TRAPS: Beware, about 80% of all interviews begin with this “innocent” question. Many candidates, unprepared for the question, skewer themselves by rambling, recapping their life story, delving into ancient work history or personal matters. Start your introduction with the present (i.e reverse chronological order) and then tell why you are well qualified for the position. Remember that the key to all successful interviewing is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for. In other words you must sell what the buyer is buying. This is the single most important strategy in job hunting.
You might say: “I have a number of accomplishments I’d like to tell you about, but I want to make the best use of our time together and talk directly to your needs. To help me do, that, could you tell me more about the most important priorities of this position? All I know is what I (heard from the buy psychology essays online recruiter, read in the classified ad, etc.)”
TRAPS: This question seems like a softball lob, but be prepared. You don’t want to come across as egotistical or arrogant. Neither is this a time to be humble.You know that your key strategy is to first uncover your interviewer’s greatest wants and needs before you answer questions. And from Question 1, you know how to do this.
Prior to any interview, you should have a list mentally prepared of your greatest strengths. You should also have, a specific example or two, which illustrates each strength.
As a general guideline, the 10 most desirable traits that all employers love to see in their employees are:
- A proven track record as an achiever…especially if your achievements match up with the employer’s greatest wants and needs
- Intelligence…management “savvy”.
- Honesty…integrity…a decent human being.
- Good fit with corporate culture…someone to feel comfortable with…a team player who meshes well with interviewer’s team.
- Likeability…positive attitude…sense of humor.
- Good communication skills.
- Dedication…willingness to walk the extra mile to achieve excellence.
- Definiteness of purpose…clear goals.
- Enthusiasm…high level of motivation.
- Confident…healthy…a leader.
TRAPS: Beware – this is an eliminator question, designed to shorten the candidate list. Any admission of a weakness or fault will earn you an “A” for honesty, but an “F” for the interview.
Disguise a strength as a weakness.
Example: “I sometimes tend to withdraw to myself, though I am team player. Its just that while focusing on a complex problem, I prefer to work alone.
Better, assure the interviewer that you can think of nothing that would stand in the way of your performing in this position with excellence. Then, quickly review you strongest qualifications.
TRAPS: Beware – if you are unprepared for this question, you will probably not handle it right and possibly blow the interview.
You answer an interviewer’s question and then, instead of asking another, he just stares at you in a deafening silence.You wait, growing a bit uneasy, and there he sits, silent as Mt. Rushmore, as if he doesn’t believe what you’ve just said.
When you get this silent treatment after answering a particularly difficult question , such as “tell me about your weaknesses”, its effects adversely. Most unprepared candidates rush in to fill the void of silence, sputtering more and more information, sometimes irrelevant and often damaging. It is seen as an invitation to clear up the previous answer.
Just ask, with sincere politeness and not a trace of sarcasm, “Is there anything else I can fill in on that point?” That’s all there is to it.
TRAPS: This is a killer question because so many candidates are unprepared for it. If you stammer you’ve blown it.
This is also the most important question of your interview because he must answer this question favorably in is own mind before you will be hired. So help him out! Walk through each of the position’s requirements as you understand them, and follow each with a reason why you meet that requirement so well.
Example: “As I understand your needs, you are first and foremost looking for someone who can manage the sales and marketing of your book publishing division. As you’ve said you need someone with a strong background in trade book sales. This is where I’ve spent almost all of my career, so I’ve chalked up 18 years of experience exactly in this area. I believe that I know the right contacts, methods, principles, and successful management techniques as well as any person can in our industry.”
“You also need someone who can expand your book distribution channels. In my prior post, my innovative promotional ideas doubled, then tripled, the number of outlets selling our books. I’m confident I can do the same for you.”
TRAPS: One reason interviewers ask this question is to see if you’re settling for this position, using it merely as a stopover until something better comes along. Or they could be trying to gauge your level of ambition.
If you’re too specific, i.e., naming the promotions you someday hope to win, you’ll sound presumptuous. If you’re too vague, you’ll seem rudderless.
Reassure your interviewer that you’re looking to make a long-term commitment…that this position entails exactly what you’re looking to do and what you do extremely well. As for your future, you believe that if you perform each job at hand with excellence, future opportunities will take care of themselves.
Example: “I am definitely interested in making a long-term commitment to this position. Judging by what you’ve told me about this position, it’s exactly what I’m looking for and what I am very well qualified to do. In terms of my future career path, I’m confident that if I do my work with excellence, opportunities will inevitable open up for me. It’s always been that way in my career, and I’m confident I’ll have similar opportunities here.”
TRAPS: This question tests whether you’ve done any homework about the firm. If you haven’t, you lose. If you have, you win big.
Best sources for researching your target company: annual reports, the corporate newsletter, contacts you know at the company or its suppliers, advertisements, articles about the company in the trade press.
TRAPS: The interviewer is trying to find out, “How desperate are you?”
Say that you’re looking for challenges, money, responsibility, etc. you can also talk about other employment possibilities you’re actually exploring. But do this with a light touch, speaking only in general terms. You don’t want to seem manipulative or coy.
