Last week, I began discussing the kind of interview questions that seem quite easy to answer, but are actually do-or-die moments. Interviewees who have prepared beforehand for these types of questions can navigate them with ease, but the unprepared will likely blurt out a sob story or self-incriminating tale that has nothing to to with the job for which they’re applying. Here are some tips on how to sail through these tricky questions without losing your cool:

Q: Why did you leave your last job?

A: This is not your opportunity to trash talk your former boss or company. Think first date: How many people will stick around for a second date with someone who’s spent the first one bad-mouthing a former partner? It’s the same code.


Try to remain positive when answering this question. If you had a bad experience at your last job (and depending upon the type of job you are now applying for), you might not even want to list that position on your resume.

But if you do mention being fired, be honest about the reasons why it happened — and don’t get into he-said/she-said victim politics or melodrama. Speak to the lessons you learned in that previous situation and how you’re better equipped to not let it happen again.

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: Again, you can’t say everything there is to know about yourself in two minutes, so don’t try.

This answer should be about mentioning your key accomplishments (increased sales, most valuable employee etc.) at your past positions, the qualities you can provide to the company and any goals you plan on accomplishing if given the chance to work at this new position.

While it might be okay to weave in some mention of your favourite hobbies — just to add a personal element — be sure to stick chiefly to accomplishments that have some bearing on your work life and skills.

  • Next week, I’ll address how to answer two more of these deceptively easy interview questions.

Jill Andrew — CYW, BA, BA (Hons.), BEd. Please include your full name, address and telephone number when e-mailing. All letters are subject to publication.

jill’s tip of the week

  • Should you intend to mention anyone’s name in a job interview (or even in casual networking) while making reference to your past work experience or your accomplishments, be sure to get their permission first. Reference etiquette isn’t only for actual reference letters: Whenever you’re using your connection with someone else to help move your career ahead, it’s crucial that the person is aware of it. We all know how small the world is — let alone particular professions.

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