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Some of the trickiest job interview questions are surprisingly common and straightforward.
But while they may seem simple on the surface, how you answer them is actually quite telling and could reveal more about you than you may have hoped.
Your best defense against tough questions is to come to your interview prepared to tackle them head-on, says Vicky Oliver, the author of “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions” and “301 Smart Answers to Tough Etiquette Questions“and a career expert who has coached hundreds of job candidates.
“You want to be authentic, but you also need to sell yourself,” she tells Business Insider. “You want to be you on your best day. Think about the hardballs someone may ask you about your particular job history and what your answers will be.”
Here are three common interview questions Oliver says job seekers struggle with the most, and how you should answer them:
‘Why were you let go?’
Getting laid off is hard enough as it is, but when you’re asked to rehash the details of a layoff while the wound is still fresh, it can be challenging to not let negative feelings take hold.
“Be honest, but still paint it in the best light,” Oliver says. The key is to focus on the positive and talk about lessons you learned from the job. Don’t let any feelings of anger or resentment show.
“Were others let go? Was there a massive blood-letting? These may help take the curse off of it,” Oliver adds.
This question can feel like a blow to the ego, and you may interpret the question as more of an assault, as though they’re asking, “What makes you think you’re good enough?”
But rather than get defensive, it’s best to approach this question as an opportunity to really sell yourself.
“This is really just asking you why you want to work at the company. Don’t be put off by the tone. Just answer the question,” Oliver says.
You want to come to the interview prepared with a list and examples of your best qualities and show the interviewers what’s in it for them if they hire you.
‘If I called your boss right now, what would he say about you?’
“This is often a sort of goad,” Oliver says. “Don’t get agitated.”
Oliver says you need to honestly think about what your boss might say about you. When answering the question, you should explain what they would say, but put it in the most flattering light.
“Recognize that part of answering this question is showing how well you respond to pressure,” Oliver says, and part of performing well under pressure is preparing to answer the tough questions in advance.