Got a job interview coming up? If so, ask yourself the following: How certain are you that your responses will make the grade? How can you build rapport, speak to your abilities with confidence and leave a favorable impression? How might you best position yourself as a knowledgeable insider — someone who can be counted on to hit the ground running?
In order to present yourself well at a job interview, it goes without saying that you need to prepare in detail. You have to thoroughly research the company, the needs of the hiring manager and the principle goals of the organization. Once you’ve done that, you will want target your responses to the specific skills and attributes they are seeking in a future employee.
But there are some shortcuts. You can count on several basic questions coming up — in one form or another — in almost every job interview. And fumbling your answers to these frequently asked questions can really trip you up. If you don’t take adequate time to prepare and target your responses, you will swiftly be eliminated from the candidate pool.
The following are five basic questions you absolutely need to nail:
1) Tell me about yourself…
Not only does your response to this interview opener form your all-important first impression, it can often set the tone for the follow-up questions your interviewer will pose.
You need to respond with your branding statement consisting of:
- What you do — the functions you perform, prior position titles and the responsibilities you have held
- Your experience level and (if helpful) your training and educational degrees
- Some key skills and accomplishments relating specifically to the position for which you are applying
2) Why do you want to work here?
Make certain to let them know you have researched their company. Begin by saying something like: “I’ve done my homework and I’m particularly impressed with…”
Name several positive aspects about the organization:
- The latest innovations they are making in the market
- Ways they outperform the competition
- Expansion plans
- Positive press, etc.
3) What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
This is your invitation to sell yourself. You want to highlight how your skills and experience combine to create a direct match with the position requirements. You also want to distinguish yourself from the competition by displaying the added value you will bring to the job and to the company as a whole.
Make certain you are well practiced in your responses to this question. To be a standout candidate, you need to speak to your strengths with confidence.
- Be prepared to list a minimum of five to 10 skills that relate specifically to the position for which you’re applying
- Substantiate these targeted skills with of examples of how you have used them to perform your work at its best
- Note the positive results you’ve achieved for your previous employers — quantifying your accomplishments whenever possible
- You can use speech softeners as sentence openers if you find them helpful. For example, “I pride myself on…” “I like to think that…” “My supervisor always complimented me on…” “People turn to me for…”
4) Give me a time when you… (the event-specific question)
These types of queries are also known as behavioral-style questions. For greater detail on how to respond most effectively, check out my previous article for Huffington Post, “3 Key Tips to Help You Ace the Behavioral Style Interview.”)
- Study the job description and pinpoint the specific skills requested in the ad
- Anticipate questions and prepare targeted examples
- Create a “cheat sheet” complete with trigger words that will help you remember the examples you want to use
5) Do you have any questions for us?
Yes, you do! It is critical that you come with a list of well thought out questions. Then you can pick and choose the most appropriate as the interview unfolds.
It’s best to start with open-ended questions that will get the hiring manager talking about his/her true needs.
- What do you see to be the most critical components of the job?
- What needs to be done immediately?
- What are some of the long-range goals of the position?
- How can the new person make your life easier?
Also be certain to ask questions that show you’ve done your homework.
- I understand your company is expanding into new markets in Asia. How will this affect your department?
- With the launch of product X, what do you anticipate customer reaction to be?
If you prepare compelling and targeted responses to these five typically asked questions, you can approach the interview from a position of strength. Take pride in the skills and experience you offer a future employer and get yourself psyched to win. With the right attitude, confidence in your abilities and a little luck, you just might find yourself at the top of the candidate list!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it’s packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!
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