How Would You Handle Tough Interview Questions?

You’ve worked diligently on your resume, crafted a convincing cover letter and you have three sure-fire personal references who can vouch for your character as well as state that you are an invaluable worker. Together, all three steps can go a long way to helping you get your next job, but there is one area which you must still master — the job interview. Lest you think that interviewing is a walk in the park, you must be prepared to answer some behavioral questions about yourself, including tough questions designed to reveal to the interviewer whether you are right for the job or not.

Flight Attendant

You Have Everything Down Pat But The Interview Questions

Showing up at the interview on time and being impeccably addressed are pluses as are having copies of your resume and references available. However, interview questions are something you cannot control so you must master the way that you respond.

Although many airlines offer first round group interviews to screen out candidates, you will likely have a one-on-one interview with a human resources administrator or flight attendant supervisor at some point in the process. If you do, the following types of questions — tough questions at that — could be asked. Please read on, but don’t worry — I’ll share some hints with you on how to respond.

What would you do in such and such situation?

Purely hypothetical

, these types of questions are designed to find out how you would respond in a particular situation. Don’t worry about getting the answer right if you aren’t certain what the answer is — your interviewer wants to know how you think through problems.

Has your experience working with the public prepared you for a job as a flight attendant?

This can seem like a simple yes/no answer, but that isn’t what your interviewer wants. Instead, give an example: While working at Big Box retailer, when a customer had a problem I made sure that I answered the question to their satisfaction. I believe my personal attention to customer needs while working in retail is the same attention I will give to airline passengers.

Brilliant — you gave an example that clearly demonstrates what you can do for the airline and you based it on your past experience.

Please tell me the reasons why you want to work for XYZ Airline?

An open question

means you should respond with a definitive answer. Craft your answer carefully and give two or three reasons — avoid rambling or straying off the topic. Learn some important points about the airline and use those points in your answer. For example, “XYZ has the highest level of customer satisfaction of all U.S. air carriers. I am passionate about serving people and want to associate myself with a clear winner.”

Do you know CPR?

Closed questions leave little doubt that you should give either a yes or no answer as the interviewer is trying to assess your skills. You may be asked follow up questions to elaborate your answer. For example when asked specifics about your training you could respond: “I completed CPR training in 2004 with The Heart Fund, but I haven’t renewed by certification.”

I noticed you attended college from 2003 to 2005. What courses did you take? Why did you drop out and what are you future educational plans?

Multi-part questions are common and sometimes difficult to answer immediately. If you are not certain what the questions were, then ask for a repeat. Or, answer the first questions and then follow up with a, “would you please repeat the second part of your question for me?”

The STAR Technique

Career experts use a simple way to help people respond to behavioral questions, what they call the STAR technique


Situation — describe the situation.

Task — what problem did you face?


ction You Took — what action did you take?

Result — what was the result of your action?

It can be helpful to practice answering anticipated questions prior to your interview date. If you aren’t sure what those questions will be, please remember that the details you share about yourself on your resume, cover letter or job application will hold some of those questions, while the remaining ones you’ll have to answer as presented to you. Simply respond to every question intelligently, clearly and with brevity and you’ll come across as someone the airline may want to hire.

For a humorous look at blowing your interview, please read You Can Guarantee You Won’t Get Hired

for tips on how to not get that job!

Photo Credit: Maarten Uilenbroek, Netherlands

Negotiating Skills: How to Obtain the Salary You Want

By Matthew C. Keegan

Salary negotiating is an important topic that must be addressed prior to your initial interview with a prospective employer. Knowing your bottom rate, and being able to live with it [or on it?] is an important thing for candidates to uncover before the first interview. Why then do so many of us make the tactical mistake and go to the interview unprepared?

One of the first mistakes – a real killer – is to tip your hand too early in the interview process on what you will accept for a salary. Many interviewers will attempt to screen you out by finding out what your ballpark figure is. To mention that amount too early in the interview process can and will lock you in to a figure you might not be happy with later. Try changing your salary requirements after an offer has been made and you will come across looking flakey or greedy.

You must have a salary range in mind before going on the first interview… you then have to be determined not to reveal it in that interview or you just might find yourself on the outside looking in. In other words, you will be screened out of the selection process before you can show the employer [the person with hiring authority, not the Human Resources (HR) rep.] what you can do for them.

If you are asked on the first interview what your salary requirements are you must stall the interviewer. Chances are the first interview is with an HR rep who is trained to weed people out, oftentimes the salary requirement being one of the “weeds” the rep looks at to eliminate candidates. More than likely the rep is a “no-nothing” regarding your job; he or she is tasked with presenting a certain group of candidates to the person with actual hiring authority [e.g., chief flight attendant, chief pilot, operations manager, etc.] and knows [or cares] little about your background or what you can do for the company.

I have seen the best candidates get screened out prematurely because they tipped their hand too early in the interview process.

So, what do you do if someone insists on a salary figure? The best answer can be summed up along these lines: “my salary requirements are based on the nature and scope of the position.” In other words, the more difficult the job, the higher your salary requirements will be. If pressed further — assuming the rep insists on uncovering your salary range — you can always announce a figure closer to your bottom rate. For example, if you want 60K and sense that announcing that figure ahead of time will sink you, you can tell them: “my range starts in the upper 40s to mid 50s.” That way, you won’t be screened out for what the H.R. rep might consider an excessive salary requirement. Most importantly, it will enable you to go to the all important second interview with the person who has real hiring authority.

Your second interview is your opportunity to “WOW” your potential employer. Tell them all the things you can and will do for them. Avoid salary negotiating and let them know they can’t live without you. Once you sell them on that point, you will be prepared to give your salary figure of 60K, but only discuss salary if they bring it up [your third interview should be their actual offer to you, however be prepared for an offer earlier than that if you WOW them and they insist on hiring you on the spot. In that case you should be able to secure your upper figure].

Should the remark be made that HR told them you would accept a much lower salary, you must stress that the job responsibilities detailed to you in the interview are much greater than what the HR rep had indicated. Most reasonable people will understand that HR only has a general, not a specific understanding of the job requirements, and will accept this reasoning. Reemphasize your experience, your business acumen, all the points that set you apart from the average candidate, which you are not.

I cannot tell you how often I have heard candidates fail at this important game, which it is — a cat and mouse game. Do not for a minute think that you will be able to renegotiate your salary later. If you settle for less you will have to live on less. Maybe that works for you, but chances are you will be unhappy and had wished you never caved in.

Matt is the former owner of the Corporate Flight Attendant Community

, a resource center for business flight attendants.