The Most Important Interview Question

By Eric P. Kramer
Career Coach and Author

Selling yourself requires overcoming your negatives, not just stating your positives.

There is one “best” interview question which should be asked by every candidate in every interview.

At the end of an interview, you need to find out how you did in the interview. “Hard sell” proponents suggest asking very direct questions such as, “Is there any reason you would not offer me the job?” or “Will I be asked back for the next round of interviews?” Both of these questions are “sales close” questions. The interviewer can easily avoid answering these questions by simply stating, “We have more candidates to interview before we can make that decision.” Even if the interviewer likes you, avoiding the answer is a prudent response just in case subsequent candidates are better-suited to the job.

Therefore, your challenge is to ask a question that elicits an open, honest, non-defensive answer from the interviewer that tells you how you did in the interview. In addition, as a bonus, the question should enable you to address any objections the interviewer may have.

The suggested question is: “Based on my background, experience and skills, what do you think would be the greatest challenges for me in this position?” The interviewer’s possible responses to this question include:

No challenges or minor challenges
If the interviewer states that there are no challenges or only minor challenges, it is an indication that you did well in the interview and that you are under consideration for the position.

A challenge in an important job area
When there is a challenge raised, ask how significant the challenge is. If the interviewer states a challenge which he or she considers to be important or even critical (which you cannot adequately address), you are probably not a candidate for the job.

A challenge in an area that was not covered in the interview
The interviewer may mention challenges in areas where you have skills and experiences; however they did not come-up in the interview. You now have an opportunity to share your qualifications in these areas and satisfy the interviewer’s concerns.

A challenge to which you can provide an effective strategy
The interviewer may mention a challenge which you are equipped to overcome. There may have been an opportunity for you to address a similar challenge on a previous job. Use that experience to tell the interviewer how you will overcome the challenge on this job. For example, “You are correct; I am not an expert in Microsoft Access. However, when I started my last job I was not proficient with Microsoft PowerPoint. Immediately after being hired, I took a two-day course, purchased training books and practiced. Within four weeks I was producing strong PowerPoint presentations and within eight weeks I was considered an expert PowerPoint producer. I would learn Access the same way.”

Once you get a solid answer to the question suggested above, it mitigates one of the most uncomfortable parts of the job search process – waiting for the hiring manager to call. If the hiring manager made it clear that there are significant concerns about your candidacy, you can stop wondering if you will get the second interview or the job (you won’t). Conversely, if there were no serious concerns stated by the interviewer, you can maintain hope and be assertive in your follow-up.

Often, due to the stressful nature of the interview, good responses to challenges (objections) come to you after the interview is over. Use your thank-you/follow-through letter to overcome any objections you failed to address in the interview – or reiterate the qualifying responses you already stated during the interview.

Originally published on in September, 2010.

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at

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