Answering Tough Questions

When you’re in an interview, it’s likely that the interviewer will throw you a curve ball somewhere along the way. The point of tough questions is not to see how smart you are, but rather to see how you think on your feet and how quickly you can come up with a reasonable answer.

You can find lots of stories online about crazy interview questions—Appendix J of my book lists typical questions as well as some of the odd ones encountered, such as “If you could be a beverage, what type of beverage would you be?” and “How tall do you think this building is?” But for the most part, interviewers will ask questions that have a genuine purpose and that can help them make decisions about your suitability for a particular job.

Some of those tough, but legitimate, questions have to do with things such as your strengths and weaknesses, and if you’ve taken the advice in my book (in Step 1: Identify Your Skills and Strengths and in Tip 45 Prepare for difficult questions), you will know how to handle those. But another question that you may be asked is “Why are you the best person for the job?” Vicki Salemi, writing for U.S. News and World Report suggests that there are three components to a good response to this common question.

1. “Succinctly and enthusiastically restate your qualifications.”

You may feel that you have already demonstrated the ways that your skills and experience match the job description, but say it again. And the important word here is “succinctly.” Find ways to tie your skills to the specific needs of the organization, using key words and providing examples of things you have done that are closely related to the tasks required for this position.

2. “Highlight your soft skills.”

Employers want to hire people who have general skills in addition to the specific education and experience for a particular job. That is, they want people who are good communicators, work well on a team, can solve problems, are organized, and can manage their time. Focus on your strengths in these areas in the interview.

3. “Bring it back to them.”

What Salemi means by this is that you have to keep in mind that the interview really is all about what the employer wants and needs. By reiterating what they need, as you see it, and then showing how you fill those needs, you encourage them to ask themselves why they WOULDN’T hire someone who seems so right for the job. They won’t be hiring you because you need a job or have a lot of college loans to repay, they will hire you if they think you can solve a problem (or, preferably, an assortment of problems) for them. So be the person who can identify and solve the problems and you’ll be more likely to become the person who gets the job.