Looking to land that dream job? Looking for interview tips and hard interview questions? This is article for you. The goal here is to change your thinking so that you won’t look like just another job applicant and so you’ll actually stand out from your competitors for that dream job.

Let’s start by asking a question. What is the difference between a job applicant, and a business consultant?

Simple answer? Nothing.

They are the same.

They both want to get paid for performing a service for the company.

What is the difference?

The job applicant doesn’t realize that the process of getting the job is the same as a consulting getting the sale.

Because the applicant doesn’t consider himself a salesman, his sales presentation (the job interview) is going to be much different than the business consultant. A lot different.

For example, would a business consultant ever get the question from a client that goes like: “If you were a super-hero, what super power do you wish you had?”

Come on… Isn’t that a goofy question to ask a business consultant? Of course it is. But a regular job applicant gets asked these kinds of goofy questions all the time. Why is that?

Because the job applicant has not established that this is a sales situation, and they fail to take control and treat it like one. As we said in our last article, if you walk into a sales situation without a roadmap as to how to conduct the presentation, the client (the employer) will take over. They do NOT have time to waste with incompetent salesmen, and therefore will try to get the meeting over as quickly as possible.

Think Like A Buyer

Who would you do business with if you were buying something?

That is a good question to ask if you are a job applicant and you want to get the job. The answer, as you know, is that people only buy from those that they like, that they know, and that they trust. So the interview questions will center around getting to know the applicant, and getting to trust them. The “like” part is established by how much in common the applicant has with the person doing the interview. The scientific evidence of this is overwhelming. For example, if the two people in the room have the same first name, share a common birth date, or grew up in the same town, their will be an instant connection of “like” between them. It isn’t fair, but those are the facts.

Most job applicants are trained on these types of questions. But this is a stupid way to go through a job interview. Compare it to a situation of a business consultant. As an example, lets say I needed some website work done for my company. I could either hire an outside contractor, or I could hire a full-time employee to work for me. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If I decide to hire someone full-time, what kind of questions would I ask? Probably the same generic type of interview questions that everyone asks: tell me about yourself, what do you do for fun outside of work? Blah, blah, blah. Again, these questions are all about establishing a feeling of “like, to know, and to trust” the person.

What then, does it take for one applicant to stand out from another one in this kind of situation? That is a very good question to ask.

The “how-to-get-a-job” gurus will tell you that it is usually the person that expresses the most interest in the position. But I don’t buy that argument, because how do you measure that? How do you say someone is more interested in the job than another? Is it the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they express themselves with body language? Who knows? I don’t.

As I said before, I think it really comes down to which applicant is seen as the least likely to cause problems in the future.

Now, compare this type of interview with a sales presentation from a company that wants to earn my website development business. The actual work is identical, because my problem hasn’t changed at all.

But the atmosphere of the situation has changed considerably. The professional website developer will come into my office and they will not wait around for me to pepper them with questions about what is their favorite college football team. They will immediately take charge and start asking me questions about how I want the website to look and how it is to operate when they are done with the work. They will want to know my preferences on computer language; they will want to know who my customers are how they interact with my web site. In addition, they will want to know when the project has to be completed by. Then they will show me samples of their previous work. They will show me testimonials from other businesses that they helped in the past. And most importantly, they will describe to me how much money I’ll save, or how much money I’ll make in the future!

Do I care what college they went to, or what kind of extra curricular activities they participated in during school? Do I care about their the grades on their report card? Nope. None of that matters to the problem at hand. The question is, did the business consultant come to me with a full comprehension of my problems and with a cost-effective solution to fix them?

Which scenario is more appealing to me as a business owner? To hire someone based on how “unlikely” I’m going to have problems with them in the future, or to hire someone that solves a specific problem and saves me time and makes me money?

If you have to think on this for more than a split second, you will never land your dream job.

The answer of course, is that you’ll choose the person that is treats the job as a temporary problem to be solved. After “making it go away,” they’ll either move on, or they’ll ask for an ongoing maintenance contract.

Where To Start?

