Contributed by Sam N.

You have landed the interview for a job you are interested in.  There are many factors that influence how well it will go including arriving on time, dressing properly, answering the questions presented.  However, there are a few questions asked in almost every interview that can be hard to handle.  Answer them incorrectly and that job offer may not materialize.  Here are five hard-to-answer interview questions:

Tell me about yourself. Now this seems to be a question about your personality and hobbies; but it is really a question about how you think you will fit in at the company and if you will be able to perform the tasks required.  Prepare a short summary of your background and why you want the job.  Be sure to tailor each answer to each job interview – a canned answer will not be helpful.  For example:

“I received my Human Resources degree from State University and discovered I love helping people achieve their goals.  Since then, I have worked at several small human resources firms and have helped many people succeed in the work place.  When I saw this job opening, I thought my skills would be a great asset to your company.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses?  The strengths are easy—you can find out what they need from the job description and tailor you strengths to fit them; but weaknesses? Who wants to admit they make errors? The best way to answer the question is to name a weakness that you overcame or are able to compensate for.

“I am usually all about business and this can isolate me from my co-workers.  But now, I am sure to stop and check in with my coworkers to have more congenial relationships.”

How do you handle stress? The interviewer wants to know how you problem-solve, not how you relax and meditate every day.  The best way would be to have an example ready of a stressful situation and how you solved it.

“In my last job, the whole network shut down and we were without computers.  I quickly explained this to the customers, found the old-fashioned credit card swipe machine and hand totaled each order.  I found that thinking quickly and explaining myself to the customers, solved the problem and everyone was happy.”

How did you get along with you past co-workers (or how would other people describe you?).  Think of some positive things that co-workers have said about you I the past.  You can use examples from past reviews and talk about resolving conflicts with coworkers.

“My co-workers describe me as calm and hardworking.  In the past when there were personality conflicts, I found that talking directly with my co-worker helped to diffuse the situation and improve our relationship.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?  The first step is not to say you would like their job in five years as this will make them think you will try to push them out.  Do you want to work at the company in five years? Maybe not; but imagine you did. What would you want to do? Answer them with highlights and your skills followed by a promotion.  They want to see you have aspirations.

“I would like to work for a company that pushes its employees to be the best possible. I would like to eventually teach sales skills to new hires. I see this current position as a starting point towards these goals.”