Tough Interview Questions and How to Overcome Them

Tough Interview Questions and How to Overcome Them

Tough Interview Questions and How to Overcome Them

Chances are you’ll be presented with tough interview questions. How you answer them might determine whether or not you get the job. Here’s a guide to help you overcome them.  

The interviewer has a vested interest in protecting their company. Don’t lose sight of why he or she asks the questions he asks. He or she will ask you questions to identify discrepancies in your employment history, red flags, or limitations in your skills or abilities to do the job. Let’s say, for example, you took time off of work to open a business or took maternity leave to raise a child. That gap in employment on your resume might raise a red flag.  

Do you have a good reason for it? Do you know how to answer these types of questions? Questions such as these are difficult to answer for most people, and many candidates respond by rambling on. Know how to respond to these critical questions.

There are three steps involved in answering typical interview questions:


1) Understand what the interviewer wants to find out. He or she might have an agenda for the interview. They might be wondering if you are dependable, able to adapt, or a team player.


2) Don’t give too much information. Saying less is actually better. Only answer questions you are asked. Present the answer in a way that is to your “best” advantage.


3) Take your time and respond to questions asked. If you know what they are looking for, you can respond by selling the skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the employee’s concerns.

Here are some tough questions:

  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • Your education does not match with the requirements of the position. Why did you apply for the position?
  • What are your compensation expectations?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Why were you fired from your last job?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • There appears to be a gap in employment from X date to Y date, is there a reason for that?
  • Your background doesn’t exactly match the job description, why did you apply for this job?

Having answers to these questions is going to be important. You don’t want to come across in the interview as ill prepared, or hesitate to find answers to these questions.

It’s important to know that some employers are more likely to hire someone who presents him or herself well, rather than a candidate with extensive credentials. The safest way to answer questions is to emphasize your strongest personal strengths, backing them up with examples that demonstrate your value to the company.


How to Handle Salary Requests

How to Handle Salary Requests

How to Handle Salary Requests

What is your salary requirement, or compensation expectation? A commonly asked question by interviewers. Here’s a good way to handle those requests. 

Most job seekers don’t know how to respond when an employer requests a salary history to be submitted with a resume. Nobody wants to price themselves out of a job, but by the same token you do not want to give the employer the opportunity to offer you less than the going rate for the position. Your response to a request for a salary history is best handled in your cover letter. The question should be addressed at the end of the letter, after you’ve highlighted your skills, background, accomplishments, experience and interest in the position. 

What are your salary requirements?

Once an employer has determined that a candidate is the right fit for the company, the next step is determining the financial feasibility for both parties. Interviewers might ask how much money the candidate makes in their current position. This is a straightforward question and should be answered without hesitation.


Tip: It’s best to let the employer know that you will consider the entire compensation package, including benefits, healthcare, 401K, tuition reimbursement, etc. Also, make sure that the employer is aware you will consider cost of living indexes (if relocation is involved), commuting time, and other factors such as quality of life.


The Salary Game: What Are You Worth?
As you prepare yourself to go into the second interview, chances are you will probably be discussing salary. Most people seeking a job get uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money. The bottom line is most people want to make sure they get a fair salary. 

There are many cases where people start working without ever knowing what they will be paid because they feel a job is better than not having one. Often people fear discussing a salary because they are afraid the employer will withdraw the offer of employment. Knowing ahead of time what the compensation arrangements are eliminates problems later.

The employer will likely try to offer you a lower salary to start and promise to increase your pay based on your performance, or based on the company’s profit. If an employer asks you about your salary, the safest way to respond is to tell them it is “negotiable.” The first step in negotiating salaries is to do some research. Check the list of sources we mentioned earlier of where to find salary information, so you can research how much other companies are paying for the same position that you will be doing.

Remember to keep your cool during the interview process. You should be willing to negotiate, but don’t be overly confident while discussing money, because it may backfire on you and you may potentially lose the position.

These steps are important in negotiating your salary. Being too demanding in these negotiations may put you in a weaker position for getting the salary you want. Employers are willing to discuss salary if they believe you are the right candidate who is worth the investment for the company.















  • Respond to the question positively without giving any specific amount. “My salary is in the low 40’s.”
  • Mention your desired salary. If you are responding to this question in an application, you can state “competitive” or “open.” You can also state that the salary is negotiable depending on the position, or give a $2,000 to $5,000 range. Caution: Give a range only if you know the market value for the position and for someone with similar skills and background.
  • Know your salary requirements ahead of time. Know what you hope to make. These numbers shouldn’t be mentioned in your response to the salary history question. You should, however, give this some thought for when you get to the negotiating phase.
  • Be prepared to respond to a request for previous salaries in an interview. It can be handled by responding without stating specific amounts.




  • Include your salary history on your resume. What’s important is what you did in your job, rather than what you were paid.

Lie about your previous pay rate. Employers can easily verify your salary history through reference checks.

You are at the final phase of the interviewing process, and it’s imperative to gather information prior to your meetings. In order to accurately assess your position, you need to understand your strengths, accomplishments, and available resources. The information that you gather will give you bargaining strength.