At this point, you might be in a panic. That is understandable. You may have a job interview coming up in the very near future, and now everything up to this point that you’ve been taught about how to present yourself in an interview is deemed pointless. You know you can’t go into the interview and get diced apart with probing questions, like a patient getting poked and prodded by a doctor looking to find out what is wrong with you. That is not the way to land your dream job.

What should you do? You may not know where to start.

I would suggest you treat this first interview you have coming up as a “cold call.” This is what salesman do when they are prospecting for new business. But you have an advantage, in that you know the client is in a buying mood. That is good news, isn’t it?

You only need to find out what problem they want to have solved. It probably won’t be your best presentation ever, but you should be able to learn a lot from it.

One of the first things you should do during the cold-call is to be observant of what the décor of the facility is like.

When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, Proverbs 23:1 (NIV)

In other words, when you sit down with the owner of the business, look around the room and find clues about the other person, so that you know what buttons to push. This is the first thing that all good salesmen do.

For example, does he have pictures on the wall of his family? Does he have trophies on display? What does his desktop look like? What does the furniture look like? Is the place cluttered, or very orderly?

What image is the owner of the company trying to project to his customers? This question is important, because what the owner projects, the staff will also try to mimic. So the person who does the interview will be trying to please the owner by hiring people that share the traits and characteristics of the owner. These are your hot-buttons that you can push when you start your presentation.

For example, if the place is pristine and clean and everything is neatly in its place, you can assume that the owner is looking for a person that is also tidy. Later, when you’re describing yourself, you can say something like: “when I come to work in the morning, I’ll be wearing business attire that says to customers, ‘this place is professional and treats me with respect.'” That phrase is all you have to say, and they’ll have an image of what it will be like when they hire you. You’ve calmed one of their fears; which is that they worry that you’ll cause problems in the future.

Probing Questions

But do try to have deep probing questions to ask. Not the kind we discussed in the last article about landing your dream job. But “hard” questions aimed specifically at the problem they are trying to solve.

Here’s an example from our website development position that we described earlier:

“Mr. Interviewer, I’m trying to get a grasp on the situation to make sure if I understand it correctly. You’re a very successful company, which is obvious from the way you have made me feel welcome and how well-kept this facility is. Can you tell me why this position exists?”

This is a very cutting question. And the way it is phrased does a several things. Let’s break it down and see the power of the question and the way it is asked.

First of all, by saying “I’m trying to get a grasp on the situation to make sure I understand it correctly,” you are showing that you are focused on their problem, not yours.

You are also implying that you will follow directions in the future. This makes them feel secure that you don’t go off on your own and do your own thing. How many employees do they have that are given an instruction and then go off and do something completely different? They weren’t sure of the instructions, so they just guessed and did what they thought was important; which ended up making things worse.

You’re setting the pattern that you’re different from their current employees and anyone else they’ve interviewed. You will clarify instructions so that you make sure to do what is important, and you want to know why it is important so that you make sure that it is done correctly. That gives them confidence that you will do the work properly.

Next, we have: “You’re a very successful company, which is obvious from the way you have made me feel welcome…”

Here, you start out with flattery. Flattery is one of the most powerful persuasion techniques there is. As your grandma might have said to you: “flattery will get you … everywhere.”

Why does it get you everywhere? Because it provides “recognition.” People want to be recognized for their accomplishments. They want to feel important because of the things they’ve done. When you give them honest flattery, you are giving them the recognition they crave. How can you not like a person that gives you flattery?

Then you follow it up by saying that they have “made you feel so welcome.” Even if you have nothing good to say to a person, you can always say that they made you feel welcome. That is again flattery, but it is gracious flattery.

He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious
will have the king for his friend.
Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

As the verse above exclaims, this is a promise. You will have the king (the employer) as your friend when your speech is gracious. Isn’t that cool?

Next, we have the comment about the “well-kept facility.” Now you’re hitting on one of their hot-buttons. You recognize that the facility is nice. More importantly, they already know that only a person that is neat-and-tidy themselves would even appreciate such a thing. Therefore, without resorting to puffery phrases (like: “I’m a organized person”), you’re essentially saying that you’re a neat-and-tidy person, and that you’ll fit into the corporate philosophy and not cause problems in the future. They WILL pick up on this subliminal phrase. As I said, it is a hot-button for them, so they really can’t help but notice. And besides, if they didn’t notice it, you’ll pick up a lot of information about them, and how stupid they are. Would you really wanted to work for someone that is so stupid? Would you?

