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Tough Interview Questions

December 8, 2009

Interviews are inevitable. At some point in during the course of your career you will be put in the hot seat and interviewed for a job opportunity. In preparing for a much anticipated interview, many hopeful job seekers fail to consider strong answers to seemingly easy questions. It is often the answers to the most basic of questions that hurt a job seeker leaving a highly qualified and eager candidate without an offer.

Take a look at some of these classic interview questions and how a simple mindset change can turn your interview from a flop into a new job.

Question: Tell me about yourself.
Wrong answer: “Well I grew up in Milwaukee and have lived here my whole life. I live with my spouse, my two kids, and our pet cat. I love country music, bowling, and hanging out with my family.”
Improved Alternative: “I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. Since graduation I have been working in marketing to gain experience and develop professionally. While attending school I learned that my strengths are professional communication, creative thinking, and multi-tasking.”

The trap most job seekers fall into is not considering this a “real” interview question. From the second you walk in the door, you are being interviewed. This basic introduction question often sends job seekers down the wrong path. It sets the tone for the entire interview so use it as an opportunity to discuss professional background information instead of the personal details. Think of this question as an opportunity to lay out your qualifications, career goals, and why you deserve to be sitting on the hot seat at this moment. The improved answer above provides plenty of opportunity for the interviewer to ask follow up questions; thus changing the dynamic of the conversation. As long as the interviewer appears engaged in your answer, provide as much applicable information as possible. Wowing the interviewer from the start is crucial; after all, first impressions are priceless.

Question: Why are you looking for a different job?
Wrong answer: “I hate my boss, coworkers and everything about my current employer.”
Improved Alternative: “My current job has been an excellent learning experience and I have grown as a professional. I am now looking for a position offering new challenges and an opportunity to further develop in this field.”

Running down your current boss, colleagues, and company will never work in your favor. Even if you despise everything about your current situation, keeping things brief and positive will allow you to move on from this topic quickly. By bad mouthing a current or past employer, it appears you are not a team player, you don’t handle conflict well, and you have a negative attitude. Every tough employment situation helps you develop and learn new skills in working with others. Dwell on the positive aspects rather than the negative. If this is a question you will have a tough time with, make sure to consider the best answer to this question before interviewing for a new job.

Question: What are your weaknesses?
Wrong answers: “I don’t have one.” – or – “I have a problem being on time and working as a member of a team.”
Improved Alternative: “My greatest weakness is that I tend to take on too much. While this tends to create extra stress for me, it has taught me how to be an excellent multi-tasker and has afforded me the opportunity to develop a variety of new skills making me a more beneficial member of the team.”

When answering the weakness question, always select a flaw that can be improved upon or can also be viewed in a positive light. The answer to this question indicates how you react to a tough situation and whether or not you are able to bounce back. Make sure to discuss an imperfection that doesn’t make you appear un-hirable. Set yourself up to describe your method of correcting the problem by showing the interviewer that your problem-solving skills and positive mindset make you a great match for the available position.

Question: Do you have any questions for me?
Wrong answer: “No.”
Improved Alternative: “Yes. I actually have a few questions for you…”

At this point, make sure to ask at least three questions to show your interest in the company and the available position. Obviously if the interview process raised specific questions, start with those. But, if your meeting with the interviewer provided all of the information you could possibly need about this position, you still need to ask questions. Some of my favorites are asking your interviewer to describe the best part of working for this company. It also is great to ask what a typical day will be like if you are offered this position. Another way to show that you have done your research about the company and are still intrigued is to ask questions about specific programs being offered with the company. If the organization is actively involved in community service and that area genuinely interests you, ask for more information. Or possibly during your research, you discovered a great company benefit such as education reimbursement. Ask about it if you are interested. This will allow time to delve further into your career goals and indicate your ambitious nature.

The next time you interview, don’t let the basic questions be the stumbling blocks. With focused and well thought out answers, these general questions will pave the way for you to walk out of an interview with confidence.

Kay

Feel free to email me at keilers@onl.herzing.edu and check out Herzing University Online at http://www.herzingonline.edu/.

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