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Handling Interview Questions

Every interviewer has a different style based on his or her personality and the role they play in the interview scheme. Some firms prefer group or team interviewing techniques while others prefer a series of individual interviews. Most interviewers try to put you at ease in a casual setting but others will test your poise through the use of a very formal situation or stress interviews.

Whatever the environment, all interviewing revolves around the use of questions. How well you handle those questions may very well determine whether or not you achieve your final objective, soliciting an offer! The first thing you should do when asked a question is to be sure you understand what is asked. Be a good listener and do not interrupt unless it is appropriate to do so. Sometimes this will require a question by you in order to clarify exactly what the interviewer wants to find out with his inquiry.

Once you’re sure what the topic is, you can formulate a meaningful answer. This reverse questioning or repeating of the question is called reflective communication and it will demonstrate the ability to listen and reach mutual understanding. This will also buy you time to formulate a meaningful response. Every question can be answered in shades of black, white or gray. If you do not have the skills being asked for, simply state that you have not yet been exposed to that learning experience but that you are confident you can learn given some time and support.

“Yes” or “No” answers should not be used since they eliminate your opportunity to “sell” your abilities or fully explain your answers. It is important to be specific and concise in your responses. Answer all questions in a direct manner, truthfully and briefly. Don’t stray from the subject or ramble on. Also, avoid using nebulous phrases or hyperbole (for example, “I produced huge cost savings in a short time”). Being specific (“I generated cost savings of $800,000 in my 1st 7 weeks”) enhances your credibility and helps the interviewer focus on your specific problem solving abilities.

This is an excellent opportunity to introduce examples of your accomplishments or achievements. But keep in mind not to come on to strong. Confidence misplaced comes across as being pompous. Treat your interviewer as an equal. Remember, he or she may be just as inexperienced or nervous as you and a peer approach puts most people at ease readily. If stressful questions are used, remember that they are being asked for the purpose of evaluating your ability to think on your feet and show poise. Accept them as such and answer straightforwardly. Should a flagrantly prejudicial or controversial subject be raised, simply state that you do not see how your views on that subject could affect your ability to handle the obligations of the job.

If you handle such situations calmly, the skilled interviewer will move on to other subjects without being offended. It is also important that you:

  1. Be alert and display a natural expression of genuine interest and sincere enthusiasm. However, do not try to be someone else.
  2. Project confidence, but do not imply that you can do everything or that you are a miracle worker. Keep cool, but remember nervousness is to be expected and is not unusual. In fact, a little nervousness will keep you on your toes.
  3. Make sure your strong points get across to the interviewer.
  4. Attempt to express some knowledge of the company, which shows you have enough interest in them to inquire about the firm prior to the interview.
  5. Assist the interviewer in developing a positive understanding of your expectations and ambitions.

Above all, it is important to practice your responses to normal interviewer questions. For that purpose, we’ve listed below some sample questions that you should become proficient in handling before your face-to-face interview. The use of a tape recorder and a practice partner will make this preparation easier and more effective. Feel free to discuss with us any question that you think you might have trouble handling. Be prepared for at least one very open ended or surprise question right at the start such as:

  • Why are you interested in working for our company?
  • Tell me about yourself – who are you, really?
  • What can you do for us?

Other questions might include:

  • What could your current company do to be more efficient?
  • What things are important to your job satisfaction?
  • What accomplishments in your current job are you most proud of?
  • What are your most difficult (or most rewarding) job responsibilities now?
  • What particular strengths and weaknesses do you have?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What are your short and long term career goals & how do you plan to reach them?
  • How would your associates describe your personality?
  • How do your spouse and children feel about this career move?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you leaving your current company?
  • Which of your past jobs did you like the least (or the best)?
  • What did you like (or dislike) about your last supervisor?
  • What kind of people do you find most difficult to work with?
  • Why aren’t you earning more money?
  • Tell us about your past salary progression. What do you expect to earn?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?
  • How has your current job prepared you to take on more responsibility?
  • How do you manage to interview while still employed?
  • Tell me about one of your biggest mistakes and how you handled it.
  • What are some of the things you and your supervisor disagree on?
  • How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of ambition?
  • What are you looking for in the next job?
  • What aspects of your job do you consider most crucial?
  • How did you choose your college?
  • How did you pay for it?
  • Do you prefer working with others or alone?
  • Describe the work environment in which you felt most comfortable?
  • Have you ever resigned or been fired from a job? Why?
  • How well do you take direction or coaching?
  • How long have you been thinking of changing jobs?
  • How many hours per week do you currently work?
  • How would you define a conducive environment?
  • How willing are you to travel or relocate after being hired?
  • Can you work under pressure?
  • Describe a situation where your work was criticized. How did that make you feel?
  • Are you a leader or follower?
  • Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
  • Why have you been out of work so long?
  • Do you prefer staff or line work? Why?
  • If you could start over, what would you do differently in your career?
  • What do your subordinates (supervisors, peers) think of you?

Fielding questions on salary requirements is particularly difficult for many candidates. The odds are said to be 6,000 to 1 of your guessing the exact figure that a potential employer has in mind while talking with you. In addition, you have the advantage of having a 3rd party (us) who can serve as a go-between to insure that both your needs and the needs of the employer are met.

You should use this advantage wherever possible by avoiding the conversation altogether. We have already provided the interviewer your salary history and you most likely won’t be asked to interview if there isn’t a way for the employer to make it worth your while. It’s also in your favor to postpone the discussion of money for as long as possible so that the employer sees all the reasons why you can help them solve their problem. The objective is to convince them that your salary is an “investment”, not an “expense” If asked directly about your salary requirements, simply reiterate your current salary and say that you’re sure they will make you a fair offer after evaluating what you can bring to the party. If pressed further, you can give a range of $5,000 beginning at your current (or last) salary level. Normally, anything over a 15% salary increase will be considered high, unless you are working from a low base or are looking at a major career move. It is best to ask for 24 hours to get back to the employer on expected salary level. This allows you time to think about the overall opportunity, confer with us and have me call the employer back!

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