With all this as the back-drop, you now hit them with the hard question: “Can you tell me why this position exists?”

The reason it is hard, is because the answer is embarrassing for them. Answering it honestly is going to be very humbling. But by asking the question with all the flattery on the front end, you’ve shown that you are a respectful person, and that you can be trusted with the answer. You’ll not be someone that is going to take the information and shout it to the world or to their competitors.

You already know the answer, but they have to say it. The answer is that despite the appearances of the company, they are not able to solve all of their problems on their own. They are not “superman.”

Nobody wants to admit they are not perfect. So expect that they will couch the answer to you. It is like a patient going to the doctor and they say something like: “I feel short of breath all the time…” The doctor will look at them, and instead of saying “it is because you are fat,” he’ll ask, “and why do you think that might be?”

The way you ask the question shows your own character. This is far more important than the actual words you might use; which is what the “how-to-get-a-job” gurus preach at you.

What are hard questions?

There is one last thing I want you to be aware of. That is that you have to ask “hard” questions if you want to land that dream job.

What is the difference between easy and hard?

From the perspective of the person answering, the easy questions are those that imply that additional work on their part.

For example, asking the interviewer the question: “How do you measure performance of a new employee?”(which is one of the stupid questions we talked about in the last article). What is the implication of this question?

The answer is: “work.”

You’re reminding the interviewer of the extra work that they’ll have to do once they hire you. They will have to spend time evaluating the employee. On top of that, they will have to spend time explaining to you during this interview how they actually measure performance.

In other words, if you have to ask “how” — then someone is going to have to teach you how to do something. Teaching you “how” to do something is easy. But it implies that some “time” and effort will have to be exerted. The reason they are hiring for the position is that they don’t want to exert TIME. We talk about that before too; they want to get time, not to spend it. Do you see the difference?

On the contrary, a hard question has the word “why” in it.

For example, “why do you measure the performance of a new employee?”

When you ask that question, the implications have completely changed. Now you’re saying to the interviewer that you know how a person is evaluated, but that they are wasting time doing the evaluation. After all, the work should be done right. If you have to evaluate someone on doing a job, it must mean that you can’t trust them to do the job at all. Therefore, if you hire me (the applicant), you’ll get more free time in the future, because you won’t have to come back and evaluate my performance — since it will be done correctly.

Just one word, “how” versus “why” changes the entire complexion of the question. The “how” question pushes the button called “you’re going to have to spend time later on when you hire me,” and the other one agitates the big blinking button that says “I’m spending too much time already, and I need this problem fixed right now.” Pushing the first button will get your job application thrown in the trash. Pushing the hot button will get you hired.

The Rewards of Asking Hard Questions

People that ask the easy questions, like those that start with the word “how,” are easy to find. The people that ask the hard question, like those that begin with the word “why,” are paid handsomely.

There is an old saying that goes “the man that knows what to do or how to do it will always have a job. The man that understands the ‘why’ it has to be done, will be the boss.” I don’t know said that phrase, but they hit the nail right on the head. “Why” is always more important that “what” or “how.”

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought…

In the bible, the Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon, and tests his wisdom with “hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). Solomon must have been very impressed with the questions. Because, even though she brought him large amounts of gifts estimated to be 4-tons of gold (2 Chronicles 9:9), she left with more than she gave to him.

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him. 2 Chronicles 9:12 (NIV).

The power of a well-thought “hard question” is not to be underestimated. Yearn for the wisdom to know which questions to ask. They are one of the secret keys for you to land that dream job, and to make money, God’s way.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Dream Job – Hard Interview Questions”

  1. Hi Tim,

    I love your series on job interview posts.

    What do you think about informational interviews and that process for researching and networking?

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Dating After 40 Expert

  2. Austin says:

    Thanks, I read this part-way and then with inspiration wrote an e-Mail regarding my unjust ban from commenting on a website and sent the e-Mail.