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How to Answer the 3 Most Dreaded Interview Questions

October 28, 2019 | By | Reply More

Interview questions

Why interviewers ask these dreaded job interview questions, and how to respond to them.

We’ll probably never enjoy being interviewed for a job. In fact, three questions, in particular, are at the top of the Most Dreaded Job Interview Questions list. To help you ace them,

But first, I have a question: Who created the first known job interview?
Answer: Thomas Edison.


Born out of his frustration from what seemed to him like dim-witted interviewees, Edison gave each applicant a series of 150 questions, tailored to the position for which they were applying.  If you read a few of his questions, I promise that you would be more appreciative—or, at least, tolerant—of the interview questions most job applicants get today.


We’ll probably never enjoy being interviewed for a job. In fact, three questions, in particular, are at the top of the Most Dreaded Job Interview Questions list. To help you ace them, I’ve explained why those questions get asked and how you can answer them.



Can you tell me about yourself? 

Ugh! This seems like such a simple question. So simple that many people fail to prepare how they’ll answer it. After all, no one knows you better than yourself, so why bother rehearsing such a no-brainer?


However, this is one of the most difficult question of all.  Talking about yourself, in a professional light, under pressure is enough to make anyone freeze up. And, it’s usually the first question an interviewer asks, so you have to figure out what it is about your entire life, personality, and experiences he/she wants to hear.



What the interviewer is looking to learn

Like anyone meeting someone new, this question helps the interviewer get to know you. It also helps them warm up a little, too. More specifically, though, it helps the interviewer determine if you’re likeable, can clearly communicate, if you’re well prepared, and if you present yourself well. 



How to answer this question

Although the interviewer is trying to assess how likeable you are, avoid including anything personal in your answer unless it relates to the job. For example, if you’re interviewing for an online veterinarian assistant position, you could combine the personal and professional as follows:



“I have worked with animals for many years. In fact, over the past decade I have fostered numerous homeless animals. (Personal)  Talking to people about caring for their pets is something I enjoy and have a lot of experience in.”



One thing to avoid when answering this question is not to regurgitate your resume. Touch on important points, but don’t just repeat things they’ve already read. 


Lisa Zhang, a writer for The Muse, suggests using a “Past, Present, Future” structure to answer this question:



Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it, and perhaps a big recent accomplishment.”


“Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.”


“Future: Shift into what you’re looking to do next and why you’re interested in this gig (and a great fit for it, too).”




According to career coach and resume expert, Linda Raynier, when answering this dreaded question, “remember to tell a story. Not a life long story, but your professional work story consisting of your work experiences, qualifications and why you’re a good fit for this role.”


As you can see, this “no-brainer” question is more difficult than it appears. But with preparation using these tips can help you breeze through with a great answer.





What was/is your previous/current salary?

This question can feel like a triple-edged sword. At one end, you don’t want to reveal a salary that may be lower than what you want to receive. At another, you don’t want to give numbers that may exceed their expectations and scare off the interviewer. And at the other end, you don’t want to completely avoid answering this question, thereby giving the impression you have something to hide. So what to do?



What the Interviewer wants to learn

Just why do interviewers ask this dreaded question?


First, they do it to get a feel of how competitive the salary for the position is that you’re interviewing for.*


According to Dori Zinn, writing for, “employers ask about salary to gauge the market for your position. If you’re interviewing for a position that’s like what you’ve been doing in the past, a company might look at your compensation as a competitive rate. But not all jobs are created — or paid — equally and fairly.”


Second, they want to figure out if they can afford you. Or, at least, they want to see if everyone is playing in the same league.



How to answer this question

Understandably, your impulsive response might be, “None of your business!” Unfortunately, that won’t fly if you’re trying to give off a professional, likeable, persona. Research is crucial to preparing both a professional and educated answer for this question.


In preparing your response begin by knowing your worth. Regardless of what your current pay is, what you’re worth is where your answer should end up. You can find out your worth using helpful tools available for free online. Websites such as and are great places to start. They offer easy-to-use “calculators” for you to enter your job title and location and come up with a salary at market rate. (Remember: not all cities and towns offer equal salaries.)


Next, learn about the company you’re applying to so you have reasonable expectations. A start-up or non-profit organization may not be able to pay market rate salaries. They might, however, offer other perks that can make your life easier or enjoyable, yet don’t cost them. 


When determining your salary worth be fair to yourself and the company you’re applying to. If you’ve done your research, you won’t sell yourself short or scare off a company by being unrealistic with your salary request.





Why do you want to leave your present position?

People leave their jobs for many reasons. Poor benefits, inadequate pay, lack of flexibility, or a micromanaging boss are just a few reasons employees look elsewhere. 


Other reasons could be more individual. A long commute, stuffy office atmosphere, not wanting to work with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or a lack of advancement opportunity. Whatever the reason, much thought needs to go into this answer.



Whey they want to know

This is a very reasonable question. While employers don’t expect that people won’t ever change jobs (they certainly have!) they need to know that hiring you won’t be a mistake.


“[Employers] want to be certain you’re pursuing a new role for the right reasons and that you won’t bring drama or tension to their organization. They may also want to determine whether you’re serious about changing jobs or whether you’re simply exploring the market,” says a writer. 


If you’ve already left your job, employers want to know if you left on your own or were fired. If you left on your own, did you leave on good terms or did you walk off after a bitter exchange of some sort? They want to determine your ability to be loyal to a company. If you were fired, they want to know why?



How to answer this question

It is crucial that your answer be rooted in truth. However, no matter how awful the truth, your response should neutralize it and turn it into a positive.


In her article for, Reasons for leaving a job that won’t scare off interviewers, Dawn Papandrea writes that  “many people quit for more personal reasons—because they couldn’t deal with a boss from hell, they felt stuck in a dead-end position, or they were tired of enduring poor treatment. In those cases, you’ll have to find a way to put a positive spin on why you decided to say, ‘I quit!’ when you go on your next job interview.” (Emphasis added)


I cannot stress this enough: Never bad mouth your previous employer, coworkers, company, or job/income during your interview. Most assuredly, this will result in the interviewer crossing you off the candidate list. 


Instead, give positive answers. Discuss how the prospective role is a good fit for you and how you are a good fit for them. “Take the opportunity to share what you’ve learned about the potential new company (demonstrating your interest in the opportunity). Talk about the environment and culture of this company, and how you feel it’s a strong match with your strengths and experience.” Writes Beth Colley for



Better prepared

Interviews are still evolving, especially as the workforce becomes more global. Questions and interview methods will continue to change, but the bottom line will stay pretty much the same: Are you a good fit for this job and this company? With that in mind your responses should all be geared to answering that question. Your responses to each interview question should help recruiters feel you are the best person for that job.



* Be aware that in some states asking about previous salary is now illegal. Although, even within those states, laws are different for different types of companies or in different cities. Research is key.



P.S.  If a company requires that you provide them with a salary history letter, I found this helpful PDF example from Loyola University Chicago for you to view or download. 



Tell us what you think: What are your most dreaded interview questions?





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Category: Interviewing, Telecommuting

About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of RemoteWork Source, the leading provider of technical and professional remote career opportunities.

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