The Job Interview Answers in Your Head
By Steve Gillman - October 11, 2015
Do you have a job interview coming soon? Honesty
is the best policy if you want to keep those unemployment compensation
checks coming. But what if you want that job you're applying
for, or at least want the paycheck and health insurance that
comes with it? In that case you might have to massage the truth
a little to come up with answers an employer wants to hear.
(Photo by Ludovic Bertron on Flickr)
Of course, when your future boss looks at
you and asks you things that are too personal, too stupid, or
just can't be answered honestly while maintaining any chance
of getting the job, you can always look him in the eye and, doing
your best Jack Nicholson, say, "You want the truth? You
can't handle the truth!"
But say it in your head, of course. That's
where you have to keep all of your best responses. This more-interesting
conversation going on in your imagination will keep you entertained
throughout the job interview, creating a smile on your face that
will charm the interviewer and increase your odds of getting
the position. Okay, I haven't actually tested this theory, but
I like it.
To help you out, here are some common interview
questions with suggestions for answers to say aloud, and then
some more honest answers for your interior dialog. The latter
might help you tolerate the idiot asking you all those inane
questions. We start where many interviews start...
1. Tell me about yourself.
Employers ask wide-open questions like this
to test a potential employee's inventiveness and ability to sell
a story. Don't disappoint them. After a few details about where
you came from and your family, include a convincing explanation
of how important work is to you, how much you appreciate honesty,
and so on. And then there are the more honest responses to keep
in your head, like these possibilities...
It makes me feel good to
steal pens and small items from employers, because it satisfies
some twisted sense of justice I have.
I feel that life is a balancing
act, and work weighs so much that it has to be taken on in small
amounts in order to keep everything else in balance.
I feel that hard work and
ambition are overrated.
2. Why do you want to work for us?
You've heard great things about this company,
or at least you're going to say you did. Explain how the work
they offer fits your long-term goals and you'll be halfway to
getting the position. But in your head you might be answering
the question a bit differently...
Hmm, yeah, well "want"
is kind of a strong description of my motivation. I want the
crappy paycheck you offer, because it's better than nothing,
and I guess I have to work for someone to get that.
I want to work for you
because you offer a good dental insurance policy and I need $8,000
in work done. After my teeth are fixed I'll be moving on.
I heard you have a lot
of pens and other small items.
3. What are some of your greatest strengths?
If you did your homework you know what the
company wants, so you can tailor your answers accordingly. But
the trick is to appear modest about how great you are, so put
your praise in other people's mouths. For example, if you're
being interviewed for a sales manager position you can say, "My
last employer told me that I'm really good at organizing and
motivating people." Meanwhile, the "greatest strengths"
you'll be outlining in your head might include...
I've really improved my
bullshitting skills, so I can ace an interview like this.
One of my strengths is
finding ways to do the least amount of actual work possible without
My thumbs are really strong
from playing video games.
4. What are some of your greatest weaknesses?
The interviewer knows you'll twist the truth
on this one, but wants to see how convincing you are, because
ultimately employers value a good liar, even if they won't say
so. You're expected to say something like, "I'm sometimes
criticized for taking my work too seriously, but I just get so
much satisfaction out of working long hours and getting the job
done right." Try for a bit more subtlety than that though,
and don't let any of the following weaknesses reach your lips...
I haven't yet learned how
to fully believe my own lies, which really limits my ability
to get others to believe them.
I haven't developed enough
of an alcohol habit (yet) to tolerate most people.
My attempts to remain unemployed
have sometimes failed.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You can actually be honest with this one,
because if you look at the question closely you'll notice it's
just an invitation to imagine a possible future and describe
it. So imagine one that involves making all of your potential
employer's dreams come true. Meanwhile, try not to blurt out
any of the other thoughts in your head...
I see myself anywhere but
Probably collecting unemployment.
I see myself overwhelmed
by the responsibility of this position, and stressed to the max,
taking pill after pill for heart and anxiety problems while fantasizing
ways to permanently remove you from this world; you know, my
usual five-year job experience.
6. What is this gap in your employment record?
Clearly you are an amateur at massaging the
truth or this question wouldn't have come up because there wouldn't
be a gap. If you did anything to make a dime during that time
between jobs you were in business for yourself. Just invent a
name for your business and hire yourself retroactively before
you fill out that application. If it's too late for that, invent
something quickly, but keep certain answers to yourself...
There was an opening in
my mom's basement, so I moved in and quit this whole stupid job
thing for a while to just relax.
Oh that gap. I have an
entrepreneurial side, so I quit my job to try selling marijuana
after it was legalized in Colorado.
I'm really more concerned
about the gaps in my unemployment record.
7. What did you dislike about your last job?
This usually comes after they ask what you
liked about your last job, but this one is a trick question.
