1. What is your salary requirement?
The trap: Employers worry that your salary demands will top what they're willing to pay — and that if you settle for less than what you feel you deserve, you'll resent it and jump ship when you find an employer willing to pay more.
Best strategy for answering: Ask your interviewer what the salary range is for the position, says career coach Ronnie Ann Himmel. That way both of you can quickly establish if the relationship is even worth pursuing further. Avoid divulging a precise salary. What you're after is total compensation, including health care, retirement benefits and vacation — even the opportunity to have a flexible work arrangement.
2. Why do you want to leave your current job, or why did you leave your last one?
The trap: This question, most interviewers know, can trigger an emotional reaction, particularly if you left a job — or want to leave — because you were or are miserable, or your position was eliminated.
Best strategy for answering: Answer honestly and briefly, but do not give negative vibes about your present or past employers. It will reflect poorly on you. Then answer along the lines that you're seeking a company with a mission or culture that better suits you. "Find something about this job or company that you can enthusiastically say you're looking for, and that doesn't exist where you are or were," Himmel says.
3. Why is there a gap in your work history?
The trap: Employers fear the gap is a sign that no one wanted to hire you.
Best strategy for answering: Deal with it straight on, and then spotlight relevant experience you gained during your time between jobs, "like volunteer work or a class you took," Himmel says.
4. Aren't you overqualified?
The trap: Employers fear that you're pursuing the job as a placeholder until you find one you really want, or that you will balk once reporting to someone who is less experienced.
Best strategy for answering: Explain how the firm would profit by hiring you, says Nancy Collamer, author of Second-Act Careers.
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