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Top Interview questions and how to answer them - Interview tips


The Three most common interview questions

Tackling a Few of the Basic Interview Questions

Interviews can be daunting to the most experienced job seeker, and "terror-ific" to the less experienced. Preparation before the interview can make a dramatic difference in your confidence level. Here are some basic questions for you to review to help you prepare for the interview and become more confident:

1. "Who are you?" - or - "Tell me about yourself."

The answer you give to this question will set the tone for the rest of the interview. The secret to success with this free-form question is to focus, script, and practice. You cannot afford to "wing" this statement, as it will have an effect on the rest of the interview.

Focus: List five strengths you have that would be pertinent to this job (i.e. experiences, traits, and skills) – consider the requirements and key words listed in the job announcement when you begin listing your strengths. You want them to relate to the position. Pretend you are doing a television commercial – what do you need to include in a quick two-minute summary statement/sales pitch to sell the interviewer on the product (you)? What will make him or her want to hear more? 

Script: Write a draft of your response. Incorporate your strengths into the statements, as well as the keywords you have found in the announcements and any accomplishments you have that relate to the position.

Practice: Practice reading/saying your response until you feel comfortable and confident about what you want to sell, share, and emphasize. Your script is a way of helping you stay on track, but shouldn't be memorized, resulting in sounding stiff and rehearsed. You should sound natural and conversational.

2. What are your long-term goals?

This open-ended question, and others like "Where do you see yourself in five years?," throw most candidates off kilter. The purpose of questions like these is to check your self-awareness and communication skills.

If you are the type of person who prefers an organized way of life, you may find this question a "piece of cake". But, if you are among the majority of people who let life happen as it comes along, you will probably not have a smooth answer without some forethought.

The best answers to this type of question come from you thinking about what you want, specifically. Begin by considering your short-term goals. No one can tell you exactly how to answer this question – it will come from what is important to you. However, the more focused and employer-centered you can be about your goal, the better your chances will be of steering the interview in the right direction. Do your best to match your goals to the position. This requires knowledge regarding the company and position, so do your homework!

3. Why should we hire you?

This is another broad question that can take you down the wrong road unless you have done some thinking ahead of time about what to say. This question is about selling yourself – think of yourself as the product. Why should the customer buy?

Develop a "sales" statement. The more detail you can provide, the better your answer will be. This is not a time to talk about what you want. It is a time to summarize your accomplishments, relate what makes you unique, and demonstrate what you have to offer in terms of what the employer is looking for.

Start by looking at the job description or posting. What are the keywords? What is the employer stressing as requirements of the job? What will it take to get the job done? Make a list of those requirements, then do an inventory to determine what you have to offer as a fit against those requirements. Think of two or three key qualities you have that match what the employer is seeking. Do not underestimate personal traits that make you unique, such as your energy, personality type, working style, and people skills. Consider your work experience, education, and volunteer work. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from others.

Regardless of what you are asked in an interview, preparation and practice will improve your performance and give you a better chance of successfully competing against the other candidates. Knowing who you are and what you have to offer is vital for success!

 

Jessica Coffey, MEd, CPRW, CFRWC
MVPSource Senior Interview Training Consultant & Coach

Jessica Coffey has over 15 years of experience providing interview coaching and career management strategies to all levels of government and private sector employees. She serves as lead Interview Coach and Trainer for The Resume Place and helped create a formal job interview coaching service there. In addition, she wrote the interview chapter of Ten Steps to a Federal Job. Prior to that, Jessica created and managed three successful mock interview programs. As a Contract Career Counselor at the IRS, she developed an interview prep guide for transitioning employees and led numerous career management workshops.


Jessica's ability to quickly assess and determine key areas of improvement for interview clients has helped them, time and again, perform more confidently and successfully during the interview process.



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