Posted August 28, 2013 by

Right and Wrong Answers to 8 Classic Interview Questions

Dawn Dugan

Dawn Dugan, Salary.com contributing writer

If you’re in the job hunt, your first goal is to land an interview. But what you say in the hot seat can impact whether you land the job — or even a second interview.

This article explores the right and wrong ways to answer eight common interview questions.

What is your dream job?

Wrong answer:

“I want to be CEO of Apple Computers.”

Stay away from naming specific jobs. If you say the job you’re interviewing for is your dream job, you’ll come off as disingenuous.

If you name a job other than the one you’re interviewing for, you may give the impression you won’t be happy in the position if hired.

What is your dream job?

Right answer:

“My dream job is one in a team atmosphere that feeds my need for creativity . . . one with growth potential that allows me to fulfill my desire to keep learning.”

Instead of naming specific jobs or companies, discuss the qualities that you like in a job. Not only does this approach keep you in the running, it tells the interviewer a little bit about what you value

What can you tell me about yourself?

Wrong answer:

“Um . . . well . . . I have 15 years of experience in the . . . uh . . . marketing industry, and in my spare time I really enjoy showing dogs and watching Dancing with the Stars.”

This is one of the most commonly asked interview questions, and there’s a good chance you’ll be asked it. As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked this question over and over again.

There’s no reason to be unprepared. Also, unless the interviewer asks specifically, don’t delve into personal topics.

What can you tell me about yourself?

Right answer:

“I’m a branding and marketing specialist with 15 years of global experience at the executive level, guiding high-growth specialty sporting goods companies. I’ve been responsible for the successful launch of several new products over my career, including Product X and Product Y.”

Give yourself the leading edge by preparing a one- or two-minute statement that gives a synopsis of your professional life.

If you had to highlight your career in the time it takes to ride an elevator, what would you say?

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If you could compare yourself to any inanimate object in this room, what would it be?

Wrong answer:

“The lamp. Because you turn me off.”

An interviewer who asks this type of offbeat question is less interested in your specific answer than in how you handle the question. He or she wants to see how you handle stress.

Don’t panic, and avoid answers that are angry, sarcastic, or defensive. If your reaction to stress is typically the use of humor, know that a bit of humor is good in any interview question, as long as you don’t go overboard.

If you could compare yourself to any inanimate object in this room, what would it be?

Right answer:

“The lamp, because I enjoy shedding light and contributing to a brighter environment by sharing my skills, knowledge, and experience with others.”

Calm, thoughtful answers like this show you manage stress well, are creative, have quick reflexes, and can function well under the gun.

If you get one of these “stressful” questions, take the time you need to think about your answer, then just be yourself and answer as honestly as possible.

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

Wrong answer:

“I’m an overachiever, and work long hours that leave me little time for anything else but serving the organization.”

Never, ever try to manipulate your answer by turning a so-called “negative” trait into a positive. Every interviewer in the world is hip to this trick.

Everyone has something they need to work on. When it comes to self-appraisal questions, be cautiously honest!

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

Right answer:

“In the past I’ve struggled with time management, but recently took a course that has resulted in significant improvement in this area. By using certain tools and technology, I find that I’m able to manage my time well.”

This type of answer recognizes an area of difficulty, but also shows you’ve taken steps to improve in that area. Admitting your weaknesses, and showing that you are willing to change, shows the type of commitment to self-improvement that employers love.  Continue reading . . .

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