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Successfully Answer Traditional Questions in Your Job Interview

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During an employment interview, the interviewer meets with potential employees to evaluate their skills, capabilities, and levels of experience. When, as a prospective employee, you find yourself sitting in the hot seat, keep in mind that while there are no standard responses, your replies should be clear and relevant. Stopping in silence to gather your thoughts is not only helpful but wise.

To answer questions with poise, try to remember these tips:

  • Listen carefully. If you feel the question is unclear, ask politely for clarification.
  • Pause before answering to consider all facts that may substantiate your response.

  • Always offer positive information; avoid negativity at all times.

  • Get directly to the point. Ask if listener would like you to go into great detail before you do.

  • Discuss only the facts needed to respond to the question.

  • Focus and re-focus attention on your successes. Remember, the goal is not to have the right answers so much as it is to convince the interviewer that you are the right person.

  • Be truthful, but try not to offer unsolicited information.

  • Try not to open yourself to areas of questioning that could pose difficulties for you.

Every confident job hunter would like to think that "winging it" during an interview is the best policy, perhaps the most natural. However, we recommend that you do take some time to think through your answers to some common interview questions. Taking that time to formulate your answers and solidify your thoughts will give you more poise and security during the actual interview.

What would be your answers to these questions?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • If you could have your choice of any job, what would it be and why?

  • Why do you want to go into this field?

  • What are your short- and long-range goals and how do you expect to achieve them?

  • What does success mean to you? How do you measure it?

  • What motivates you?

  • Do you plan to further your education? If so, to what extent?

  • What have you done to improve yourself during the past year?

  • If you could relive the last 15 years, what changes would you make?

  • Tell me about your greatest achievement and greatest disappointment?

  • What are some of your weaknesses?

  • Tell me about the best and worst bosses you've ever had.

  • How do you handle your reaction when you don't get what you want? Give me a couple of examples.

  • How do you handle stress?

  • How do you pull a team together when it seems to be going nowhere?

  • What qualities do you prize the most in those that report directly to you?

  • What type of people do you have the most trouble getting along with in the workplace, and, how do you handle it?

  • What constructive criticism have you received from employers?

  • Everybody has pet peeves. What are yours?

  • What else do you think I should know about you?

The interviewer will also want to learn about your experience and your reasons for seeking a new position and may ask the following questions:

  • When did you leave your last job and why?

  • How long have you been out of work?

  • At your last job, how much of the work did you perform independently?

  • What did you like most and least about your last job?

  • What are some of the problems you have encountered in your past jobs?

  • How did you solve the problems?

  • Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team?

  • At your last job, how much was performed by a team?

  • What prevented you from advancing in your former positions?

  • What have you been doing since you left your last job?

To learn about your plans for the future and your motivation for applying for the job, the interviewer may ask the following questions:

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • What do you expect to experience in this job that you did not experience in your past jobs?

  • How do you feel about evening work? Weekend work? Carrying a pager? Being on call?

  • Assuming we make you an offer, what do you see as your future here?

  • Why should we hire you?

  • Are you considering other positions at this time?

  • How does this job compare with them?

  • If you feel you have any weaknesses with regard to this job, what would they be?

  • What is your leadership style? Please give examples of this style in a real situation.

  • How do you feel about relocating?

  • What could you contribute to our facility?

Sometimes the interviewer will ask vague questions that, if unexpected, may be difficult to answer. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What weaknesses in your work habits do you think you need most to work on?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Why do you believe that you are the best candidate for this job?
  • Why are you applying for a position for which you are obviously overqualified?
  • Why are you applying for a position for which you are obviously underqualified?
  • Why do you believe that you could handle this position?
  • Since you are overqualified for this position, what do you hope to gain from it?
  • What can you do for me?
  • You don't have the necessary experience or background for this position, so why would my organization benefit from having you in this role?
  • How soon would you be able to start this position if we offer it to you?

Eventually, money will become an issue. Among the questions that may arise pertaining to compensation are the following:

  • What exactly were you paid at your last job? (tell the absolute truth here; no other answer is appropriate)
  • What is the minimum salary you will accept?
  • What salary range are you wishing to be considered for?
  • What are your financial needs?


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