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Job Interview Answer Tips

This is important! Read the answers out load and get comfortable with the shrewd and intelligent language. The next step would be to stage several "practice interviews" where you have a friend ask you the questions.
Grade yourself, and continue practice interviewing with your friend until you are confident that are you are prepared to strategically deliver a performance that will get you hired.

The Basics on Interviews

Employers look for employees because they have a need. You need to sell yourself  as the right person to satisfy that need. Manager's hire people in order to make their own job easier. How are you going to make the Hiring Manager look  good in their boss's eyes? You need too make your skills, experience, and education relevant to them and their needs.

If managers hire based on their needs, then you are going to have to uncover and reveal their needs in order to come up with answers that will get you hired. Remember that every time a hiring manager asks you a question, YOU HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO ASK A QUESTION OF YOUR OWN.

Early on the interview you should use your own questions to uncover the hidden needs of the Hiring Manager so that you can tailor answers and attitude to show that you understand their needs and that YOU are exactly the perfect person to solve those needs.

Hiring Managers Look For What?

All Hiring Managers are looking for certain characteristics or "Behavioral Competencies." One of the most important is CONFIDENCE. Now, all of us have made mistakes in the past, and maybe all of your performance reviews have not exactly been "glowing," but the point is not to live your life looking in the rear view mirror.

"Tell me about yourself."

Discussion: This seemingly simple question can actually be the most daunting and the most difficult to answer!
Keep it short, give a bit of background on yourself, and highlight several accomplishments. You should show how your career has taken a logical progression - noting how your education helped, if relevant - to where you are now. Please practice these statements:

"Well, I grew up just outside of Chicago and then went to school at the University of Maryland where I studied Political Science and Art History. While I did love Political Science, I always knew that I would need to do something practical, so right out of college I got a job doing "X". Job "X" really tested my stamina and work ethic because I had to work my butt off, but I managed to achieve a lot there and learn a lot about my chosen field. From there I got hired into a more senior position at Company "Y". That's where I really developed my teamwork skills and learned to create and manage budgets as high as $1.5 million dollars. Right now I think that my skills and experience make me a great candidate for a position on your team, and I hope to demonstrate that today. What kind of qualities are you looking for in the ideal candidate for this position?"

"What do you know about our company? What do you know about our competitors?"

Discussion: Before you go into the interview, you want to research the company so you know as much as possible about its products, size, quarterly revenues, image, reputation, management, history, philosophy, goals problems, and competitors. Communicate that you have made a conscious choice to target this company because of the great things that you know about it.

"I know that this company has great products that consumers really like. I also know that the CEO started the company in his one bedroom apartment in 2000. I admire his leadership style, and I understand that it resulted in a great work environment here, and a great reputation in the business community. I know that your major competitors in the space include companies "X", "Y", and "Z". I really am quite interested in learning more about this company's forward looking competitive strategy and plans for future growth... Did I mention that I am excited to be here?"

"What's the reason you want to work here?"
Discussion: Keep your answer opportunity-oriented. Show that you are looking to work hard and contribute, but also talk about the company as being the right place for you. Indicate the features of the company and why the work appeals to you. Indicate your skills and experiences that will enable you to take advantage of the company's features and become a valued employee.

"I want to be part of this company's "X" project. I really think I could contribute to its success. I can handle the mental intensity and put in the hard work that will take to help make project "X" a success. I believe that I can make a definite contribution to this company's goals - including the need to increase customer satisfaction, cut costs, and increase revenues. My track record shows I have been able to do this in the past, and I look forward to the opportunity of performing, learning, and being recognized my contribution here. What could be the most important ability for a person to have to succeed in this position?"

"I think that this company is the right place for me to do that I think it is a good fit for my skills and experience. For instance, I am VERY interested in your company's "X" project. I want to contribute to it and be a part of the success I think it will be."

"How can you contribute to our company? What makes you qualified for this position?"

Discussion: Remember that contributions to a business are usually measured in time and money. Show how you can contribute to the success of projects, and make sure you relate that to the impact on the bottom line.

"I really think that based on my considerable experience doing "X" combined with my discipline and energy, I can really save time by keeping things running smoothly and efficiently. Also, I think I can 
help cut costs and maximize revenues for our department. I was able to do that at job "Y" and I don't see any reason why I would not be able to do the same thing here. For example, at Job "Y" I increased revenues by 24% over the course of three months by implementing "Z". I am confident that I will become a valued member of your team based on that type of contribution. Will I have the opportunity to work on business problems like that if I am hire on?"

"Why did you leave your last job?"

Discussion: Describe your reason for switching jobs directly and succinctly. Do not go into great details unless you are asked. The longer you spend on this subject the more suspicious the interviewer may become. Make sure you stress you are leaving on good terms. The Hiring Manager will want to believe you were not the problem and will want to get an idea of how you handled yourself. Provide evidence you handled it well by volunteering references. State the facts in a positive way. Don't be negative or bad mouth your former boss, colleagues, or company. Don't speculate on the motives or feeling of the other people involved in the events of your departure. Stick to one response. Don't change answers during the interview. Give a "group" answer if possible, like "our office is closing". If you have been fired or laid off, you may consider answering ambigously or using a general statement that avoids the issue.

