If you think about it, the best way to nail an interview is to walk in prepared. Some questions you can anticipate; others, not so much. Still, it's worth giving it some thought. The bottom line is: convince the hiring manager you can make his or her job easier and be an asset to the company.
Nancy Spivey, a career development coach, has invested more than 15 years helping hiring managers, as well as job applicants, find what they're looking for. One of her clients is the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board, in which she provides career coaching and training throughout the metro region. Here's her advice on how to sail through questions that tend to sink a lot of good candidates.
Tell me about yourself.
Perhaps you're tempted to answer, "I can tell you to look at my resume." Note to self: there are better answers. In fact, Spivey said this is the question you want the hiring manager to ask; it's your moment to shine. She said to think of this almost as your own personal infomercial in which you hit home three to five key points you want the hiring manager to hear. "Write out the answers and rehearse it," she advised. Make certain you tailor it to the job for which you're interviewing. And above all else, this should never include anything personal. Your focus throughout the interview should always be on your professional achievements.
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What are your weaknesses?
"This is the one no one wants to answer," laughed Spivey. "Don't spend a lot of time on this one. Answer it honestly, spin it into something positive and move on." She suggested answering with something you are currently working on; not something you have overcome in the past. "An employer might think you're saying you don't have any weaknesses if you bring up something from the past. And we all have weaknesses," she said. Whatever you do, keep this one succinct. The purpose of this question is to throw you a curve ball and see how well you handle it. It's important your answer doesn't come off rehearsed. And even more important, your answer needs to be genuine. The answer almost has a formula: 1) Here's one weakness, 2) Here's what I'm doing to overcome it, 3) What I've learned will help make me be a more efficient employee.
Why were you fired?
Listen, this is not the "Scarlet Letter." Some situations simply don't work. And you don't know that until you're on board. The thing that is most important to remember is you don't want to have a negative conversation about anything. Especially a previous employer. If you start to play the blame game (even though there may be some truth to your response), it's a red flag to a hiring manager. "I always tell people to be honest, but you're there to market yourself," said Spivey. "Keep the answer short and positive. Revert back to what your skills are and why your experience is going to be a good fit for this company."
Tell me about a time when...
Ugh. The dreaded behavioral questions interview. "It's easier for a job seeker to practice standard questions," started Spivey. "Behavioral questions aren't like that. Here, the hiring manager is looking for how you think on your feet. What's challenging for you. It's kind of in line with the personality assessment components." Perhaps the best way to prepare is to think of various examples ahead of time in which you disagreed with your boss or a time when you faced adversity. If you already have examples in mind, you can tailor them to whatever is being asked. Again, the key here is to be genuine, honest and positive.
If you take just one thing away from this article, take this: Whatever you do, be confident in your interview. Even if you're palms are sweating swimming pools, never let them see it. Put on your best poker face. Here's why: "One of the biggest things I see in working with managers," said Spivey, "is a manager will really like a candidate, but the candidate will show a lack of confidence. And then the manager comes back and questions if they can get the job done, because they've got their own job to do. They don't want to hire someone who's going to need a lot of hand-holding."