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Ace Your Interview

Acing your interview is much easier with a little preparation. Below covers interview questions for both the interviewer and yourself, plus other helpful tips!

Advance Preparation

Four key questions you MUST know how to answer persuasively in advance of any interview. This will not only give you the material needed to build a strong resume, but will help you maximize your interview potential and networking opportunities.

1. What kind of job are you looking for?

Understand exactly what position you're targeting—and what those job duties usually entail—so that you can immediately demonstrate to prospective employers that you understand the position you're applying for. On a resume, this could be your "Objective."

2. Why are you qualified to do the job?

That's the summary or "Professional Profile" section. This is where you outline the skills and credentials that qualify you for the job. You can break your skills into functional sections or use bullet points to highlight key points. If this section is done properly, it will convince prospective employers that the rest of your resume is worth reading.

3. How Well Have You Done It?

The best accomplishments are those that demonstrate quantifiable results and your willingness to go "the extra mile." Did you come up with an idea that saved the company money? Were you promoted because of your team building skills? Were you selected for a key program because of your positive attitude? Whenever possible, describe how you improved an employer's bottom line (i.e. doubled sales, cut costs, reduced errors, streamlined processing or improved efficiency.)

Additional interview questions... and how to answer them

Below are common interview questions and their responses, sourced from CareerBuilder.com. There are even a few tricky questions employers may ask to keep you on your toes to help you practice and perfect your own interview responses ahead of time.

Tell me about yourself.

This is usually the opening question in an interview and it's the perfect moment for you to toot your own horn -- not to tell your life history. Your answers should be a quick rundown of your qualifications and experience. Talk about your education, work history, recent career experience and future goals.

Suggested answer: "I graduated from University X and since I have been working in public relations with an agency where I have generated millions of PR hits for my clients. While I've enjoyed working on the agency side, I'm looking to expand my horizons and start doing PR for corporate companies such as this one. "

Why did you leave your last job?

This is your chance to talk about your experience and your career goals, not to badmouth a former boss or give a laundry list of reasons for your exit. Instead, focus on what you learned in your previous position and how you are ready to use those skills in a new position.

Suggested answer: "The company just wasn't a good fit for my creativity, but I learned that organizations have distinct personalities just like people do. Now I know where I'll be a better fit."

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Let the employer know that you're stable and you want to be with this company for the long haul. Keep your aspirations to take over the firm with which you are interviewing, own your own company, retire at 40 or be married with five children to yourself.

Suggested answer: "I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer."

What are your weaknesses?

The key to answering this age-old question is not to respond literally. Your future employer most likely won't care if your weak spot is that you can't cook, nor do they want to hear the generic responses, like you're " too detail oriented" or "work too hard."

Respond to this query by identifying areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. If you didn't have the opportunity to develop certain skills at your previous job, explain how eager you are to gain that skill in a new position.

Suggested answer: "In my last position, I wasn't able to develop my public-speaking skills. I'd really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others."

Why were you laid off?

This question is very common in our current economy. It's a tough question, however, especially because many workers aren't told exactly why they were laid off. The best way to tackle this question is to answer as honestly as possible.

Suggested answer: "My former company felt the effects of our down-turned economy. I was part of a large staff reduction and that's really all I know. I am confident, however, that it had nothing to do with my job performance, as exemplified by my accomplishments. For example..."

Tell me about the worst boss you ever had.

Never, ever talk badly about your past bosses. A potential boss will anticipate that you'll talk about him or her in the same manner somewhere down the line.

Suggested answer: "While none of my past bosses were awful, there are some who taught me more than others did. I've definitely learned what types of management styles I work with the best."

How would others describe you?

You should always be asking for feedback from your colleagues and supervisors in order to gauge your performance; this way, you can honestly answer the question based on their comments. Keep track of the feedback to be able to give to an employer, if asked. Doing so will also help you identify strengths and weaknesses.

Suggested answer: "My former colleagues have said that I'm easy to do business with and that I always hit the ground running with new projects. I have more specific feedback with me, if you'd like to take a look at it."

What can you offer me that another person can't?

This is when you talk about your record of getting things done. Go into specifics from your resume and portfolio; show an employer your value and how you'd be an asset.

Suggested answer: "I'm the best person for the job. I know there are other candidates who could fill this position, but my passion for excellence sets me apart from the pack. I am committed to always producing the best results. For example..."

If you could choose any company to work for, where would you go?

Never say that you would choose any company other than the one where you are interviewing. Talk about the job and the company for which you are being interviewed.

Suggested answer: "I wouldn't have applied for this position if I didn't sincerely want to work with your organization." Continue with specific examples of why you respect the company with which you are interviewing and why you'll be a good fit."

Would you be willing to take a salary cut?

Salary is a delicate topic. In today's tough economy though, how much a company can afford to pay you might be the deal breaker in whether or not you are offered a position.

Suggested answer: "I'm making $X now. I understand that the salary range for this position is $XX - $XX. Like most people, I would like to improve on my salary, but I'm more interested in the job itself than the money. I would be open to negotiating a lower starting salary but would hope that we can revisit the subject in a few months after I've proven myself to you."

Questions for The interviewer

You've put time and effort into preparing for and rehearsing your interview questions, now it's time to consider what is possibly the most difficult question to answer of all "Do you have any questions for me?".

Smart job seekers know that no matter how impressive their interview has been up to this point—it could all fall apart at this stage of the interview. By the same token, it can also be a great opportunity to shine.

Sample Questions to Ask an Interviewer

  • What are you looking for in a successful candidate?
  • What are the most immediate needs in this position over the next few months?
  • What expectations do you have for this position long-term?
  • What is the most difficult challenge a person will face in this position?
  • Can this position lead to other career opportunities? If so, what type of positions?
  • Is the position vacant now? If so, why and for how long?
  • What is your time schedule for filling the position?
  • What is the next step in the process?
  • What are the top three objectives you would like to see accomplished—and in what time period?

Keep Interview Information Focused on the Job.

It's important to choose words wisely during an interview. Judy Kneisley, senior vice president and general manager for Lee Hecht Harrison in Los Angeles, says that it's crucial not to reveal too much information about your personal life. “If someone asks about your hobbies, tell them that they are not overly demanding of your time,” says Kneisley.

“Instead of saying you run in marathons, just say that you enjoy running.” Kneisley also stresses the importance of remaining flexible and not reacting too much to personal questions, even those you know cross the ethical line. “An unskilled interviewer may ask if you have kids at home,” says Kneisley. “Just say you've got that handled and move on. Don't ask how it applies.”

Recommended Resources for Resume Writing, Career Management, & Job Seeking

Want to learn more about successful resume writing online? Check out How To Write A Masterpiece of a Resume.