"Well, I really want the opportunity to perform, learn, and develop further than I think I would be able to at my last position. I did leave on good terms, but I'm here today because I know I have the "X" skills as well as the ability to "Y". I believe in myself, and I'm looking for more responsibility and the greater possibility of advancing my career."

"While it is an excellent company that afforded me many fine experiences, I left my last position because the advancement opportunities just were not there. I had to read the writing on the wall and help myself. A position with your team will the give me the opportunity to do good work, learn, and grow that my last job wouldn't. I am happy to be here and I am really pleased that I am being considered."

"What did you like best and least about your previous job?"

Discussion: This question reveals a lot about you. You want to indicate that what you liked best about your last job are things that will appeal to the Hiring Manager. Show that your last job allowed you to demonstrate many desirable Behavioral Competencies. Give specific examples of how your last job allowed you to flex your skills and show your maturity. Never make statements like "I like that my last company gave me a lot of vacation days" or something similar. When answering about what you liked least, keep it short, do not be negative, and relate your answer to how your last job limited you in your ability to exhibit positive Behavioral Competencies.

"One thing I liked about my last job was that it allowed me to develop my leadership skills. For example, I was put in charge of a project where I had to earn the "buy-in" of people from multiple different departments, including marketing, IT, product development, and even HR. I held all the responsibility for getting this project completed on time, but I had no real authority over my teammates since they did not report vision that the team agreed on. And then from day to day I had to make sure that each team member completed their work on time. 

"What I liked about my last job was the fact that there was good on the job training. I was able to really develop my "X" skills, which I know will help me succeed if I am fortunate enough to be able to join your team. What are the qualities and skills of the people who have been most successful at this company?"

"What would your last boss say about you?"

Discussion: Be careful with this one as references are likely to be checked. If you can remember terms or language that your boss used in the past, try to use them. Be honest, but only indicate the positive things that your boss would say about you. Don't testify against yourself. Keep it short.

"she would say that I was a valued member of her team. I know that she was sorry to see me go, but I had to do what was right for my career. I think the most important thing she would say is that she could really rely on me to follow through and do what I said I was going to do."

"What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

Discussion: Tailor your strengths to the position and the hidden needs of the manager in terms of making their job easier and making them look good. Whatever you do, don't claim that you don't have any weaknesses. List your strengths first, and list many. You will want to list the desirable Behavioral Competencies that hiring managers are looking for. Then speak to your weaknesses,  but only name one. Identify a weakness that is actually a strength. Keep the description of your weakness short, and finish with a pause as if you are ready to move onto the next question.

"I think my greatest strengths include my determination to get the job done, my ability to focus, stay on task, maintain quality, and my ability to create enthusiasm and motivate a team. I am also very good with people in terms of maintaining agreement and consensus. I am also very customer service oriented. I treat everyone as a customer. My clients, bosses, and coworkers included. I keep my customer service level high by following through and actually doing what I say I am going to do. For Example, at my last job...

"I would say that my biggest weakness is that I don't like to miss deadlines, so sometimes I get impatient with colleagues that lag with their piece of a project."

"What are your long-range objectives, and what steps have you taken toward obtaining them?"

Discussion: This question is an opportunity to show a logical progression in your career. Even if you worked as a temp at various jobs, or worked in multiple different industries, you can tie your jobs together by showing how you developed new skills and honed existing skills at each of the positions you have held. Don't retell the journey of your career path, but do touch on jobs or skills as a connected progression that build on each other. Make sure you communicate that you CHOSE each job for a specific reason that is related to the job at hand. Show that all of your career experience has been moving toward the job you are interviewing for. Consider stating that your long term goal has always been working for the company you are interviewing at.

"My long term objectives involve increasing levels of challenge and responsibility in the field of Industrial Engineering. Throughout my career I have been working toward a position just like this. Even at jobs I've held that might seem somewhat unrelated, I have always been developing the energy, initiative, creativity, and analytical ability I would need to be a success for you and your department. If I am hired in, I would like to say at this company for three to five years- if not longer - and hopefully be promoted and rewarded for my hard work and dedication."

"What have you learned from your mistakes?"

Discussion: Show that you are able to learn from your mistakes, but don't offer up any negative examples concerning your past performance. Show that you have been successful, but that have the maturity it takes to examine your own behavior so that you can learn and grow and be a better employee. Be brief.

"Good question. Well, I have been successful at every job I have had, but I have had the normal ups and downs. I'd say that I do actively try to monitor my work habits and the quality of my work so that I can constantly be improving myself. FOR EXAMPLE, I have had one or two hiccups with clients where their satisfaction was not where I thought it was. I learned that I have to really monitor certain difficult clients closely and "take their temperature" so I can keep their satisfaction level as high as possible. Do have any clients like that here?"

"Can you explain this gap in your employment history? What have you been doing for the "X" months since you were last employed?"

Discussion: A gap in your employment history can be alarming to a Hiring Manager. I you have a gap in your work history, you might try to face it head on by bringing it to the interviewer's attention and making positive statements about it to ease potential concerns. Unless you must, try not to indicate personal reasons for the gap. Try to show that you made a conscious choice to take a break from regular employment so that you could accomplish a goal related to the position at hand.

come back for these tips in a day or two.
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