My last post on interview questions focused on those questions you should ask your interviewer. 

Everyone prepares for the basic interview questions — here are the ones that come out of left field and cause you to stumble. Or as I say, “The ones that bite you on the butt.”

Here they are:

1. How do you handle stress and pressure?

This is a big one – not only do they want to know if you can – but they also want to know some instances when you have encountered stress/pressure and prevailed. Get your stories together and prepare to use them to cover this question.

2. Why do you want this job?

This one cuts to the chase – it will tell the interviewer if you are just playing the field or if you are REALLY serious about the position. Be sincere and show them your enthusiasm for what you do, for the company they work for, and the potential of the two coming together.

3. Why should we hire you?

A blatant frontal assault on your abilities and experience. Keep smiling and take it on as a challenge – relate your background and successes as they align with the position and company. Use a shopping list technique – list off and count on your fingers all the reasons why you are the PERFECT candidate. Your assertiveness and enthusiasm should drive the day.

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

Most of all stay positive with your answer. Don’t kill the company, industry, boss . . . anything. In fact, blame yourself — tell them it’s time for you to move on to bigger challenges and to begin to stretch your abilities. If you can also build in the attractiveness of the current company your interviewing with — so much the better.

5. Why are you better than anyone else?

This is where you have to throw off the shackles of bad self esteem and BRAG. You need to be assertive in your answers and clearly show why the combination of your experience and talents make you their only correct choice. BE BOLD!

6. What do you do in your spare time?

Get ready for this one. They are really trying to find out who you REALLY are. Are you active/sedentary, do you educate yourself, are you a member of groups, are you a leader, are you enthusiastic, do you fit in with other organizations? Make sure you align with the company culture and structure. If you are interviewing with Eastern Mountain Sports, they don’t want to hear you like to curl up with a good book by the fire. They want to hear your last camping trip on a mountain.

7. If we offer you the position, will you take it?

This is a really bad question, but they do ask it. I always tell my clients to answer, “It depends on a number of criteria we agree on.”  You don’t want to sound too excited about the position, but then again, you don’t want to sound to relaxed about it either. Another answer is to ask a question, “Are you offering me the position?” That gets their attention.

8. Where else are you looking and why do we stand out in your set of choices?

Never be specific here. Don’t name names or companies — stay general and present the image that you are a hot property on the market. You can use terms like, “I have asked to meet with a number of executives in the industry.” or “I have a number of irons in the fire — some are hot and some are smoldering.” To the stand out question, give them some props — “You stand out very high in my search — it would be an honor and privilege to work here.”

9. Are there any reasons why you wouldn’t take this job if it were offered?

Again, never be specific here. They are baiting you — waiting for a response to trip you up, make you look like you are a ‘glass-half-full’ person, or a major faux-pas. A great answer to this question is: “Honestly, at this point, NO — but as we get deeper into the hiring process, I might have additional questions.” Or you can hit them hard again and ask, “Are you offering me the job?” Not only does it serve back the question with a well-placed backhand, they then need to respond.