The interview is the final stage before a job offer is made, so you must give an absolute command performance. Success means getting a perfect A+. Anything less and you come in second place. There is often a question behind the question, so answer their underlining concern. Here is my tough questions list. Study them carefully and develop your own tailored responses using examples.
1. Tell me about yourself. - This is the most common first question and it is open-ended which forces you to make a concise well organized and compelling argument about your candidacy. I suggest giving an overview of your education, experience and accomplishments and how it is a fit for this position and the company. Avoid too much personal information. It is your job to spark further interest in you. You'll need to prove early on that you have what the employer needs.
2. Why do you want to work here? - First, research the organization's products, services, mission and any important details. Be sure you send the message that you are looking for a specific job there, not just any job. A sample answer could be, "I love and use your products. The management understands where the company should go, and I want to be a part of its success."
3. What interests you most about this position? - Be truthful and prove your enthusiasm and interest in them. Talk about the fascinating details of the job and why they excite you. You might say, "There are three things that appeal to me the most about this opportunity: 1) the challenge, 2) the direction of the organization, and 3) the room to grow. Let me explain further..."
4. Why do you want to change jobs? - It is unprofessional to bad mouth a former employer or supervisor. Stay positive and say, "I've really learned a lot at XYZ, but the company is losing ground to its competitors, and I'm excited that this job will help me grow."
5. Why have you changed jobs so frequently? - Be honest, but brief, focusing on the positive. A sample response might be, "I regret leaving my last position because it was a good company, but my performance was not the issue. I had a personal and family matter that needed my full attention. This has been resolved. I also learned that it was not the direction I wanted to go in."
6. Why are there gaps on your resume? - Be prepared to explain what you were doing and any skills you developed during that time. Focus on the positive and what you accomplished. Perhaps you might say, "I used the time very constructively to gain additional skills and experience. I also reevaluated my goals and came to this conclusion..."
7. What is your greatest strength? - Your strength should directly relate to what is required to perform the job successfully. You might say, "I am highly organized. For example, I create a To Do List of the top task that I need to accomplish that day, then I stay focused and determined to get them checked off. This approach has helped me to incrementally reach my goals."
8. What is your greatest weakness? - First, be honest and then give specific examples on how you are working to improve them. Avoid something that would be a serious liability. Don't state, "I'm a perfectionist." It's too predictable. One idea is to say, "I have a tendency to say 'yes' to additional responsibility and then get overcommitted." Give an example of how you are working on prioritizing and setting limits. Draw the attention away from the weakness and refocus the interview on your strengths and skills.
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? - Your goals should reflect what the company has to offer. Do you have a clear direction of where you are going professionally or will you attempt to "find yourself" on their time? Will you job hop after they have invested in you? You could say, "I've done a lot of self-assessment, and what I have learned is that I want to make a commitment to this field and I want to build it here. I am very interested in gaining knowledge and experience to become a subject matter expert."
10. What is an example of a time you failed? - State the experience, your role and then the result. Finally, explain what you learned from the experience. One answer might be, "I did not do enough research on my last employer before they hired me. I learned that it was not a good fit. I have not repeated my mistake, and I have a great deal of knowledge about this new opportunity."
11. What salary are you expecting? - Remember: the person who states the salary first is the loser. The number that is thrown out first is most always negotiated downward. The employer already has a salary range in mind, ask them to give the range then say, "I am within that range, and we can discuss it further when an offer is made." You can also say, "I have no set salary. What salary is usually offered to someone with my qualifications?"
12. Why should we hire you? - Keep your answer direct, convincing and to the point. Go back to your resume and reiterate the top three to five things that make you outstanding. These skills, education, experience and personality traits should be matched to the top needs of the job and organization. You need to show that you have a track record and are results oriented.
13. Do you have any questions? - Demonstrate that you are prepared with three to five questions that are relevant. One answer might be, "Yes, thank you. I do have a few questions. First, your website states that you have a new CEO. What are his/her priorities?"
Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, April 6, 2012