TRAPS: Your potential employer may be turned off if he suspects that your heavy extracurricular load will interfere with your commitment to your work duties.
Try to gauge how this company’s culture would look upon your favorite outside activities and be guided accordingly. But remember that your employer is hiring your for what you can do for him, not your family, yourself or outside organizations, no matter how admirable those activities may be.
TRAPS: If an interviewer has read your resume carefully, he may try to zero in on a “fatal flaw” of your candidacy, perhaps that you don’t have a college degree…you’ve been out of the job market for some time etc.
A fatal flaw question can be deadly, but usually only if you respond by being overly defensive.
Whenever you come up against a fatal flaw question:
Be completely honest, open and straightforward about admitting the shortcoming. (Showing you have nothing to hide diminishes the buyer’s anxiety.)
Do not apologize or try to explain it away. You know that this supposed flaw is nothing to be concerned about, and this is the attitude you want your interviewer to adopt as well.
Add that as desirable as such a qualification might be, its lack has made you work all the harder throughout your career and has not prevented you from compiling an outstanding tack record of achievements. You might even give examples of how, through a relentless commitment to excellence, you have consistently outperformed those who do have this qualification.
Of course, the ultimate way to handle “fatal flaw” questions is to prevent them from arising in the first place. You will do that by following the master strategy described in Question 1, i.e., uncovering the employers needs and them matching your qualifications to those needs.
Once you’ve gotten the employer to start talking about his most urgently-felt wants and goals for the position, and then help him see in step-by-step fashion how perfectly your background and achievements match up with those needs, you’re going to have one very enthusiastic interviewer on your hands, one who is no longer looking for “fatal flaws”.
TRAPS: This another question that pits two values against one another, in this case loyalty against integrity.
Try to avoid choosing between two values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.
Example: “I would never do anything to hurt the company..”
If aggressively pressed to choose between two competing values, always choose personal integrity. It is the most prized of all values.
TRAPS: This question is usually asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that may continue to affect your personality and performance.
Do not give the interviewer anything negative to remember you or give any answer which may hint that your whole heart and soul will not be in your work.
Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing.
Example: “It’s been a good life, rich in learning and experience, and the best it yet to come. Every experience in life is a lesson it its own way. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
TRAPS: An easy question, but you want to make your answer believable.
Absolutely…(then prove it with a vivid example or two of a goal or project accomplished under severe pressure.)
TRAPS: You don’t want to come across either as a hothead or a wimp.
Give an answer that’s suited to both your personality and the management style of the firm. Here, the homework you’ve done about the company and its style can help in your choice of words.
“I’m an even-tempered and positive person by nature, and I believe this helps me a great deal in handling any job that I take up. I believe in communicating clearly what’s expected so that the misunderstandings can be avoided.
TRAPS: The two traps here are unpreparedness and irrelevance. If you grope for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired. If you ramble about your high school basketball coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.
Have a few heroes in mind, from Leaders in your industry, from history or anyone else who has been your mentor.
Be prepared to give examples of how their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements. As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.
TRAPS: This could be a make-or-break question. The interviewer mostly likes what he sees, but has doubts over one key area. If you can assure him on this point, the job may be yours.
This question is related to “The Fatal Flaw” (Question 18), but here the concern is not that you are totally missing some qualificationsbut rather that your experience is light in one area.
Before going into any interview, try to identify the weakest aspects of your candidacy from this company’s point of view. Then prepare the best answer you possible can to shore up your defenses.
To get past this question with flying colors, you are going to rely on your master strategy of uncovering the employer’s greatest wants and needs and then matching them with your strengths. Since you already know how to do this from Question 1, you are in a much stronger position.
More specifically, when the interviewer poses as objection like this, you should…
Agree on the importance of this qualification.
Explain that your strength may be indeed be greater than your resume indicates because…
When this strength is added to your other strengths, it’s really your combination of qualifications that’s most important.
Then review the areas of your greatest strengths that match up most favorably with the company’s most urgently-felt wants and needs.
This is powerful way to handle this question for two reasons. First, you’re giving your interviewer more ammunition in the area of his concern. But more importantly, you’re shifting his focus away from this one, isolated area and putting it on the unique combination of strengths you offer, strengths which tie in perfectly with his greatest wants.
TRAPS: Blurt out “no way and you can kiss the job offer goodbye. But what if you have a family and want to work a reasonably normal schedule? Is there a way to get both the job and the schedule you want?
First, if you’re a confirmed workaholic, this question is a softball lob. Whack it out of the park on the first swing by saying this kind of schedule is just your style. Add that your family understands it. Indeed, they’re happy for you, as they know you get your greatest satisfaction from your work.
Example: “I love my work and do it exceptionally well. I think the results speak for themselves, especially in …(mention your two or three qualifications of greater interest to the employer. Remember, this is what he wants most, not a workaholic with weak credentials). Not only would I bring these qualities, but I’ve built my whole career on working not just hard, but smart. I think you’ll find me one of the most productive people here.
