What are your weaknesses?
The most dreaded question of all. Handle this question by minimizing the weakness and emphasizing the strengths. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits: "I am always working to improve my communication skills so that I can be a more effective presenter. I recently joined Toastmasters which I find very helpful."
Why should we hire you?
Prepare and know your product -- YOU! Summarize your experiences: "With five years' experience working in the financial industry, and my proven record of saving the company money, I could make a big difference in your company. I am confident I would be a great addition to your team."
Why do you want to work here?
The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought, and are not sending out résumés just because there is an opening. Doing research should give you plenty of reasons why you want to work there. As an example, "I've selected key companies whose mission statements are in line with my values, where I know I could be excited about what the company does, and this company is very high on my list of desirable choices."
What are your goals?
Sometimes it's best to talk about short-term and intermediate goals, and not lock yourself into the distant future. Something like, "My immediate goal is to get a job in a growth-oriented company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. I hope to eventually grow into a position of additional responsibility."
Why did you leave (are you leaving) your job?
This question is almost a certainty. If you are unemployed, put you're leaving in a positive context: "I managed to survive two down-sizings, but the third round was a 20% reduction in force, which included me."
If you are employed, focus on what you want in your next job: "After two years, I made the decision to look for a company that is team-focused, where I can add my experience."
When were you most satisfied in your job?
The interviewer wants to know what motivates you. If you can relate an example of a job or project when you were excited, the interviewer will get an idea of your preferences. "I was very satisfied in my last job because I worked directly with the customers and their problems; that is an important part of the job for me."
What can you do for us that other candidates can't?
What makes you unique? This will take an assessment of your experiences, skills and traits. What makes you stand out? After your assessment, bring it all together in a concise manner: "I have a unique combination of strong technical skills, and the ability to build strong customer relationships. This allows me to use my knowledge, and break down information to be user friendly."
What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
It's time to pull out your old performance appraisals and boss's quotes. This is a great way to brag about yourself through someone else's words: "My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can rely on me, and he likes my sense of humor."
What salary are you seeking?
It is to your advantage if the employer tells you the "range" first. Prepare by knowing the "going rate" in your area, and your bottom line or "walk away" point. One possible answer would be: "I am sure when the time comes we can agree on a reasonable amount. In what range do you typically pay someone with my background?"
There is no way of predicting which questions will be asked in an interview, but by reviewing some of the "most common" questions you will begin to focus on how to present yourself in the most positive manner.
Carole Martin is a thoroughbred interview coach. Celebrated author, trainer, and mentor, Carole can give you interviewing tips like no one else can. Subscribe to her free email newsletter, "Interview Fitness Training" at www.interviewcoach.com. Her workbook, "Interview Fitness Training -- A Workout With the Interview Coach" has sold thousands of copies world-wide and she has just released her latest book, Boost Your Interview IQ, both available on Amazon.com.© 2006 Carole Martin
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