The Job Interview Answers in Your Head

By - 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 getting fired.

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 here.

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 motivational speeches.

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 of.

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 day.

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 questions.

Filming "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

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 me.

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 around upstairs...

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 it up.

Well, I like to keep a tally of the pens and other small objects I take.

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