Can You Answer These Basic Questions?
The chances are that you have
heard these questions before or have read about them. If you are like me, you hate these
questions. But I use them. I don't think it's bad to use them, it's worse if you never
think about them. Inside the answers to these types of questions is the you beyond the
Don't fall into the trap
thinking that all interviews are the same. While it might seem that way, they rarely are.
You can rarely do too much homework prior to an interview. Being able to answer these
basic questions will enable you to focus the interviewer(s) on your skills.
The Boy Scout Motto is,
"Be Prepared." Interviewing is no exception to the Motto.
Where do you see yourself in
I was changing careers about 26 years ago
into the recruiting industry. I had several offers on the table from personnel agencies to
work in the agencies placing candidates. I was tired of the interview process and had met
with one group three times only to be told I had to meet the owner. He came into the
office, sat down across from me, put his feet up on the desk top, leaned back in the chair
and pulling the cigar out from his mouth asked, "Tell me...where to you see yourself
in five years?" I quickly answered, "Your job looks pretty good."
I'm not sure I would recommend you use that
approach, but you should be thinking about where your path is going to take you. Employers
are really looking for people who know where they are going to fit. What they don't want
are people who are just trying on firms to see if they fit.
If you don't know what you want to be doing
in just five years, can you help a firm who execute a five year plan?
What can you tell me about
Here's you chance to showcase yourself in a
way that a resume or a cover letter really can not. You can display a passion for your
work. You can demonstrate you ability to communicate. You can at the same touch briefly on
highlights of your accomplishments. You can explain your "brand" if you will.
You can position yourself in the best possible position to be considered.
What are your greatest strengths?
About the time I hear, "I'm a people
person" I reaching to hit the kill button on the headset. Don't go there. You should
avoid phrases like, "team player" and "excellent communicator." And
then, "I don't have one" probalby isn't the answer they are seeking. Stick with
job related strengths. You might be fearless in facing down the CIO in a budget meeting.
You might be a strong evangelist for your product. You might be the pitbull that grows the
sales by 40% in a year. These are strengths that should mean something.
Tell me about your weaknesses?
This question is not really asking for you
to admit to all of those little quirky things you do. It's not about the strange habits
you have or your passion for romance novels.
This is a question that is an opportunity
to show a vulnerability that you worked through. Something that perhaps was a weakness of
the employment rookie that was overcome and mastered. "I have a tendency to loose
focus because I'm interested in many aspects of a project. I have learned to keep myself
on track by using my computer to calendar my work more efficiently."...now that is a
weaknesses AND you provide a preemptive answer for the challenge.
This is not a question that you want to
spend too much time on. Sometimes it's best to show the vulnerability, give the solution
and then take the next question.
Everyone has "faults" or
"weaknesses." We just don't need to share them all at one time.
Why did you leave your last job?
You've heard stories of people not be
truthful on there resume. You know that will come back to haunt them later. The same is
pretty much true about trying to be too coy with the answer to this question.
If you have been with a firm for a while,
"It's just time to move on so that I can continue to grow" works. If you were
let go, say so. You can explain that the firm is having some financial difficulties or
that you made it trough the first couple of rounds of layoff. You could also talk about
However you frame your answer, be honest
about the answer in the context of the situation. Any commute is a bad one when you say,
"The commute was too long and I couldn't spend time with my family."
The absolute worse thing to do is to
"badmouth" your former employer, manager, coworkers and so forth.
Subconsciously, the interviewer will be wondering what you will say about them. They will
not see your previous employment as evil, but will hear your words as venom, no matter how
innocently you think you might be saying it.
What are you looking for in terms
This is sometimes a tough question to
answer. It's hard most of the time actually. Don't feel bad about thinking it's a
Some though should be given ahead of time
to the answer. You know what your bills are. Of course, you should know your minimum
salary to cover those bills. You should have been able to go online and find relevant data
that should indicate a range that one should expect from your position in your industry.
Usually there is a range that the salary
will fall into. The larger the organization the more likely that there is a stepped salary
chart that will be closely adhered too. Knowing where the title of the position in
question falls into the organization could give you a sense of what the range of the
salary might be.
You might not know the range. It would be
fair to deflect the question with, "I really do not have enough information about the
position to answer that question. What would the performance expectations be say in 6
months?" Better might even be, "Do you have a range in mind?"
If all else fails, you can always answer
with a broad range as a starting place and let the employer whittle is down to where they
are thinking is appropriate.
What do you bring to this job that
no one else does? Why should we chose you?
You have had the opportunity
to look at the job description. You probably will hear this question after the interviewer
has talked for a while. You should be listening to the job as they speak.
Now is your opportunity to
match your skill up with the job description. You should be able to frame your answer to
match you to their needs. Not only will they be reminded that you have the skills they are
looking for you will be sure to impress them with your ability to articulate the match and
in effect you will be selling them on the value proposition of your employment.If you are
thinking ahead a bit during the interview.
You should be able to ask the
interviewer to prioritize the skills they are looking for. Those are the skills you will
want to be sure to match with your background.
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