By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS
In my last post, I promised to write about questions to prepare for interviews.  While you may be prepared to discuss your capabilities with the technical aspect of your work, you may be asked things that have nothing to do with your work or questions to extract the essence of your character to see if you are a good fit.  Keeping your cool, being prepared and trying to be as diplomatic as possible is the approach required.

Question #1 – “Please tell me a joke.” – People think I am crazy when I say that this is a question that has been asked of my clients.  However, it has been asked and you need to be prepared.  Why ask a question like this?  To see if off the top of your head you do not say something that is off color, off  base and off everything else! Remember, no jokes dealing with religion, politics, drinking, limericks or anything else.  Go through one of your children’s riddle books and find something basic and clean like “Why did the boy throw his clock out the window? Because he wanted to see time fly!”

Question #2 – “What is your biggest weakness?” – Interviewers feel that by asking this dangerous question, they will get to know what you are about.  They ask it because they want to see if there is an adult sitting in the room. In answering this question, re-state it, show what you did developmentally to overcome the challenge, how you solved it by doing “X” and what the results were. Always answer this question in the past tense. For example, “I had a time management problem. I knew it was becoming a morale problem for my department. I took a course for 7 Saturdays and the results were that my department had no more missed deadlines, the morale was up, and our productivity increased by “X” percent.”

Question #3 – “What is one question you do not want me to ask?” – Your answer is “Ask me anything you want. I am an open book.”

Question #4 – What other firms are you interviewing with and for what positions?” – While you may think they have some nerve asking you this, it is being done to see if you are consistent. Your answer should be in the realm of “Similar firms, however, this is my favorite, the one I want.”

Question #5 – I left this one for last because this is the one everyone wants to find out how to handle. “What are you looking for in salary?” First, I recommend that you stay with a general answer in the beginning round of interviews.  I would reply ” I hope to receive a salary similar to the peers in my group and what my qualifications warrant.” Or, you can say “What I was earning before.” Prior to your interview, of course, you will have researched salaries on sites such as or  If this does not work as they press you further when you are trying to stay general you can reply ” I am sure that a fine company like (fill in the name of the company you are interviewing with) will compensate me fairly for the value and experience I bring to this position.”  The hiring decision maker is asking this question to see if you are in his or her ballpark.  Lastly, when your back is up against the wall, give them a range and do not stress about it.

These are just a few of the many questions you can be asked on an interview. If you are prepared, your confidence will help you shine.  I work on these and many other questions to help my clients prepare for their interviews. This preparation is invaluable to help de-stress a candidate prior to the big day.

As always, if I can help you in your job search or career transition, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I wish you every success. Let’s get to work!