You're being tested to see how negative you are about employers
in general, and how you might badmouth this employer if you're
hired. You should subtly twist it to your advantage with a response
like this: "It was a great company to work for, but I guess
I didn't like how they didn't challenge me enough." And
then there are the things your honest self would like to say...
The boss was an ass. He
threw a fit if I was just twenty minutes late, he expected me
to work right until five every day, and he gave these stupid
I hated absolutely everything
about it because it was so much like every job out there.
Mostly I disliked the fact
that it wasn't going to be my last job.
8. Describe an accomplishment you are proud
Don't decline to answer by explaining how
pride is a sin. You have to describe something that you did which
shows how productive you are -- and anytime you see the word
"describe" here, feel free to replace it with "invent."
The ideal answer involves a believable story about how you dramatically
increased profits for a previous employer. Then there are those
accomplishments which are for your imagined conversation only...
I'm really proud of how
I've made it through this job interview without laughing aloud
at these damn answers going through my head.
I once went two weeks without
doing a single productive thing at work, and the boss never noticed.
I feel so proud about that.
One time, at band camp...
9. What gets you up in the morning?
This "personal motivation" question
is an open invitation to bend the truth or just break it in half
and replace it with something more interesting. Say something
about how excited you are to start the day when you have a challenging
task to look forward to at work. Nothing motivates you like the
opportunity to help your employer sell more worthless crap to
over-extended consumers. Well, don't say that last part, and
let the voice in your head stay there when it mentions these
reasons for getting out of bed...
Usually it's the damn alarm
clock. I've tried to break it, but that sucker is tough!
What gets me up in the
morning is the balancing of my fears. I'm more afraid of living
in my mom's basement than of going to work at a job I hate every
The cat... it's always
the damn cat.
10. What questions do you have for us?
You can't say you have none, so come up with
something. But avoid questions which make it sound like you expect
to get something from your employer. The executives want to believe
they are so great you would work for them for nothing. And above
all, avoid the questions you would really like to ask...
What's the point of this
frigging game where you ask all these stupid questions when you
know my answers will be lies?
Do you really think calling
your employees "associates" makes up for the crappy
treatment and low pay you offer?
Where do you keep the pens
and other small items?
11. Why should we hire you?
The correct answers don't include anything
about what a great person you are, so save that lie for elsewhere.
Instead you have to offer specific things that you will do to
make things better for this employer. Tell them how you'll be
the one employee they never have to worry about and how you'll
boost their profits by 100% your first year. Okay, don't get
too carried away, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, in your head
you can explain the truth...
I don't have a clue why
you should hire me instead of those more-qualified applicants,
but I do want to get these teeth fixed.
You should hire me because
you're going to hire a liar anyhow, but I lie better than the
other applicants, which means I can probably do a better job
selling your crap.
Because suing employers
who don't hire me for discrimination is my hobby.
12. Describe your dream job.
Now, if you have done the necessary pre-interview
research, you know what you have to say. Just describe the stupid
position you're applying for. That's easy enough, and probably
more effective than using the actual job of your dreams...
I get up at ten and go
to work for an hour before lunch. After lunch I answer emails
for fifteen minutes, cruise the internet for an hour, and then
take the rest of the afternoon off. I make a six-figure salary
for this, and I get eight weeks of paid vacation every year.
My dream job would be getting
paid to slap your face every time you ask another of these ridiculous
Filming "Girls Gone
13. What salary range are you looking for?
You have to be careful here. Tell them you
want too much and they'll hire someone else. Suggest too little
or you'll get just that. If you know what the position normally
pays, suggest a bit higher. Otherwise say something about not
being sure, but being excited enough about the job to consider
whatever is offered. And keep the sarcasm inside...
I would be very happy with
minimum wage because it provides enough for all of my future
goals and dreams while enabling you to make the profit you deserve.
The salary I want? That
would be 30% more than whatever you are going to actually pay
Can you give me a clue?
14. Why did you leave your last job?
Fortunately you have never left a job because
you didn't like it, or because you were fired, or due to personal
conflicts, right? Explain how you left to build new skills or
pursue opportunities where you could be more useful to a new
employer. You know what they don't want to hear, so just keep
those answers to yourself...
I figured that my odds
of keeping it were pretty slim after the boss found me peeing
in his coffee cup.
Jobs are so damn boring
after the first three weeks.
My employer ran out of
pens and small objects to take.
15. How do you measure success?
This is a tricky one. You are supposed to
mention things other than money and prestige, while hinting that
those are still part of the equation. The latter is necessary
so your future bosses know you are normal enough to be manipulated
and threatened. Say something about success being a job well
done and finding a proper balance between work and family. Measuring
success by how many people you help is okay too, as long as you
make it clear that you will be helping them to buy your new employer's
products or services. Avoid the more truthful answers rattling
I measure success by how
many jobs I can quit while still having enough money to pay the
bills and buy my beer.
Today I'll measure it by
how much crap I can feed you while you sit there happily eating
Well, I like to keep a
tally of the pens and other small objects I take.