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After you have secured a job interview, you may worry about presenting yourself in a positive manner by choosing professional attire, getting a haircut, polishing your shoes and getting sufficient rest the night before the interview. However, making a positive first impression is only one step in a successful interview. You also must answer questions posed by your prospective employer's hiring manager or human resources representative. Prepare answers to five common questions posed by interviewers in nearly every industry.
Reason for Leaving Your Employer
During a job interview, the hiring manager will likely ask why you left your previous employer, or why you want to leave your current employer. Answer this question honestly -- if you were fired, don't tell the interviewer you were laid off. Instead, tell the interviewer what you learned from the experience, and how you have used it to become a more valuable employee. If you quit or plan to quit, focus on how you want to improve your career or embrace new opportunities. In either case, avoid casting your former or current employer in a negative light, even if your separation from the employer was on less-than-friendly terms.
Your interviewer will likely ask, "Can you tell me about yourself." Although this open-ended question can seem daunting, it gives you an opportunity to establish yourself as an ideal job candidate. Answer by highlighting accomplishments, education and experience relevant to the job you are interviewing for, Refrain from telling personal stories unless they relate to the job position.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In most interviews, the hiring manager will ask you to list and describe your strengths and weaknesses. When addressing strengths, speak confidently but not boastfully. Also, avoid listing strengths you do not truly possess -- your supervisor or manager will likely see the discrepancy once you begin working. When addressing weaknesses, turn each weakness into a positive trait -- for example, you might say that you expect more from yourself than others expect from you, or that you are a perfectionist.
Describing a Past Challenge
Your interviewer will typically assess your ability to handle adversity by asking you to describe a difficult challenge you faced in a previous job, and how you overcame that challenge. In most cases, the interviewer does not expect to hear that you handled a challenge perfectly. Instead, provide an honest account of a work challenge, describe the actions you took to address the challenge and talk about what you learned from the experience.
"What are your goals?" is a question heard by interviewees in a wide variety of industries. When you answer this question, focus on goals that relate to the position you are interviewing for, as well as goals that involve opportunities the position can provide. You may have goals such as business ownership or early retirement, but you should not discuss these with your interviewer.
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- CareerBuilder.com: Answers to the Seven Toughest Interview Questions; Kate Lorenz; June 2009
- "Job Interveiws for Dummies"; Joyce Lain Kennedy; 2008
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