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How to Deal When Things Get Dirty

The interview can be the most stressful and nerve-wracking part of applying for a new job. "The Dirty Dozen", the 12 most commonly asked, commonly-feared interview questions have been featured each week, and alas - we have reached the end of our series.  Here is Part III of the "Dirty Dozen"!

9. What did you think of your old boss? What would your previous boss say about you?

Question Intent 
The employer is attempting to gauge your relationship with your previous boss, and to get honest answers about you, your working habits and relationships.

Answer Tips
Even if your previous boss wasn't exactly your favourite person, try to package it positively. Again, be descriptive and not evaluative. Emphasize your skills, and don't be overly negative about your weaknesses. It's always safer to identify a lack of a skill as an area for improvement rather than a shortcoming. Try and point out positive things you know your boss has noticed about you (e.g., you were very punctual and detail-oriented). Remember, if your boss is listed as a reference, your employer could call them to compare your answers. Honestly is especially vital when answering this question.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Question Intent
The interviewer wants to make sure you are appropriate for the specific position for which you are applying.

Answer Tips
This answer obviously depends on your situation. If it’s a co-op interview, you might want to state your long-term career goal. If it’s a permanent position, you might want to say, “Here, in a position of responsibility.”

11. You seem over-qualified/under-qualified.

Question Intent
The interviewer is challenging you. This type of question allows the employer to see how well you respond to challenges or criticisms.

Answer Tips
Over-qualified: You could state, “Yes, I’m very qualified, but I want to be here because…”
Under-qualified: Show them that you’re willing to invest the time and effort into upgrading your current skill-set. For example: “I’m kind of rusty, but I’d love to take a couple of courses in "___.”

12. Are you able to work overtime?

Question Intent
The employer is attempting to measure your level of commitment to a project. Perhaps the company has major overtime work; either way, this is a good indication of how much you want the job.

Answer Tips
If you really cannot work overtime, don’t lie. Tell them this! Again, it’s better the employer finds this out earlier, rather than later.
If you can, but don’t want to be working too much, you can say, “Definitely, as long as I am given sufficient notice.”
If you would love to work overtime, feel free to tell the employer,  “Absolutely!”

Keep in mind, in most jobs the overtime may be unexpected and sporadic (not a typical work day). As a result, you may find that overtime can be beneficial in that it contains an educational aspect. Overtime means more hours on the job, which in turn means more hours expanding and building on your skills. With that said, however, no one should feel that they need to be working 50-60 hours per week instead of the regular 35-40 of full-time work. Overtime can be a great opportunity, but remember that your employer's requests must be within reason.

It can almost be guaranteed that at least one or two, if not several of these questions will be asked during an interview, and thus, knowing these questions and the many ways to answer them is a great way to prepare for an upcoming interview. Knowing how to answer the most difficult questions means the rest is smooth sailing.

Beyond the Blog

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Oct 17, 2012

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