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Going on a job interview can be intimidating. With so much riding on a good showing -- a new job, better opportunity, more income -- many candidates get overly stressed the closer the interview looms. It need not be that way. If you anticipate the questions you will be asked and prepare thoughtful answers, your interview may be the beginning of a new job or career.
Tell Me About Yourself
A request to share a bit about yourself is the standard way most interviews begin. Keep your response short and focused on business. The interviewer does not want to hear about your hobby raising angora rabbits. Highlight your strengths and abilities as they relate to the job you wish to get.
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
You will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses. For your strengths, tell the interviewer what you you can do as it specifically relates to the position. With weaknesses, be careful with how you answer. Share a problem that would not prevent you from getting the job, and then explain what you are doing to correct it. If you had trouble communicating your thoughts, for example, explain how much you have improved since you joined Toastmasters.
What Interests You About This Job?
Why you are interested in the job is a probing question to see how much you know about the position. If you have done your homework, you can tell the interviewer exactly why and how your qualifications fit the position description. Do not give any reason that would suggest that this position is your second choice. There are too many other candidates for them to consider.
Tell Me How You Got Along With Your Previous Boss
Asking how you got along with your previous boss is a loaded question. If you say anything negative, the interviewer will wonder what you would say about your new boss. If you have never had a problem, then say so. If you have had issues, make any differences you might have had inconsequential, suggesting that you had different styles but mutual respect for each other.
I See You Majored in Sociology. How Does That Prepare You For This Position?
If your major doesn't match with the job you're interviewing for, play up the positives. Respond by saying that while your liberal arts degree has no direct bearing on the position, it demonstrates that you have a balanced education, the ability to work with consistency and experience conducting original research. Be sure to share experience such as internships and past employment, especially if they demonstrate leadership or initiative on your part.
I See You Were Fired From a Previous Position. Why?
Many people have been terminated from their jobs because of recession and corporate downsizing. If that is the case, there may be no particular reason other than you were caught in a bad situation. If you were fired with cause, explain it and follow up with what you learned from the situation and why you are a better person today.
What Are Your Salary Requirements?
When asked what you require for a salary, avoid a direct answer -- you may price yourself out of the job or give a number below what the prospective company has in mind and leave money on the table. Instead, respond that you would like to learn more about the responsibilities the position carries. Then ask the interviewer what the salary range is for the position.
Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you should have several prepared. Again, this is a probing question to see how much research you have done investigating the company and the position. The company website, Internet research and a search on LinkedIn for names and background information of company employees should provide you with plenty of fodder for questions. Do not ask about salary at this point -- salary negotiation comes after they decide you are their top candidate. Inquire whether the position is new or to replace another person and what the advancement opportunities are. Finally, ask when you could expect to hear from the company -- nothing is worse than feeling you have an indefinite wait.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.