toughest interview questions

Few of us ever enjoy the job application process. Filling out forms, revising resumes, writing cover letters – it can feel like a thankless task. But once you’ve made it past these initial hurdles, you still need to survive the interview. And really, you can’t just survive the interview – competition is steep. You need to walk out of that interview with flying colors. How can you prepare yourself to stun the interviewer with your charm, wit, and brains? Here are a few ways to get ready.

Research the company. It should go without saying that you should know a lot about the company you’re looking to join; yet not everyone thinks to do the basic background research. Look at the website, read the “About Us” section, and do a Google News search with the company name to find out if there is any recent news to know. If you know the name of the interviewer, look him/her up too. If you familiarize yourself with the obstacles the company has faced, you’ll learn what kind of solutions they like to implement or how they find those solutions. Echo these ideas and/or principles in any problem-solving types of questions.

Research the industry, too. If you’re interviewing with a technology company, familiarize yourself with the whole world of technology. What are the latest developments? Who are the industry leaders? Try to see the bigger picture. Read industry newspapers, magazines and news sites. What are the biggest challenges facing the industry and what are your ideas for solving them?

Bone up on current events. It’s not enough to know what’s going on in the world you’re working in, you need to know what’s going on in the world, too. Even if you don’t get asked directly about an event in the news, you can impress the interviewer by referencing it. If you are asked a hypothetical question about how you would handle a conflict between employees, for example, you can say something like, “Much like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did in China recently” You’ll sound worldly and smart!

Practice, practice, practice. Not only can you have friends and family give you practice interviews, if you’re applying to a big company, you can probably find questions that have been asked to other interviewees. Ask yourself how you would respond to those same queries. (Big hint: Glassdoor.com keeps lists of old questions!)

Think creatively. Some companies, like Google, have a history of asking whacky questions that have no real answers. It almost seems like they are written to confuse you. Embrace the freedom that that offers you: there is no right answer. Allow yourself to have fun with it and you might surprise yourself with your creativity. (Practice, practice, practice, is particularly good advice for those kinds of interviews.

Get comfortable being yourself. Often the reason behind those wild questions is less to test your expertise and more to test your people skills. Do you “fit” with the corporate culture? If given a problem, what tools do you use to solve it? Do you crack under pressure? Is your response confident, shaky, or obnoxiously proud? Sometimes the subtext of your answer is all the questioner is examining.

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