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Ace that Job Interview



You’ve heard the standard questions dozens of times but know that your answers haven’t always overwhelmed your interviewers. If everyone’s asking the same questions, how can job seekers provide answers that make them stand out from others? We gave our CareerBuilder experts a few standard interview questions and asked them for some insight into what makes an effective response. Of course, you’ll want to personalize and build upon their answers.

Q: “Why should we hire you?”
A: “There are three reasons why I’m your best choice. First, I have the skills and experience to excel at this job. Second, your company is in an industry that I know and that I have a passion for. And finally, I’m not looking for just a job. I want a career opportunity that will help both me and the company prosper. I would be proud to work with a company of your reputation and would dedicate myself to the company’s needs and goals.”
– Barry Wohl, president, Carolina Career Resources, Charlotte, N.C.

Q: “What are your strengths?”
A: Remember, the most often hired candidates are those who prove they can do the job and are persistent. Communicate in a way that demonstrates your ability to produce results. Use result-oriented picture words such as “enlarge” and “accelerate” rather than process words like “interface” and “modify.” Rehearse your knowledge of the job with a friend beforehand.
– Jim Johnston, managing director, Marston Mills, Inc., Chicago

Q: “What are your weaknesses?”
A: “My weaknesses are my treasures. They reward me with more and more learning about myself and others. That knowledge fuels continuous self-improvement. Here are my greatest treasures…”
-–William Henning, president, Performance Development Systems, Burns Harbor, Ind.

Q: “Tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had.”
A: “My best boss was someone who promoted an open-door policy. I had enough independence to feel confident in making decisions, and if I was unsure of something, I could go to her for direction. Goals were set high for our team, and we were always challenged to do better. Our boss was a harsh but supportive and encouraging manager who strived to ensure we excelled. I grew both professionally and personally under her tutelage.”
– Vicki Layde, CPC, senior consultant, The Opportunities Group, Chicago

Q: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
A: The interviewer is usually looking to see if your aspirations fit the realities of the organization. This question can also be a way of gauging your level of ambition. Some organizations would like to hear you say that you plan to be their president in five years. Others would immediately screen you out for the same answer. Suggest career paths that you know are realistic and reasonable for the organization and the opportunity.
– Teri Hires, senior vice president, Lee Hecht Harrison, Houston

Q: “What was the best part of your previous job?”
A: I believe that the interviewer is just trying to get to know you. Also, they want to evaluate what motivates you and at what level. Will you thrive in their environment? Are your goals aligned with the responsibilities of the position? This question is a gift question as it is easy to answer and offers an excellent opportunity for the candidate to shine. I would recommend that candidates respond to this question with multiple examples and without hesitation!”
– Carolyn Dougherty, CPC, IntelliSource, Inc., Narberth, PA

Keep interview information focused on the job.
It’s important to choose words wisely during an interview. Judy Kneisley, senior vice president and general manager for Lee Hecht Harrison in Los Angeles, says that it’s crucial not to reveal too much information about your personal life. “If someone asks about your hobbies, tell them that they are not overly demanding of your time,” says Kneisley. “Instead of saying you run marathons, just say that you enjoy running.” Kneisley also stresses the importance of remaining flexible and not reacting too much to personal questions, even those you know cross the ethical line. “An unskilled interviewer may ask if you have kids at home,” says Kneisley. “Just say you’ve got that handled and move on. Don’t ask how it applies.”

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times CareerBuilder section

“Do You Have Any Questions for Me?”

You spent many hours rehearsing your interview and so far, your preparation is paying off. You eloquently speak of your strengths, your weaknesses, your unique skills and your long-term goals. Your interviewer enthusiastically nods at each response you provide. You figure you’re a hearty handshake away from a job offer. And THEN the final question freezes you in your chair:

“Do you have any questions for me?”

Smart job seekers know that no matter how impressive their interview has been up to this point—it could all be blown right here. By the same token, it can also be an excellent opportunity to shine.

A sampling of questions candidates could ask, include:
1. What are you looking for in a successful candidate?
2. What are the most immediate needs in this position over the next few months?
3. What expectations do you have for this position long-term?
4. What is the most difficult challenge a person will face in this position?
5. Can this position lead to other career opportunities? If so, what type of positions?
6. Is the position vacant now? If so, why and for how long?
7. What is your schedule for filling the position?
8. What is the next step in the process?
9. What are the top three objectives you would like to see accomplished—and in what time period?


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