What Recruiters Want: Tackling the Toughest Interview Questions

January 6, 2012 | By Laci Lawrence

You made it.  Your resume and cover letter were perfect, and now you are sitting in the hot seat at the office of your dreams.  No pressure, but things can all go south in a matter of minutes if you haven’t prepared for difficult interview questions.  Check out the five difficult questions below and how to best answer them in an intelligent and concise manner.       

1. Tell me about yourself.  Many interviews begin with this softball of a question, so be prepared with a short and applicable answer.  You should create a one-minute elevator speech that pertains to how your qualifications align with the potential job and employer.  Do not dredge up some anecdote about your childhood unless you can successfully tie it to the job.

2. What is your five-year plan?  If you are just entering the job market, you might not have a clear plan.  Or, even worse, the job you are interviewing for may not fall within your ideal five-year plan.  How should you answer this question?  One thing is clear: never say that you hope to be in the same job at the end of the five years.  Show some ambition and tell the employer you want to advance in the company because you believe in the company’s goals and ideals.  Demonstrate your dedication to the company by explaining how you will use your experience to improve the company’s image and bottom line.

3. You seem to change careers frequently.  Why should I hire you?  If you are attempting to make a career change, this question will surely be asked by an employer.  It’s best to explain how your previous employment provided you with a diverse and unique skill set that qualifies you for the present job.   Pick three skills from your previous work and describe how those qualities translate to the current job.  If you have a compelling and applicable story of why you are changing careers, tell the recruiter why you are passionate about the new job and company.

4. Why do you want to work for us? This is another softball question that can become a foul ball if you answer “Because I want to help people” or “Because I am the best candidate.”  You should really capitalize on this question by doing your homework on the company before the interview.  Give a specific example of an ongoing project at the company and how you are uniquely qualified to address that task.  Your answers should be tailored to the company’s current projects as much as possible.  This tells the employer that you are already “in the know” about the organization.

5. You don't have much experience in this field.  What qualifies you for this position?  Raise your hand if you hate this question.  How do you gain experience if everyone only hires people with experience?  Never fear, there is an answer for you.  Mention your good grades and any applicable school experience that relates to the job.  Most importantly, discuss how you want to learn the ropes at the company because of your dedication to its main goals. Tell the employer about your drive and determination to become a key player at the company.  Don’t forget to subtly mention that your starting salary will be lower than a more experienced person. What you may lack in experience you can make up in determination.

So there you have it.  Before walking into the interview, think about how to adopt these suggestions and craft your own answers.  Remember that recruiters will be interviewing multiple candidates for the job, and your polished and prepared answers will immediately set you apart from other candidates.  Getting the interview shows that you already demonstrated the qualifications for the job.  Now sell your personality and determination with excellent responses!