In light of the coming Halloween, I invite you to consider a facet of job search that probably scares you—job interviews. To be specific, the unnerving questions interviewers ask where there’s no clear right or wrong answers.
Below are questions designed to throw job seekers off their carefully practiced aura of confidence:
- What do you dislike most about your previous boss?
This question is designed to reveal what you really think of your former employer, and if you still have respect for them. For the interviewer, if you badmouth your boss and former company, you are probably going to do that once you move on to another employer in the future.
This isn’t to say that you can’t be honest about your employer’s misgivings. Think carefully of what you will say and what it reflects on you as an employee. Too much complaining about petty things will make you look like a whiner, for instance.
- Why did you leave your last job?
Again, badmouthing your previous job won’t work here. Rather than focusing on the factors that contributed to your decision of leaving, focus instead on what you’re looking for in a new position. For instance, instead of saying your previous job was a dead end position with no advancement opportunities; just say that you’re looking for a role with more responsibilities.
Saying you’re stuck in a rut or have been passed for a promotion multiple times opens you up for more scrutiny. It’s also harder to answer such questions in a way that won’t lessen your value or credibility as an applicant.
- Why have you been unemployed for so long?
This question applies to people with employment gaps, and is probably one of the most panic-inducing questions on this list.
Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. The interviewer just wants to know if your skills are still relevant and up to date with the changes in your industry.
If you’ve been unemployed because you can’t find a job for your skills and target salary, you can evade this question without lying by sharing how you’ve used your time to hone your skills or go back to school. Of course, you can only answer in this way if you really spent time improving your skills. If that’s not the case for you, you can be honest in saying that job availability in your line of work is dwindling because of recent trends, or that there’s a surplus of candidates because other employees were also laid off.
Because the truth can make you seem less desirable as a candidate, it’s important to end your answer in a positive note. Talk about how you’ve kept yourself busy through networking, training, and volunteer work.
- What is your desired salary?
Now we come to the scariest interview question at all. Answer too low and you’ll receive a crappy salary, but answer too high and you’ll most likely be removed from the competition. It scares even experienced candidates because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
Fresh graduates with little interview experience may be more prone to rattling off a random number with no basis, compared to more experienced candidates.
The best you can do here is research salaries for similar positions and job levels in your city to understand the salary range you should be aiming for. You should also consider the type of company interviewing you. A non-profit has a smaller salary budget compared to a VC-backed startup.
Interviews Don’t Have to be Scary
I’m sure there are other interview questions that leave you feeling clammy and panicked. But no matter the question, you should know that preparing your answers beforehand takes much of the pressure away.
It’s the same logic with spooky streets and ghost towns. You wouldn’t stroll into these places without the right gear, so why would you go to an interview without a little rehearsal?