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How to Answer Questions in an Interview

GUIDELINES FOR ANSWERING TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

1.      Tell me about yourself. 

Relate your answer to the job.  Be prepared with your 30-second commercial:  An integration of your skills, values, interests and goals, and brief summary of your career progression and strengths. Avoid giving personal information, such as marital status, children, country of origin.

2.      Why are you leaving your current position? 

Focus on your accomplishments and how this position would allow you to build upon your achievements and make a contribution to the company’s mission.  Be able to explain how your skills and goals relate to the job, and always avoid negative remarks about your current employer or position. 

3.      If unemployed:  Why did you leave your last position? 

Indicate how your experience was good, what you learned and contributed, and how this employer’s product or mission is in line with your goals and values.  Be truthful without volunteering negative info about yourself or former/present employer. Example:  If left under less than ideal circumstances:  “The job did not fully utilize my strengths and I felt it was time for a change.”  If you have frequent job changes:  Emphasize how your changes have given you breadth of experience.

4.      What are your strengths? 

Prepare extensively for this question. 

a.       Break down the skills required for this position and compare them with your skills.

b.      Give examples that demonstrate your skills by describing situations where you have used the same or related skills.

5.      What are your significant accomplishments?  

Accomplishments can come from personal experience, not just from paid experience (e.g., obstacles overcome, high grades, or achieving a goal such as graduating from college).  In developing accomplishment statements, think about:

a.   a problem or situation that created a need for your action

b.   what you did to resolve the problem

c.   the skills utilized and demonstrated in your actions

d.   the results of your effort.

6.      Why should we hire you? 

Employers hire people for 3 reasons:  (1) qualifications – they can do the job; (2) interest – they are interested in the work and the mission/product of the employer – they will do the job; (3) fit – they like the person.  If the qualifications and interests are equal among all the candidates, the employer will hire the person whom they like the best.  In answering this question, address these 3 reasons:

a.   As shown on my resume, I have the experience and skills job that show I can do the job.

b.   I am very interested this type of work and my values line up with your corporate values.  Therefore, I will be motivated to give 110%.

c.   I have excellent interpersonal skills for getting along with others and working as part of a team.

7.      Why are you interested in working for us? 

Be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge about the employer and how your goals and experience fit the position and the employer’s mission.  Example:  “I believe in and support the work you are doing and would like to be part of it.”  Follow this statement with examples from your professional or personal life that show how you have supported the company’s mission or how your goals relate to the mission.

8.      Why are you interested in this position? 

Be prepared to explain how your strengths, goals and/or background relate to the job in question.  Example:  “This job represents the type of challenge I am seeking at this stage of my career and therefore I would be motivated to produce results and make a positive contribution to your organization.”

9.      What are your weaknesses?

a.   Rephrase “weakness” as an area for “improvement” and describe steps you are taking to improve in that area or how you have improved. 

b.   Describe a weakness that is obvious from your resume but not critical to the job.  Example:  If education is limited, I have strong experience in this area, but I would like to further my education.  If experience is limited, I have strong educational credentials, and I am taking steps to gain additional experience through ______.  (e.g., volunteer project).

10.    Salary:

a.   Know the market and try to defer answering until you have demonstrated your value and learned as much as possible about the position.  Check on salary.com and payscale.com.for salary ranges by position and locale and look for the salaries for similar positions posted on online job boards.

b.   Possible responses:  “I am excited about this job, and because it is directly related to my career goals, my salary requirements are negotiable.”  Or, “My salary requirements are negotiable and I would like to learn more about the position and other benefits before giving a definite salary requirement at this time.

c.   If they ask for your current or most recent salary, Michael Neece of interviewmastery.com recommends responding with “I understand that you need to make sure my salary requirements and your salary range are aligned. Please share with me the salary range, and I'll tell how my salary fits in your range.”

d.   If you decide to reveal your requirement, defend your answer with research data.  Example:  My research regarding salaries for this type of position shows that the average in the 50’s.  What is the range that you have budgeted for this position?”  By stating “50’s” you are not giving a specific range within which they will offer you the lowest amount, and by revealing your requirement, asking for their range is reasonable. 

e.   In negotiation, ego is involved.  Convey a win-win attitude.  Doing so conveys your skills in problem solving and negotiation.  The employer should not feel as if he/she is losing..

f.    If their salary is non-negotiable, try to negotiate for other benefits (e.g., paid parking, flex schedule, extra week of vacation.)

11.   Responding to illegal questions. 

Response could run along a continuum from answering all questions without objecting to confronting the employer. Between these extremes, respond to the intent of the question without volunteering potentially damaging info.  Example:  Do you have children?  Response: “I gain a great deal of satisfaction from being with my family and have always demonstrated reliability in completing my work on time and accomplishing my objectives while making a positive contribution to the organization.  I anticipate being able to do the same for you.”

12.  How would your coworkers describe you? 

What compliments have your coworkers paid you?  Be specific by using examples of compliments you have received, or solicit feedback from present and past coworkers.

13.   How would your supervisor describe you? 

Use performance appraisals for examples.  In past performance appraisals, I have been commended for…

 


 

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