The Working Woman’s Guide To Tricky Interview Questions

Posted: April 26, 2011

Is your job search getting stumped by certain common interview questions? We help you crack them with these job interview tips!

By Jaya Narayan

Being interviewed is a humbling experience. Whether you have tons of experience as a working woman or are fresh out of college there are always some interview questions that will catch you off-guard.




The following 5 questions are a good starting point for your interview preparation so that you don’t fumble during your interview and carry off your job search confidently.

Tricky interview question 1: Tell me about your strengths

Nirmala Menon, CEO, Interweave Consulting Pvt. Ltd, a diversity management solutions firm says, “Socially ingrained values of modesty make us women not truly value our worth”. To counter this limitation, it is essential to be prepared. While preparing for an interview, spend time reflecting and objectively evaluating yourself. Recollect the appreciation emails or awards you have received in the recent past. Seek informal feedback from your manager, team and customers to help you gain reinforcement on your positive attributes.

Always remember that strengths are contextual. Rehearsing your strengths will boost your interview skills and help your prospective employer appreciate how your job related as well as interpersonal skills make you the best candidate vis- a-vis others in the race. Always substantiate your positive qualities with facts and real life experience.

Tricky interview question 2Can you handle pressure and long working hours?

Firstly, you need to be convinced that you can handle the job related challenges in addition to your other responsibilities.

“Women must be proud of those attributes that are unique to them and make them successful at the workplace”, says Anish Singh, Founder Director, Techbridge Networks, a manpower and process outsourcing firm. In his experience women employees are often more open minded, empathetic, willing to embrace differences, and multi-task more efficiently. These qualities will give you the confidence to handle the job related responsibilities in your own distinct way which can compensate for any constraints and challenges you may face as a woman.

Use this question to illustrate how you handled pressure, challenges and significant responsibilities at your current job.

Use this question to illustrate how you handled pressure, challenges and significant responsibilities at your current job. Once this is done, you could mention any constraints you have in terms of hours of work, travel, working over weekends or working in shifts. Give the employer alternatives to get around these constraints and if necessary, mention that your personal life is well organized to meet your professional commitments.

If you need it, don’t hesitate to check on the organization’s philosophy in terms of flexi-working options, infrastructure to work from home to complete pending work etc. The key is balance. Don’t underestimate your capacity, but resist from over committing. While it is tempting to over-promise, especially if your job search has been on for a long time, ending up with an employer who rides roughshod over your personal life is a recipe for high levels of stress and a job search soon again!

Tricky interview question 3What are your salary expectations?

Often women are reticent to talk about salary expectations and negotiate hard. To get a grip on this, Nirmala Menon expects women interviewees to be well versed with their current market value and the expected salary range for the prospective role they have applied for.

Determining the salary at which you will be comfortable to make a switch would be based on the following considerations:

– Your current salary and the future prospects you have in the immediate and next one year horizon. Do consider the proposed annual increments, promotion or the prospect of travel to an exotic location in case you stay with the current employer.

– Realistically assess how desperate the prospective employer is to hire you. Being aware of issues such as attrition in the industry and company will give you leverage to negotiate hard.

– Advantages you see in joining the prospective employer such as a better role, exposure to a new domain, learning opportunities, mentoring, better technology infrastructure etc.

– The intangible and work-life benefits in the new organization vis-a-vis the current one such as proximity to work, free pick up and drop, flexible working environment, creche etc.

Evaluate your personal financial situation and commitments in the immediate future. Nirmala recommends, “Do not go below the minimum amount on your expected salary range. If you compromise you may feel short changed which will impact your performance at work.”

Tricky interview question 4Convince me that your personal decisions will not impact work commitments.

Many progressive organizations steer away from asking sensitive questions that reflect gender discrimination. However, as yet, there is no legislation that prevents Indian employers from asking women whether they plan to get married or have children. You could decide not to work for such employers; on the other hand, this interview question is depressingly common (never mind that attrition is high in many Indian companies, regardless of gender!)

Aruna RB, 33, Freelance HR Consultant, says being upfront helps. In one of her past job interviews she plainly said, “I cannot commit to a long term career with you right now as I can’t predict my future. All I know right now is that in the present, I am committed to delivering my best”. She was pleasantly surprised when she landed up with that very job.

Another option could be to let them know that besides offering total commitment while you are at the role, you would also be fully involved in working with the organization to find an alternative/train a replacement, should the need ever arise.

Tricky interview question 5Why should we hire you?

This question has to be answered with data and specific examples. Your goal must be to illustrate in a punchy and crisp manner why your credentials, education and experience add value to the prospective organization. To be effective in making a pitch, you must be well versed with the role that you are interviewing for.

Even if there are some limitations you see, convince the interviewer that you have the right ingredients (learning orientation, analytical ability, communication skills etc) and can succeed.

Recast a job interview as a proactive opportunity to network, meet interesting people and get a free self- valuation done.

Jaya Narayan is a alumnus of TISS, Mumbai and has over 15 years of experience

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1 Comment


  1. 30 60 90 Sales Plan -

    Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing. Will surely recommend this site to some friends! Regards,

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