With the competition keener than ever and the economy in a slump, you need to prepare for your job interview thoroughly. It’s no longer enough to offer a firm handshake to your interviewer, make eye contact, and nod pleasantly now and then. You need to prepare a dynamic application letter and resume. You need to research the company. And you need to present a confident image and develop the ability to answer tough questions on the spot.
Although no one can predict the questions your potential employer will ask, you can think about how you’d answer some of the commonly asked ones. Here are ten questions for you to consider and a few hints about how to answer them:
- Tell me about yourself.
Chances are the employer doesn’t want to know how much you weighed when you were born, when you learned to tie your shoes, or how much you had to drink last night. He or she wants to know how you would fit into the company and what your relevant job experience is. You might answer by asking the interviewer what he’d like to know. Or you might talk about your education, the fact that you’re a team player, or whatever you think might be important to this particular company.
- Why should we hire you?
Even though five people may be waiting outside, you need to sound confident, calm, and capable. Explain how your experience has prepared you for the job. Emphasize the qualities you think the employer is looking for, such as your outstanding work ethic or the fact that you’re a fast learner.
- What is your worst characteristic?
Some human resource specialists suggest that you make a virtue sound like a flaw. “I tend to be a perfectionist,” or, “Everyone says I work too hard.” But others say these answers have become clichés. Mention a minor flaw, such as, “I think I’m too outspoken at times, but I’m working on it.”
- Where do you want to be five years from now?
Let the interviewer know you’re looking for job stability and that you aren’t planning to use this job as a temporary stopping point in your quest for a better position. You
could say, “I’d like to be employed in a small company like this one, where I can learn,
contribute, and advance.”
- Why did you leave your last job?
Never put your former employer or your co-workers in a negative light. Don’t blame them for your departure. Give a positive reason, such as you left to take advantage of another opportunity that was better suited to your skills.
- Tell me about a problem you had in your life and how you solved it.
Be prepared with a short answer that shows you’re resourceful. “I really wanted to go to a private university, but my parents didn’t have the money. I went to a community college for two years, worked part time and saved my money so I could attend the last two years at the college of my choice.”
- Have you had difficulties getting along with supervisors or co-workers?
You’d have to be a saint to have had no problems with the people you worked with. You might answer, “Nothing major. I try to get along with everyone.”
- How do you deal with stress on the job?
The employer wants to know if you’re going to run out the door when things get stressful. Ask yourself if you thrive on working with deadlines or if you need creative time to function more effectively. Think about how you handle stress and be honest. “I focus on the work I’m doing,” or, “I make time to work out at the gym.”
- What salary do you want for this job?
Rather than stating a definite figure, tell the interviewer you’d expect to get somewhere in the standard range paid for this position.
- Do you have questions for me?
Always have a few questions. They show that you researched the company. Ask about a
current issue the company is working on or how their recent layoff in another department
affected company morale.