this position. I'm friendly, I enjoy collaborating and working with others." Finish it off with a story of how your skills and attitude made a difference.

5. How honest are you? No one is ever going to confess that they lie or cheat or steal. Give a straightforward statement of your high ethical standards, and offer your references as backup.

6. How would you describe yourself in three words? Most people will jump to the obvious answers: team player, results oriented, problem solver. This is stupid question because it tends to put people into boxes they don't want to be in. Think of the qualities that set you apart--and after each word, give a concise explanation. Use it to show off your unique qualifications and your communication skills.

7. If you could be a superhero, what super powers would you want to get? Don't allow your face to show how stupid this question is. Give a brief answer, tied to your professional strengths if possible, and move on.

8. Why do you want to work here? Even if the honest answer is "because I need a job," use this stupid question to your advantage by aligning yourself with something the organization does. Keep it as close to the company's stated mission as possible for bonus points.

9. Why did you leave your current employer? Resist the urge to say "Because I hated my boss." Keep it vague and positive: "I've outgrown my opportunities there and am looking for a new opportunity to be part of a great team."

10. Can you tell me about a time you've clashed with your last manager? Don't take the bait! Remind yourself that this is a test and to pass it you have to be smart. Let the interviewer know that there are always times when people clash, but there is always a way to work through things. If you tell a story, make it mild and with a happy ending. Stay positive and focused on communication and moving forward through conflict.

11. What would your last boss say about you? Again, stay brief and positive: "I would hope my boss would say I work hard and am a great learner. I know I've learned a lot from her mentorship."

12. Where do you see yourself in five years? Talk about your commitment to your career, your drive for constantly improving your value to the organization and your passion for doing an excellent job in whatever role you're assigned. Don't talk about your goals or dreams--they don't want to hear it. They want to know you are going to be an asset for them.

Published on: Oct 10, 2016
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