Rehearsing The Job Interview
Eight answers you need to know
Congratulations! Your cover letter and resume took you through the first stage. Now you’re getting ready for the next phase: the interview. A job interview is your chance to sell yourself to the employer. And, as with most things, planning ahead will help you make the most of the opportunity.
Don’t let the interviewer’s friendly demeanor lull you into a false sense of security. An interview is not a social situation. The employer is evaluating what you know, what you’ve done and how you present yourself. The process also is designed to help her figure out if you will fit into the company’s culture.
While each interview will have different aspects, a few questions seem to pop up in nearly every situation. By preparing for these questions, and trying to anticipate any others particular to the job or industry, you will be ready to show the employer why you are the best person for the job.
- Tell me about yourselfThis is not the time to tell the employer everything there is to know about you. Plan a short, organized statement that tells the interviewer a little about your credentials for the job and your career goals. Focus on what’s most relevant to this position. For example, if you’re changing careers mention the education or transferable skills that will be most useful in this position. Finish by describing how you think you can contribute to the company. Try not to spend more than two or three minutes on this question. Wrap it up if you see the interviewer’s eyes begin to glaze over.
- Why do you want to work here?This is an important question so do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the company before the interview. Today many companies have their own web sites. You can also check sites like Hoovers Online, which provide information on many businesses.During the interview, tell the employer what you’ve learned and what impressed you about the company. Stick to things like the company’s mission statement or their diversity policy. Now is not the time to mention the three-week vacation or tuition reimbursement plan.
- What are your best skills (or strengths)?This is your opportunity to shine. By researching the company and position, you should know which skills would be considered most important to this employer. Evaluate your own skills and choose the three that you think will be the most essential. Next come up with examples that demonstrate your abilities. For instance, don’t say I’m organized or I’m a good motivator. Tell the interviewer how you developed a new filing system or how you motivated your staff to get a project done ahead of schedule.Try to have five examples ready, so you can choose two or three on the spot. This approach is particularly useful if you find yourself in a behavioral interview. (Where the employer tries to learn what you are capable of based on what you have done in the past.)
- What is your biggest weakness?There are two schools of thought on answering this question. Some advise choosing a weakness you can turn into a strength. One of the most common answers in this vein is to say you are too much of a perfectionist. Others suggest mentioning a weakness that is not particularly relevant to the job you are interviewing for. For example, you might talk about learning a new software program. Just be sure whatever you choose is not essential to the position you seek.
- What are your career goals?This is a variation of the old standard: Where do you want to be in five years? Generally, the employer wants to know two things: are your goals are in line with the company’s goals and will you be around long enough to make training you worth their while. While there is no pat answer, some positives to mention are your desire to learn, improve your performance and grow in your new position. If possible, talk about specific ways you intend to reach your goals. While not all employers ask this any longer, it’s better to be prepared.
- Why did you leave your last job? Or why are you leaving your current position?Be as honest as you can, but always be sure not to say anything negative about any of your past employers. Many people say they are looking for more responsibility or the opportunity for advancement.
- Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?Most jobs require both, so describe instances when you’ve worked on a team and flown solo on projects. Still, it ‘s important for you to know which is your preferred way of working. If you enjoy being part of a group, you won’t be happy at a job where you’ll be alone in a cubicle all day.
- What salary are you looking for?This is one of those questions you should try not to answer directly. Some experts advise answering this question with a question such as “What is the salary range for the job?” Be sure you know the current salary range for the position and the industry. For example, writers in corporate communications generally make more than those in publishing. You can find this type of information at sites like Salary.com.
Before your next interview, practice answering these questions. It’s also a good idea to anticipate others related to your situation. For example, if you’re in a technical field be ready to talk about your experience, training and certifications. If you’re changing careers tell the interviewer why you want to make this change. Highlight your transferable skills. These are the skills – like being a good communicator – that are easily transferred from one job, or career, to another.
Try to be honest during the interview. But, remember not to say anything negative about your previous (or current) employer. No matter how bad your boss may be negativity reflects poorly on you.
Be prepared for each interview. Being prepared will help you feel more relaxed. Feeling relaxed will help you let your personality and enthusiasm shine through. Which is a good thing.
Many applicants will have similar credentials. What will make you stand out are your personality and your passion. Don’t discount their value. Passion has helped me change careers. Twice.