I do have a family who likes to see me after work and on weekends. They add balance and richness to my life, which in turn helps me be happy and productive at work. If I could handle some of the extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends, that would be ideal. You’d be getting a person of exceptional productivity who meets your needs with strong credentials. And I’d be able to handle some of the heavy workload at home where I can be under the same roof as my family. Everybody would win.”
TRAPS: Answer with a flat “no” and you may slam the door shut on this opportunity.
First find out where you may have to relocate and how much travel may be involved. Then respond to the question.
If there’s no problem, say so enthusiastically.
If you do have a reservation, there are two schools of thought on how to handle it.
One advises you to keep your options open and your reservations to yourself in the early going, by saying, “no problem”. You strategy here is to get the best offer you can, then make a judgment whether it’s worth it to you to relocate or travel.
Also, by the time the offer comes through, you may have other offers and can make a more informed decision.
The second way to handle this question is to voice a reservation, but assert that you’d be open to relocating (or traveling) for the right opportunity.
The answering strategy you choose depends on how eager you are for the job. If you want to take no chances, choose the first approach.
If you want to play a little harder-to-get in hopes of generating a more enticing offer, choose the second.
TRAPS: This is another question that pits two values, in this case loyalty and honesty, against one another.
Remember the rule stated earlier: In any conflict between values, always choose integrity.
Example: I believe that when evaluating anything, it’s important to emphasize the positive. What do I like about this idea?”
“Then, if you have reservations, I certainly want to point them out, as specifically, objectively and factually as I can.”
“After all, the most important thing I owe my boss is honesty. If he can’t count on me for that, then everything else I may do or say could be questionable in his eyes.”
“But I also want to express my thoughts in a constructive way. So my goal in this case would be to see if my boss and I could make his idea even stronger and more appealing, so that it effectively overcomes any initial reservation I or others may have about it.”
“Of course, if he overrules me and says, ‘no, let’s do it my way,’ then I owe him my full and enthusiastic support to make it work as best it can.”
TRAPS: Admit to worrying and you could sound like a loser. Saying you never worry doesn’t sound credible.
Redefine the word ‘worry’ so that it does not reflect negatively on you.
Example: “I wouldn’t call it worry, but I am a strongly goal-oriented person. So I keep turning over in my mind anything that seems to be keeping me from achieving those goals, until I find a solution. That’s part of my tenacity, I suppose.”
TRAPS: Sometimes an interviewer will describe a difficult situation and ask, “How would you handle this?” Since it is virtually impossible to have all the facts in front of you from such a short presentation, don’t fall into the trap of trying to solve this problem and giving your verdict on the spot.
Instead, describe the rational, methodical process you would follow in analyzing this problem, who you would consult with, generating possible solutions, choosing the best course of action, and monitoring the results.
Remember, in all such, “What would you do?” questions, always describe your process or working methods, and you’ll never go wrong.
TRAPS: Being unprepared or citing an example from so early in your life that it doesn’t score many points for you at this stage of your career.
This is an easy question if you’re prepared. Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
A quality most important to the job at hand; or
A quality that is always in demand, such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness, courage, persistence, intelligence, etc.
TRAPS: Not having any…or having only vague generalities, not highly specific goals.
Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your life: career, personal development and learning, family, physical (health), community service and (if your interviewer is clearly a religious person) you could briefly and generally allude to your spiritual goals (showing you are a well-rounded individual with your values in the right order).
Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps you’re taking to bring it about. But do this concisely, as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before letting your interviewer back into the conversation.
TRAPS: Your totally honest response might be, “Hell, no, are you serious?” That might be so, but any answer which shows you as fleeing work if given the chance could make you seem lazy.
This type of question is aimed at getting at your bedrock attitude about work and how you feel about what you do. Your best answer will focus on your positive feelings.
Example: “After I floated down from cloud nine, I think I would still hold my basic belief that achievement and purposeful work are essential to a happy, productive life. After all, if money alone bought happiness, then all rich people would be all happy, and that’s not true.
“I love the work I do, and I think I’d always want to be involved in my career in some fashion. Winning the lottery would make it more fun because it would mean having more flexibility, more options…who knows?”
TRAPS: This is a common fishing expedition to see what the industry grapevine may be saying about the company. But it’s also a trap because as an outsider, you never want to be the bearer of unflattering news or gossip about the firm. It can only hurt your chances and sidetrack the interviewer from getting sold on you.
Just remember the rule – never be negative – and you’ll handle this one just fine.
TRAPS: Give a perfect “10,” and you’ll seem too easy to please. Give anything less than a perfect 10, and he could press you as to where you’re being critical, and that road leads downhill for you.
Once again, never be negative. The interviewer will only resent criticism coming from you. This is the time to show your positivism.
However, don’t give a numerical rating. Simply praise whatever interview style he’s been using.
If he’s been tough, say “You have been thorough and tough-minded, the very qualities needed to conduct a good interview.”
If he’s been methodical, say, “You have been very methodical and analytical, and I’m sure that approach results in excellent hires for your firm.”
In other words, pay him a sincere compliment that he can believe because it’s anchored in the behavior you’ve just seen.