Can you work under pressure? Tell me about the most pressure situation you were in.

You should be able to relate a good story here. One or two situations where you performed well under extreme pressure will do. If you have to think about this or you are hesitant in your answer, you won't appear decisive.

Describe the most difficult problem you had to deal with.

Watch out for this kind of question. It is better to describe a difficult business problem rather than a personal one. If you say something like, "Well, I'm going through a very ugly divorce," you may be describing a difficult problem, but it won't help your candidacy. You should have a rehearsed answer for a question like this. Describe the problem and describe how you solved the problem directly and specifically.

What have you done that shows initiative?

Again, you should have the answer to this question down pat. It should roll off your tongue as though you've answered this question many times. The answer to this can be either a personal story or a business situation. It might be good to have both, and having two or three or even four instances where you showed initiative would be good.

How do you manage to interview while still employed?

This is a question that's going to put you on a spot a bit regarding your integrity or character. If you communicate that you simply took all lot of time off to interview, you will appear to be a person who takes advantage of your employer. Sell, and answer something like, "I have accrued quite a bit of vacation, and I've been taking it to interview" will suffice. Just don't be flippant or casual about the answer.

What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you?

An answer that communicates compassion and empathy for other people is usually a good answer for this kind of question. Something like, "It is difficult when I have to fire someone or lay him or her off, and I know it affects not only that person but other people. I have done it, and know I'm going to have to continue to do it, but it still isn't easy."

What area of your skills/professional development you want to improve at this time?

Most people never think of this question until they get asked it in an interview. And that's the worst time to start thinking about the answer. Most every professional needs to be working on his or her "game" all of the time. If you are a professional in, say, the technology area, you need to communicate that you are taking courses or improving your skills in some aspect of technology. If you are not in a profession where this kind of thing is that clear-cut, you need to communicate that you are constantly taking personal development and personal growth types of training or seminars, such as motivational and inspirational books and CDs centered on simply growing, as a person will do. So, mentioning any kind of course, book, or program that you are involved with will make you stand out.

Why should I hire an outsider when I could fill the job with someone inside the company?

This is a great question, and I'm always surprised that it doesn't get asked more often. In fact, it's one of the questions that you as a candidate will need to know somewhere down the line before you accept a job with the company that might ask. However, if you are asked the question, you need to answer it in a careful manner. If you say something like, "Well, obviously you don't have anybody in your company as qualified as I am or you wouldn't be interviewing me," you'll kill the interview with your ego. If you say something like, "Well, you wouldn't," then you are coming across as weak.

It is true that most of the time if a company was going to move or promote someone from within to fill a job, it would have done so already and it wouldn't be interviewing you. Once in a rare while, the company will interview externally to simply compare with the people that it has internally who might be qualified. So, the odds are in your favor to start with. An answer like "My experience has been that if companies can find equal candidates internally and externally, they should be hiring internally. But I have also found that hiring externally brings new blood, new ideas, and energy to the organization, and it usually works out very well," will work.

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