June 22, 2018

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Answering Key Interview Questions Like a Pro

"We would like you to come in for an interview." Those are wonderful words every job hunter wants to hear. All that stands in the way of your new job is maneuvering through the interview and handling the questions like a pro. Think you can pass the muster? Try taking the ( Interactive Interview Readiness QUIZ ) since mistakes during the interview can cost you the job.

There are four key components to successfully answering interview questions:

  1. advance preparation

  2. giving short, concise, specific answers that never exceed 60 seconds

  3. demonstrating ability to perform the job

  4. exhibiting personality traits that brand you as the ideal worker

Whenever possible, in answering questions, give a specific example of how you've operated in the past. Employers want assurance you'll be able to do the job. Keep in mind that the ideal worker is productive, gets results, and has a success-oriented, "can do" attitude. He or she is eager to learn, and is flexible and adaptable. Match those traits with some key answers and you are surely going to be a noticeable standout amongst the competition.

To get you started, here are the key questions you'll likely be asked, along with appropriate answers.

Tell me about yourself.

Forget your life story. You must capture the employer's attention immediately. Open the interview by using your 60 Second Sell which is a customized 60-second memorized statement that summarizes and links together your FIVE top selling points -- skills, experience, and strengths -- into a one minute verbal business card.

Why did you leave your last job? OR, Why do you want to leave your current job?

Wanting greater challenges or growth opportunities, relocation, layoffs, reorganization or downsizing, are all acceptable reasons to depart. An effective answer might be, "The company recently went through a downsizing; that's why I'm available." OR, "My current employer is small and I've gone as far as I can with their organization. I'm looking for a challenge that will really use my abilities and strengths, allowing me to continue to grow and make a larger contribution." Any negative reasons, such as, "I hate the place!" will reflect poorly on you so don't respond in that vein.

What is your greatest weakness?

You don't need to be analytical and list all your faults. Instead, a little humor, such as, "I'm not very mechanically inclined so don't ask me to repair the copier." ha-ha-ha, is definitely okay. Also effective is to point out something that will have no negative impact on the hiring decision at all. And when possible stress a needed skill. For example, if the position requires excellent computer skills using MSOffice software, you might offer this response: "I have excellent computer user skills. I know Excel and Word inside and out, but I am pretty weak at HTML and would need more training if use of that programming skill is required." Since the employer isn't asking for the candidate to do programming this answer reinforces a major selling point -- computer usage skills -- and works well.

I'm a little worried about your lack of ...

If the employer is unaware of your experience, then it's easy to give an answer using a specific example demonstrating that necessary skill. If they are concerned about a skill you do lack, but are eager to learn, try, "I have excellent customer service skills, but you are right, I have not been a sales person. I do know the key to success is building good client relationships, persistence, using good time management skills, and being conscientious about follow-up, which I have done before. I have read numerous books on selling and I intend to take seminars at my own expense to learn everything I can. I am a hard worker, who lets rejection roll off my back. My goals include landing a sales job and then becoming one of the top sales people in my company. I've set a three-year date to achieve this goal and I am determined to succeed."

You have a lot of experience. Why would you want this job?

Desperately needing any job isn't going to score points with the interviewer. The employer worries you won't stay in the job, that you are burnt out and just looking for an easy paycheck, or worse, that you'll go after the boss's job once you come on board. Best strategy in this situation is to not oversell your abilities. Stress why this job fits for you now: that you seek a job with less travel, or that you wish to utilize a specific skill such as training or design instead of management. Be careful not to say you want an easy, no-stress job, causing the employer to seek a more eager worker.

Prepare and work on answers in advance. You'll find 85 more answers to typical interview questions in Robin Ryan's book, "60 Seconds & You're Hired!"

-Robin Ryan

Copyright 2005 Robin Ryan. All rights reserved.

America's most popular career counselor, Robin Ryan, is the author of four bestselling books: 60 Seconds & You're Hired!, Winning Resume & Winning Cover Letters, and What to Do with the Rest of Your Life. She's appeared on over a thousand TV & radio shows including Oprah, Dr. Phil, and has been published in most major newspapers and magazines including USA Today & the Wall Street journal. Contact her at 425.226.0414; email:

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