The suit is pressed, you’ve printed out fresh copies of your resume and you’ve done extensive research into the company. You’re ready for the interview – or so you think.
Chances are, at some point you have prepared for a job interview by practicing the most common questions,
but in today’s tight job market, recruiters and hiring managers are going to be listening carefully to every word you say. Where at one point you might have been able to get by with a vague or disingenuous answer (“My weakness is that I work too hard”) when you’re competing against other qualified applicants, you want to answer every question as well as you can, impressing the interviewer with your communication skills, experience and education. When you’re preparing for your next interview, get ready to face some of these common tough questions.
“Tell Me About Yourself.”
While it might tempting to start with your first birthday and give the
interviewer a rundown of everything from your first day of school to your favorite color, keep your answer focused on information relevant to your suitability for the job. For example, an answer such as “I have a background in communication, and after working in a hospital environment for five years, I began working on my master of health administration, which I recently earned, so I’m eager to move into a position where I can apply my new knowledge and make a measurable difference in the lives of others,” gives the interviewer a snapshot of your education, experience and goals.
“Why Have You Been Out of Work for So Long?”
In today’s challenging economic environment, it’s not uncommon for candidates to have gaps of several months – or even several years – in their employment histories. If you’re faced with this question, honesty is the best policy. Instead of focusing on your lack of work experience, though, focus on how you have been filling your time and ke
eping your skills sharp for this position. For example, “After my previous employer downsized, I decided to return to school and earn an advanced degree. While it is possible to work and go to school, most of the DPT programs I was interested in required full-time study, so I opted to put the job search on hold while I earned my degree, which I now have.” Again, focus on the positive, and mention part-time work, volunteer work, research or other projects you’ve worked on between jobs.
“What Are Your Weaknesses”?
In the past, jobseekers have been advised to answer this question with a faux-weakness – something that could be seen as a minor annoyance, but would be a bonus to the employer. Savvy interviewers will see through those answers, though, so you need to answer more honestly. Instead, be frank and mention something that’s a true weakness, such as time management or prioritization, and explain how you are working to overcome it.
“Tell Me About a Time When You Faced Conflict.”
A related question is “tell me about the worst boss you’ve ever had.” Be careful – these questions are traps. An interviewer will listen carefully – and wonder if you will ever say the same things about her. They also want to know how you behave in such situations, so don’t cop out and say “I have never had a conflict.” Summarize a minor disagreement that you had with someone, or mention that you’ve had employers that you have not always seen eye to eye with, but focus on how you worked to resolve the situation. Again, always focus on the positive and show your willingness to recognize and solve problems.
“Why Should I Hire You?”
This is your chance to shine. The key is to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Start by mentioning that you think you’re the best person for the job – and then explain why. Use your research about the company, and relate your experience to their culture, needs and issues, showing why you truly are the best fit.
Of course, your own answers should reflect your own personality, and you do not want to rehearse answers to the point where you simply repeat them verbatim. Let your personality shine through, and prepare yourself for the toughest questions. Your confidence will help you stand out, and you’ll increase your chances of getting the offer you want.
About the Author: Renee Goggin is a career coach and communication expert. She works with jobseekers in the healthcare field, helping them prepare for interviews and build outstanding application packages.
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