Why have you been out of work so long?
TRAPS: A tough question if you've been on the beach a long time. You don't want to seem like damaged goods.
BEST ANSWER: You want to emphasize factors which have prolonged your job search by your own choice.
Example: "After my job was terminated, I made a conscious decision not to jump on the first opportunities to come along. In my life, I've found out that you can always turn a negative into a positive IF you try hard enough. This is what I determined to do. I decided to take whatever time I needed to think through what I do best, what I most want to do, where I'd like to do it...and then identify those companies that could offer such an opportunity."
"Also, in all honesty, you have to factor in the recession (consolidation, stabilization, etc.) in the (banking, financial services, manufacturing, advertising, etc.) industry." "So between my being selective and the companies in our industry downsizing, the process has taken time. But in the end, I'm convinced that when I do find the right match, all that careful evaluation from both sides of the desk will have been well worthwhile for both the company that hires me and myself.
Tell me honestly about the strong points and weak points of your boss (company, management team, etc.)...
TRAPS: Skillfull interviewers sometimes make it almost irresistible to open up and air a little dirty laundry from your previous position. DON'T
BEST ANSWER: Remember the rule: Never be negative. Stress only the good points, no matter how charmingly you're invited to be critical.
Your interviewer doesn't care a whit about your previous boss. He wants to find out how loyal and positive you are, and whether you'll criticize him behind his back if pressed to do so by someone in this own company. This question is your opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty to those you work with.
What good books have you read lately?
TRAPS: As in all matters of your interview, never fake familiarity you don't have. Yet you don't want to seem like a dullard who hasn't read a book since Tom Sawyer.
BEST ANSWER: Unless you're up for a position in academia or as book critic for The New York Times, you're not expected to be a literary lion. But it wouldn't hurt to have read a handful of the most recent and influential books in your profession and on management.
Consider it part of the work of your job search to read up on a few of these leading books. But make sure they are quality books that reflect favorably upon you, nothing that could even remotely be considered superficial. Finally, add a recently published bestselling work of fiction by a world-class author and you'll pass this question with flying colors.
Tell me about a situation when your work was criticized.
TRAPS: This is a tough question because it's a more clever and subtle way to get you to admit to a weakness. You can't dodge it by pretending you've never been criticized. Everybody has been. Yet it can be quite damaging to start admitting potential faults and failures that you'd just as soon leave buried.
This question is also intended to probe how well you accept criticism and direction.
BEST ANSWER: Begin by emphasizing the extremely positive feedback you've gotten throughout your career and (if it's true) that your performance reviews have been uniformly excellent.
Of course, no one is perfect and you always welcome suggestions on how to improve your performance. Then, give an example of a not-too-damaging learning experience from early in your career and relate the ways this lesson has since helped you. This demonstrates that you learned from the experience and the lesson is now one of the strongest breastplates in your suit of armor.
If you are pressed for a criticism from a recent position, choose something fairly trivial that in no way is essential to your successful performance. Add that you've learned from this, too, and over the past several years/months, it's no longer an area of concern because you now make it a regular practice to...etc.
Another way to answer this question would be to describe your intention to broaden your master of an area of growing importance in your field. For example, this might be a computer program you've been meaning to sit down and learn... a new management technique you've read about...or perhaps attending a seminar on some cutting-edge branch of your profession.
Again, the key is to focus on something not essential to your brilliant performance but which adds yet another dimension to your already impressive knowledge base.