Everyone knows some job interview questions just beg for a snarky answer. Wouldn’t you love to once, just once, really say what’s on your mind? Enjoy these forays into the dark side – followed by some suggestions for how to really answer the question if you actually want to get the job.
Q: “What’s your greatest weakness?”
Snarky Answer: “Bourbon!”
Oh, there are so many tempting answers for this asinine question: alcohol, sleeping in late, slacking off at work, chocolate… just take your pick. In reality, what employers want is either a prepared answer or one that would make it obvious that you aren’t the best candidate for the role. I usually coach people to provide a real weakness and then discuss how you deal with it. Of course, don’t choose one of those fatal flaws that would immediately get you cut, such as an executive assistant who isn’t detail-oriented.
Real Answer: “While sometimes I can take on a lot, I do my best to be conscious of deadlines so I can set appropriate priorities.”
Q: “What motivates you?”
Snarky Answer: “Spite.”
Wouldn’t you just love to say that I’m here for the money and the benefits? But of course, that’s not how the interview game is played. The only exception would be a sales role where being competitive and in control of your own earning potential should be your top motivation. For other roles, the companies want to know that you care about the work itself and their mission in particular. To make the right impression, align your motivation with the heart of the job.
Real Answer: “As a project manager, I love bringing a project to completion while overcoming challenges and staying within the given budget and timeframe. It’s a real sense of accomplishment to know that I was an integral part to a project that takes over a year to complete.”
Q: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Snarky Answer: “Retired on a beach after winning the lottery so I don’t have to answer questions like this.”
This is an ancient, dusty, and often stupid question. In spite of the fact that we know people change jobs after 2-4 years and even change their entire career up to 3 times in their lifetime, employers are still asking this stupid question. Unfortunately, the only appropriate answer is to take the brown-nosing route and play up to staying with the company for a long time. Any other answer makes them question your desire to really work for this company.
Real Answer: “I see myself working for this company, working up the ladder and adding to my skills to continue making a positive contribution.”
Q: “Tell me about something you learned in the last six months.”
Snarky Answer: “How to look for a job.”
Ironically, even though this probably is the top thing you learned, employers don’t care. They want to see something that actually relates to your career. This is how you clearly demonstrate that you are in touch with the latest trends, technology, and practices. Consider taking online courses through Udemy.com or another learning platform to stay on top of things without having to break your bank.
Real Answer: “Recently, I took a course on Excel on Udemy.com, which is an online resource. I continue to do exercises every day, including using it as a way to track my own job search progress.”
Q: “Why did you leave your last job?”
Snarky Answer: “Because it frickin’ sucked.”
Maybe the boss was a screaming psycho who threw things. Maybe you were fired. Maybe your co-workers constantly threw you under the bus. Or maybe the pay was just plain terrible, with no chance for advancement at all. Whatever the case, DON’T say anything negative about a past employer if possible. If you jump on the negativity train, it only makes you look petty and bitter. If your last job really did suck, do some personal journaling to get your feelings out way before you ever step into an interview. THEN you can come up with an answer that is still honest without being negative.
Real Answer: “Unfortunately, I was part of a lay-off that affected many people in the company.”
Variation: “Unfortunately, there was not a lot of room for advancement at the company. I would like to find a job where I can continue to grow professionally.”
Q: “Why do you want to work for us?”
Snarky Answer: “Because I need the money – duh.”
While this sounds similar to the “five year” question, it is actually a test. You must show that you did your research about this company and say something very specific that draws you to the job. Even in sales, pure money motivation is not enough. Tie in with their mission, products, services, or reputation to really make a positive impression.
Real Answer: “I am impressed by XYZ’s commitment to excellence. I noticed that your customers consistently leave raving reviews for your services. Plus, I really support your mission to make a difference in the world.”
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