Important factors to help you capitalize on salary negotiations:


Know the industry:

  • Do research on what the demand is for the industry in which you are employed.
  • Understand the status of the economy and how it affects the industry you are competing in. 
  • Review and determine the current unemployment rate and the long-term employment outlook. 


Know the company:

  • Is the company profitable or going through difficult financial times? 
  • What is its position in the business cycle (startup, developing, constant, turnaround)?
  • Is the company in a downturn, growing, merging or about to be acquired by another company, an industry leader, or struggling to maintain employees.


Know where you stand: 

  • Your technical capabilities, expertise and unique selling features. 
  • Your resources, including networking contacts. 
  • The caliber of your competition and the availability of other candidates in the market.


Know the hiring manager:

  • Is this an urgent position that the company needs to fill? 
  • Understand the entire decision-making process, influencers and hiring budget.

Is the manager you are interviewing with able to extend an offer, or do they need to go higher up?


8 Steps to Success at Career Fairs

8 Steps to Success at Career Fairs

8 Steps to Success at Career Fairs

This will outline eight steps to help give you an advantage over the many other job seekers by making the most of your career-fair efforts.

There are a variety of job fairs out there, and some of them are more worth your time than others. Some job fairs are specific to industry. Your alma mater might offer a job fair. There are also industry trade shows that have job boards or recruiting days, along with the opportunity to talk about jobs with exhibitors.

Large company’s also put on job fairs of their own to recruit candidates as well. They do this at one or more of their locations that can accommodate large groups of people. You can find and research job fairs through local newspapers, cable TV stations, the internet, business publications, and college recruiting offices. Career job fairs should only be a small part of your overall job search strategy.

  1. Register for a Job Fair. Pre-registering for the event is recommended, because most job fairs allow you to register online. You might be asked to submit a resume or summary resume. Pre-registration allows employers to prescreen applicants and make note of those they want to meet at the fair. Pre-registration does not guarantee that you will get noticed or that employers will even look at the registrations. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to pre-register since it’s easy to do and can reap big benefits.
  1. Research attending companies. I cannot overemphasize the importance of going to the web and researching the companies with which you plan to visit while you’re at the job fair. There will be hundreds, or in the case of larger job fairs, thousands of applicants who will be going to the same booth you plan to visit. Ask yourself, why will they consider you for their position instead of the many others who have shown up and told them what a great candidate they are? When you go to a job fair, be ready to interview. Often the people at the booth are recruiters or human resource professionals. The interview begins as soon as you walk up to the booth. The recruiter will size you up by noting your attire, your demeanor, your handshake, and how you conduct yourself during this conversation.
  1. Bring resumes. Bring lots of resumes to the fair, at least two for each company in which you have an interest. If you have multiple interests or job objectives, bring enough of each version of your resume. Make a good impression on recruiters by handing them a hard copy of your resume, collecting their business cards and promising to e-mail them a soft copy later in the day. Recruiters appreciate having a soft copy so they can reformat it when they present it to their clients or for internal use. Be productive at job fairs because they only last a day or two. Goal: Schedule an in-person interview with at least one exhibitor that you have an interest in.
  1. Wear appropriate conference attire. Conservative business attire is essential because image and first impressions are critical. Find out what is the expected attire for the conference and dress accordingly. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A business suit always works best. Make sure the suit is clean and pressed.
  1. Devise an overall strategy. You need to devise a strategy or plan of attack for the fair. You’ve already done the first step by researching the companies you are interested in. The next step is to survey the layout of the fair and determine an order of interviewing. Some experts suggest meeting with your top choices first thing in the morning, interviewing with your other choices in the middle of the day, and returning to your top choices at the end of the day to thank them again for their time. But remember to stay flexible as your top choices may be the top choices for many.
  1. Hone your one-minute pitch. You won’t have much time to interview, so make every minute productive. You don’t want to be screened out early. Develop a one-minute “marketing” power discussion highlighting the key benefits that you can offer the organization. Also remember the four keys to all interviews: Make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, show enthusiasm and smile. You should also be prepared to answer interview questions just as you would any employment interview. Conclude the discussion by asking, “What do I need to do to obtain a second in-person interview with your firm?”
  1. Network While at the Job Fair. Career fairs are all about networking. You’re obviously building a network with the recruiters, but you can also network with your fellow job-seekers. Your peers can help by sharing information about job leads, companies, and their recruiting strategies and styles. There might also be professional organizations or employment agencies on hand at the fair, which are also good sources for networking.

Follow up. You would be surprised at how few job seekers actually take the time to follow up on their career fair interviews. Some experts suggest calling the recruiter the evening of the fair and leaving a voicemail message thanking them for their time. The more traditional approach is to write a thank-you note and mail it the next day. Thank the recruiter for their time, restate your interest in the position, reiterate your interest for a second interview and promise to follow up later with a phone call. Make sure you call! Enclose another copy of your resume with the thank-you letter.

For other job related statistics and relevant data, you can visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website at