Tell me honestly about the strong points and weak
points of your boss (company, management team, etc.)
Remember the rule: Never be negative. Stress
only the good points, no matter how charmingly you’re
invited to be critical.
Your interviewer doesn’t care a whit about your previous
boss. He wants to find out how loyal and positive you
are, and whether you’ll criticize him behind his back if
pressed to do so by someone in this own company. This
question is your opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty
to those you work with.
What good books have you read lately?
Unless you’re up for a position in academia or as book
critic for The New York Times, you’re not expected to be
a literary lion. But it wouldn’t hurt to have read a
handful of the most recent and influential books in your
profession and on management.
Consider it part of the work of your job search to read
up on a few of these leading books. But make sure they
are quality books that reflect favorably upon you,
nothing that could even remotely be considered
superficial. Finally, add a recently published
bestselling work of fiction by a world-class author and
you’ll pass this question with flying colors.
Tell me about a situation when your work was
Begin by emphasizing the extremely positive feedback
you’ve gotten throughout your career and (if it’s true)
that your performance reviews have been uniformly
Of course, no one is perfect and you always welcome
suggestions on how to improve your performance. Then,
give an example of a not-too-damaging learning
experience from early in your career and relate the ways
this lesson has since helped you. This demonstrates that
you learned from the experience and the lesson is now
one of the strongest breastplates in your suit of armor.
If you are pressed for a criticism from a recent
position, choose something fairly trivial that in no way
is essential to your successful performance. Add that
you’ve learned from this, too, and over the past several
years/months, it’s no longer an area of concern because
you now make it a regular practice to…etc.
Another way to answer this question would be to describe
your intention to broaden your master of an area of
growing importance in your field. For example, this
might be a computer program you’ve been meaning to sit
down and learn… a new management technique you’ve read
about…or perhaps attending a seminar on some
cutting-edge branch of your profession.
Again, the key is to focus on something not essential to
your brilliant performance but which adds yet another
dimension to your already impressive knowledge base.
What are your outside interests ?
Try to gauge how this company’s culture would look upon
your favorite outside activities and be guided
You can also use this question to shatter any
stereotypes that could limit your chances. If you’re
over 50, for example, describe your activities that
demonstrate physical stamina. If you’re young, mention
an activity that connotes wisdom and institutional
trust, such as serving on the board of a popular
But above all, remember that your employer is hiring
your for what you can do for him, not your family,
yourself or outside organizations, no matter how
admirable those activities may be.
The “Fatal Flaw” question
As every master salesperson knows, you will encounter
objections (whether stated or merely thought) in every
sale. They’re part and parcel of the buyer’s anxiety.
The key is not to exacerbate the buyer’s anxiety but
diminish it. Here’s how…
Whenever you come up against a fatal flaw question:
Be completely honest, open and straightforward about
admitting the shortcoming. (Showing you have nothing to
hide diminishes the buyer’s anxiety.)
Do not apologize or try to explain it away. You know
that this supposed flaw is nothing to be concerned
about, and this is the attitude you want your
interviewer to adopt as well.
Add that as desirable as such a qualification might be,
its lack has made you work all the harder throughout
your career and has not prevented you from compiling an
outstanding tack record of achievements. You might even
give examples of how, through a relentless commitment to
excellence, you have consistently outperformed those who
do have this qualification.
Of course, the ultimate way to handle “fatal flaw”
questions is to prevent them from arising in the first
place. You will do that by following the master strategy
described in Question 1, i.e., uncovering the employers
needs and them matching your qualifications to those
Once you’ve gotten the employer to start talking about
his most urgently-felt wants and goals for the position,
and then help him see in step-by-step fashion how
perfectly your background and achievements match up with
those needs, you’re going to have one very enthusiastic
interviewer on your hands, one who is no longer looking
for “fatal flaws”.
How do you feel about reporting to a younger
person (minority, woman, etc)?
You greatly admire a company that hires and promotes on
merit alone and you couldn’t agree more with that
philosophy. The age (gender, race, etc.) of the person
you report to would certainly make no difference to you.
Whoever has that position has obviously earned it and
knows their job well. Both the person and the position
are fully deserving of respect. You believe that all
people in a company, from the receptionist to the
Chairman, work best when their abilities, efforts and
feelings are respected and rewarded fairly, and that
includes you. That’s the best type of work environment
you can hope to find.
On confidential matters…
Your interviewer may press you for this information for
First, many companies use interviews to research the
competition. It’s a perfect set-up. Here in their own
lair, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal
prized information on the competition’s plans, research,
financial condition, etc.
Second, the company may be testing your integrity to see
if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing
What to do? The answer here is easy. Never reveal
anything truly confidential about a present or former
employer. By all means, explain your reticence
diplomatically. For example, “I certainly want to be as
open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the
rights of those who have trusted me with their most
sensitive information, just as you would hope to be able
to trust any of your key people when talking with a
And certainly you can allude to your finest achievements
in specific ways that don’t reveal the combination to
the company safe.
But be guided by the golden rule. If you were the owner
of your present company, would you feel it ethically
wrong for the information to be given to your
competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse to reveal it.
Remember that this question pits your desire to be
cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such
choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more
valuable commodity than whatever information the company
may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender the
information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose
respect for you.
One President we know always presses candidates
unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn’t
get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly
inquisitive, It’s all an act. He couldn’t care less
about the information. This is his way of testing the
candidate’s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are