Preparing for interview questions will give you the edge over other qualified candidates. Although there isn't one correct way to respond to questions, keep the following in mind:
1. Understand what's being asked. Employers want to know about your adaptive skills (meeting deadlines) and personal qualities (dependability, motivation).
2. Answer questions briefly. Present the facts as advantages.
3. Answer the real question. Show how your skills and experience can do the job. Demonstrate how your past accomplishments relate to the job.
Provide concrete examples and relate stories. Describing situations where you've used your skills is more powerful than just stating this. Include details.
Quantify to provide a basis for your accomplishments. Give the number of clients served or the amount you increased the profit margin.
Emphasize results. Give data indicating positive results you've obtained such as sales increased by 10 percent over the previous year.
Sample Key Questions
1. Tell me about yourself? This is a terrific opportunity to give your "one minute commercial." Relate your background to the position being considered. Provide some personal history, then show how your skills, accomplishments and training are directly related to the job.
2. Why should I hire you? Market yourself. Talk about your achievements, awards and promotions, but don't take credit for things you don't deserve or claim experience you don't have.
Show how you can help the employer make more money by improving efficiency, reducing cost, increasing sales or solving problems. Present your skills and experience in a direct, confident way. Show your portfolio which can include concrete examples of your work.
3. What are your major strengths? Emphasize your self-management skills (hard working, goal directed). Once you begin speaking about one strength, the rest of your response falls into place.
4. What are your major weaknesses? This is tricky. Employers want to know how you'll react in a tough situation. Be honest, brief and positive. Turn a weakness into a strength. Share something you're currently working on. "I'm improving my time management skills. I develop and adhere to a daily schedule."
5. What salary do you expect? Never discuss salary until you're offered the position. Once you expose yourself, you're less efficient at negotiating your value. If salary comes up, state: "Because I'm really interested in the job, my salary would be negotiable."
Many candidates are dismissed prematurely because they state an excessively low or high salary. Defer the question politely. Then, when the timing is right, maneuver the interviewer into stating the starting salary.
Research going salary ranges for similar positions in comparable organizations. Think in terms of a broad salary range. Begin with their probable range and end a bit above your salary expectations.
Never refuse a job or salary offer on the spot. Think about it. Instead of rejecting a given salary, say: "That's lower than I had in mind, but since I want this position I'll accept this. When will there be a performance review with a salary increase?"
6. How does your previous experience relate to this job? Try to overcome limitations in your background. Emphasize your strengths such as personal and technical transferable skills to counter lack of skills or experience with the prospective job. Show how school courses or accomplishments in a different field relate to the position. Be confident.
7. Why do you want this job? Employers want someone who's motivated to do a particular kind of job with their company because this usually ensures long-term commitment. They don't want someone who is seeking any job anywhere.
Know why you're a good match for the position. Show how your interests, skills, accomplishments, special training, credentials, mission, goals and other qualities relate to the position. Explain why you want to work for this company. Know its mission.
8. What will your former employers say about you? Formulate a rational explanation of why you left. Show that you're a team player. Discuss your career plans with former supervisors. If you were fired, negotiate what would be said to prospective employers. Interviewers usually understand conflicts presented positively. Use referees who will give favorable references.
Be yourself and emphasize your suitability for the position.
Carole Kanchier, PhD, is a registered psychologist, internationally recognized career expert, newspaper/digital columnist, and coach. She encourages people to review their views of career success, and strengthen Quester qualities such as purpose, intuition, and perseverance to succeed. Contact Dr. Kanchier: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.questersdaretochange.com