At long last, you have finally been selected for a job interview. After spending hour after hour tweaking your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile--editing for grammar and spelling mistakes, adjusting formatting, and more--your hard work has paid off and recruiters want to learn more about you directly.
But just because you have been given an interview slot, does not mean you're guaranteed the job. Not by a long shot. As career expert Dr. Thomas Denham explains, "The interview is an elimination process. The employer is trying to weed out those who are not the most worthy of the position."
Even if you're typically great at answering questions, it will be nerve-racking to respond if the interviewer throws you a curveball. Here are five particularly tricky questions you may face during an interview, and how to respond in ways that will make it clear you're the best person for the job.
"What salary do you think you deserve?"
This is an important question to answer, surely, but don't answer it right away. In fact, it's in your interest to turn the question around. "The person who states the salary is the loser," states Denham, who says you the run the risk of throwing out a number less than what the employer was planning on paying. Let the employer give a range first, and choose a number higher than the provided median.
"What didn't you like about your last job?"
Don't use this question as a chance to talk about the problems with your previous employer or to badmouth them. Instead, concentrate on the positive--your desire to use the skills you have learned in your current and previous jobs in a new position. Consider talking about how your experiences have taught you where and how you truly shine, and in what ways that will benefit your new employer.
"What is your biggest weakness?"
No need to actually admit any weaknesses you have that are not related to the job you're after. You should think twice before saying something like "I'm too detail-oriented" or "I work too hard." Denham suggests responding with, "I have a tendency to say yes and get over-committed." Make sure you discuss a specific area you're improving on or give an example of how you're working on prioritizing if you respond with Denham's recommendation. Always talk up your strengths.
"Where do you see yourself in 3 to 5 years?"
When asked this question, the worst move you can make is to admit that you have no clue. Says Denham, "It's basically like saying, 'I have no idea what I'm doing with my life and I have no idea how long I'll stay with this job." To the hiring manager, this is not a good look. Instead, underline your commitment to this career and how you want to continue building it with this position.
"Why should I hire you?"
Says Denham, "Go back to your resume and look through it for the three to five things that make you outstanding." Then repeat those three to five things to the interviewer if and when they ask why they should hire you. According to Denham, your prospective employer assumes that "past performance is always the best predictor of future performance." So help them believe the same for you--that your great past performance will predict future great performance when they hire you.