Answering the “Tough” Interview Questions

Editor’’s note: Ivy Exec’s Sr. Career Coach Sarah Stamboulie gives tips on how to answer the tricky interview questions and become more confident in your interviewing skills. This article is reprinted with Ivy Exec’s permission as part of an ongoing partnership as a contributor on The Voice of Jobseekers.

1. “How long have you been looking?”
Always say that you’ve just started looking in earnest and had been doing something else (such as traveling, or helping a friend start their business) until 1-2 months ago. This is why it is key to stay involved during unemployment, whether you’re consulting for free or active in industry organizations/the community, keep your skills and experience fresh.

Mention how great your job search is going, that the economy is really picking up in your industry, and you’ve been meeting with a lot of companies.

2. “Why did you leave Company X?”
For involuntary departures, always begin by complimenting your former company, boss, and team. Then explain and “agree” with the company’s business reason to eliminate your position.

Always keep it positive – you could mention that you still see your old boss and colleagues regularly. And again, reinforce that you’re in a fortunate position regarding your job search.

3. “Tell me about yourself.”
If you are asked this, try to postpone any lengthy answers until you have gotten them to talk about their priorities. Once you hear those, discuss your prior performance and successes that match the 3 key needs the company has for the open position.

4. “Take me through your resume.”
If you’re speaking with a hiring manager, they don’t want to hear every single bullet or line from your resume. You should give a very abbreviated version that is entirely relevant to the position. If you’re talking to a recruiter, you can be a little more complete in your response. Unless they are asking you for more detail, skip over irrelevant jobs.

Keep in mind, they are looking for red flags, so make all your transitions sound logical and very positive.

About Sarah Stamboulie:

Sarah has been advising individuals and businesses on career and job strategy issues for over 15 years. She helps executives to accelerate their careers and build company and industry visibility. As a Career Coach, Sarah helps clients conduct a more efficient and effective job search in a wide range of industries and functional areas.

Her prior roles include heading human resources at Morgan Stanley, Cantor Fitzgerald, and Nortel Networks and leading Alumni Career Services at Columbia Business School. She has a BA, Vassar College and an MBA, Columbia Business School.

 Answering the “Tough” Interview Questions

About Mark Anthony Dyson

Mark Anthony Dyson is a Career Consultant, Host & Producer of "The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, and Founder of the blog by the same name. Download our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and many other podcatchers. We are helping the unemployed, underemployed, and under-appreciated job seekers find and create a voice through this platform. Need career services? See the tab that says, "hire me" tab for more information. Career advice is our thing and learning is who we are. How can we serve you today?