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I call these difficult or tricky questions as they are the ones that candidates most want to avoid. Listed below are two of the most common ones along with some possible answers. This is such a large topic that I have divided it into two parts.


What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Most of us know our strengths and have no issue with listing the many areas we excel. Rather than just randomly selecting things you are good at; think about what you are saying and how it relates to the job opportunity. For example; if a large part of the job is cooperation within the accounting department, highlight strengths that demonstrate this. You may mention that you are a strong team player and give examples at work and at play where this is evident. Comment on work projects, budget coordination with other departments, liaisons with other departments such as sales. You may also want to add that you are on a sports team or perhaps volunteer for an organization that involves working with others. The area that may cause you the most “trouble” is the weakness area. The question must be answered, so don’t try to dodge it. It is important to pick something “real” but not that serious. You should also comment on how you have worked to overcome this. An example of this may be “I am a bit of a perfectionist and therefore want to ensure we are reconciled to the penny. However due to time constraints in the department, I now realize that it is more important to keep an eye on the bigger picture and ensure the accounts are reconciled to a reasonable degree.” It is a weakness yes, but not too big of one.

What are your goals?

This seems like an easy question but once again may be tricky depending on what the prospective employer is seeking. Are they looking for someone steady, a candidate who will stay forever? Are they seeking a “go – getter” someone who will work hard and fast and want to climb the corporate ladder? I would suggest that you want to appear keen however you don’t want to give the impression that you are “nipping at the heels” of the person above you (in the organization) as they may very well be the one interviewing you. I would suggest firstly trying to obtain information as to what type of candidate the company is looking for before attending the interview. If this isn’t possible, ensure your answer has a combination of steadiness and initiative. An example of this would be: “I am seeking a position where I can settle in and really learn about the job and the company. I like to commit to a position but I also make a commitment to try to be a positive addition to the company as a whole. As an ambitious person, I am always interested in taking on new challenges and I look forward to learning and growing together."

What salary are you seeking? This is a difficult question as you may not be aware of the salary range when interviewing for a position. I would suggest a good start to answering this question is to advise the salary range you are currently in. For example: I am currently in the mid $60’s range however dependent upon the overall package, I am hoping in my next position to start in the low – mid $70’s range. Keep in mind a couple of things; if you are unemployed you have less “bargaining chips” therefore whenever possible, try to stay in your current job while seeking a new one. Also keep in mind that you may not always get a raise just for changing jobs. This particularly applies to anyone still “growing” their career. A job at the same salary with more opportunities for growth may be the better job than one that offers more money but less potential. You may also make a lateral move to attain a job closer to home; thereby saving thousands on commuting costs. In closing, I think the message you are trying to get across is that you are flexible within a salary range and are more interested in the opportunity that the company offers.

Why do you want this job? This is the opportunity to show the company the research you have done. Good answers relate to: your interest in their product or service, how you feel you can contribute, interest in the position due to the new challenge that it presents, you like their corporate culture. You want to avoid answers such as: anything relating to money or benefits, anything remotely “desperate” e.g. I just have to get a job…any job.., I just applied as I apply to all jobs in my area. You want to show the company that it is their company specifically that you want to work for.

Give an example of accomplishments and how you handled yourself in a difficult work situation. As in the previous article relating to strengths/weaknesses; we all seem to know our strengths but may be tuned out when it comes to our weaknesses. When discussing a particular accomplishment; try to use the word “we” rather than just “I”. e.g. I am proud that I was part of the implementation team in the company’s software conversion. Even though it was difficult and we were working long hours, we were able to make the transition as easy as possible for the company. I particularly enjoyed the one on one interaction with my co workers while training them.

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