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Helpful Hints

Before the Interview

During the Interview

Basic Questions

Post Interview


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 technicalities.

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 five years?

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 yourself?

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." 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 commute times.

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 of salary?

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 difficult question.

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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