Nov 302007
 

It is essential to be prepared to effectively and agilely provide strong answers to an interviewer’s queries. Although the range and form of each individual’s respective format and approach may differ greatly, there are a number of core questions that always seem to surface during the course of an assessment. Those who have readied determined, cogent responses to the following items will be a step ahead.

1. Describe your current duties and responsibilities.

Count on hearing this one.  The interviewer not only wants to know that your background is a proper match for the job they have available,  they also want to make certain that you can properly convey how these skills will transfer to their company.

2. Describe yourself.

This is another standard item that almost always makes an appearance for reasons that are fairly obvious, and others perhaps not so clear initially.  The most important feedback I tend to receive from managers as to why they ask this type of question centers around determining if a candidate is able to effectively address items pertaining to team-related skills and the ability to maintain a healthy work/personal life balance.

3. What do you find satisfying/dissatisfying about your present position?

Amplify the good components and minimize the difficulties while outlining what you have done to help ameliorate them.  Under no circumstances throw your current or any former boss under the bus when answering this question.

4. What are your most important achievements?

Employers want to hear two distinct things from this question:  how have you performed on a personal level, and what actions have you taken to help improve the overall effectiveness and success of the companies you have been with.

For example, Sales Executives will want to have a complete, well-presented outline of how they have performed against individual and organizational quotas, how successful they have been at maintaining client satisfaction, and how well their assigned teams and managers have impacted the corporate bottom line due to their contribution.  Someone such as a Project Manager will want to illustrate those assignments they worked on that significantly impacted the revenue generated by the company and how they have positively contributed to the organization’s operability.

5. What provides you with the motivation to excel at your job?

Financial rewards are certainly a sound and expected factor, particularly if the open position is sales-related.  However, the company wants to know that you have other highly desired traits regarding this component such as professional pride, great satisfaction in helping to grow a company and contribute to its sustained success, and the desire to achieve ever greater responsibilities within the organization.

6. What type of actions have you taken to improve your professional and personal development?

Are you continually striving to increase your knowledge and skills of your chosen profession or are you content utilizing the current set of tools you possess.  Employers like to know that they are hiring individuals who are always seeking ways to become the best at what they do.  Those who do not may be perceived as unmotivated and not a proper fit.

7. What do you perceive to be your weaknesses?

A question that is almost certain to come up.  One method to address this issue is to turn it into a positive by outlining a particular characteristic of yours that signifies motivation.  For example, you may sometimes appear to expect too much from others but, in reality, you want to make certain that all team members are contributing in a fashion that helps ensure their personal success, the required achievement goals of the group, and the continued market share growth of the corporation.

8. What are your short-term and long-term goals?

There are a couple of items to consider here. I have worked with a number of sales individuals who were more motivated by overall compensation rather than moving into a management position which often would tend to curb their ability to generate personal revenue. This is absolutely fine from the perspective of most employers as long as it is conveyed up front. Otherwise they might have reservations due to the fact that such reluctance to take on more of a direct leadership position could indicate a lack of ambition and thus perhaps not a great match.

9. Why are you looking for another opportunity?

If you are doing well with your current company and have been actively recruited for the position, convey this to the hiring manager in a way that lets them know you are content but certainly open to an exceptional opportunity if it will allow you to achieve your personal goals in a more direct and satisfying manner.

If you were laid off or fired be honest about it. Most employers are perfectly willing to accept that such things happen given reasonably explained circumstances. If they find out you have lied about the details regarding your recent departure, however, your chances of being hired will understandably and precipitously decrease.

10. What knowledge do you have of our company and the position we are offering?

If you can’t bother to take a fairly generous amount of time prior to the interview to learn about the organization, what it offers, and how you can help them succeed why would the interviewer believe you will employ proper diligence and work to excel in the role? Those who go in with a plan for how they will help the company achieve its goals based on their study of its management, products, and approach will already be ahead of any potential competitors.

11. What are your expectations from the job and our company?

This is your opportunity to fully outline what you feel you will need regarding professional support, training, growth paths, and other pertinent areas.  However, do this in a manner that makes it clear you understand no organization is perfect and that you are willing to do what is necessary to help fill in any holes that will improve your performance and the company’s ability to generate revenue.

12. How do your skills and abilities apply to the position we are offering?

Carefully examine the job description and listen for overt clues from your recruiter if working with one.  Items to convey such as appropriate education, training, knowledge, and proven methods you have used to achieve required goals are generally easy to identify and properly present.  Smaller, yet important intangibles such as proficiency in a particular competency that many may not possess or relationships with potentially desirable clients can be an important way to separate yourself from other applicants.

13. What do you have to offer that other individuals do not possess?

The company may be talking with numerous other people with nearly identical performance records and position appropriate skills for the position. Think carefully about the unique qualities and abilities you can bring and emphasize them.

14. How would your coworkers and managers describe you?

Be as honest as possible while still emphasizing your track record of achievement.  If you can be a bit cranky while working late in the night on an important project you certainly are not the only person. Some managers have been known to make blind calls and it’s better to show a few of the potential warts if they exist rather than have the person worried about your ability to be forthright and sincere.

15. How well do you work within a team environment?

Yes, there certainly is a pattern developing here. Can you give an entire group credit for something even though you may have done the brunt of the work?  Can you take constructive criticism from someone you deem a peer?  You’ll want to let the hiring manager know this.

16. What activities/interests do you enjoy outside of the workplace?

Most companies like to know that you can devote a good deal of time to their venture but still find ways to enjoy yourself away from the desk. Be it family or flying , they like to know you have an outlet.

Bonus tip: Learn as much as you can about the people you will be talking with.  Corporate web sites often have in-depth biographies and if you can match interests with a hiring manager (or at least be inquisitive and complimentary regarding them) you can rapidly develop a strong rapport.

17. Why should we hire you?

To no surprise, this question is quite often the final one asked. Make a concise summary that effectively incorporates all of the achievements, qualifications, and skills you have previously outlined. Let them know why you will outperform anyone else they might consider hiring.  Most importantly, make it clear to the interviewer that you are very interested in moving ahead with the process and, if a secondary interview, the job itself.

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