Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to give job winning answers to interview questions

Human Resources personnel, professional recruiters and various other career experts all agree: one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a job interview is to anticipate questions, develop your answers, and practice, practice, practice.

First, know these important facts:
1. There is no way to predict every question you will be asked during a job interview. In other words, expect unexpected questions--they'll come up no matter how much preparation you do.

2. Treat any sample answers you find, such as in discussion forums, books or on Internet job sites, as guides only. Do not use any sample answers word for word! Interviewers can spot "canned" answers a mile away, and if they suspect you are regurgitating answers that are not your own, you can kiss that job goodbye. You must apply your own experiences, personality and style to answer the questions in your own way. This is crucial, and it will give you a big advantage over candidates who simply recite sample answers.

3. Job interview questions are not things to fear, they are opportunities to excel. They allow you to show why you are the best person for the job, so instead of dreading them, look forward to them! The key is to give better answers than anyone else, and that's where your preparation comes in.

Now, take these actions:
1. Make a list of your best "selling points" for the position. What qualifications, skills, experience, knowledge, background, personality traits do you possess that would apply to this particular job? Write them down and look for opportunities to work them into your answers.

2. In addition to any sample job interview questions you find through various resources, you absolutely must develop your own list of probable questions based specifically on the job for which you are applying. Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes… what kinds of questions would you ask to find the best person for this job?

3. Write down your answers to likely questions. Study the job announcement carefully. (If you don't have one, get one!) Note the phrases they use when describing the desired qualifications. You'll want to target these as much as possible when developing your answers. For example, if the announcement says they want someone with "strong customer service skills," make sure you include "strong customer service skills" in at least one of your answers. That will make a better impression than saying "I helped customers."

4. Review and edit your answers until you feel they are "just right." Read them over and over until you are comfortable that you know them fairly well. Don't try to memorize them; don't worry about remembering every word. Practice saying them out loud. If possible, have a friend help you rehearse for the interview.

Here are some more very important tips:
1. Be a (Short) Story Teller
Make use of this old marketing tip: "Facts tell but stories sell." During a job interview, you are selling yourself. Whenever possible, answer questions with a short story that gives specific examples of your experiences. Notice I said "short." You don't want to ramble or take up too much time; you want to be brief but still make your point.

For example, imagine two people interviewing for a job as a dog groomer are asked, "Have you ever dealt with aggressive dogs?" Candidate Joe answers, "Yes, about 10% of the dogs I've groomed had aggressive tendencies." Candidate Mary answers, "Oh yes, quite often. I remember one situation where a client brought in his Pit Bull, Chomper. He started growling at me the moment his owner left, and I could tell from his stance he wasn't about to let me get near his nails with my clippers. I think he would've torn my arm off if I hadn't used the Schweitzer Maneuver on him. That calmed him down right away and I didn't have any problems after that." (I know nothing about dog grooming; I made the Schweitzer Maneuver up for illustrative purposes.)

Don't you agree that Mary's answer is better? Sure, Joe answered the question, but Mary did more than that--she gave a specific example and told a quick story that will be remembered by the interviewers.

In today's job market where there are dozens of highly qualified candidates for each opening, anything you do that will make you stand out and be remembered will greatly increase your odds of getting hired.

2. Keep the Interviewer's Perspective in Mind; Answer His "What's in it for Me?" Question
While many questions asked during job interviews appear to focus on your past accomplishments, here's an important tip: they may be asking about what you did, but what they really want to know is what you can do now, for them.

Information provided by: Winning tips to answer interview questions

2 comments:

Julia Penny said...

You couldn't be more correct - what the interviewer wants to know is "What kind of person are you?" and "What can you do for us?". He or she however also wants to know, particularly in today's job market, "What sets you apart from the other ten people I have interviewed for this position?" This last question can be best answered by providing your examples or "stories" as they relate directly to the value you will bring to the job and organization and how you will meet their particular needs. For more help with behavioral interveiws you can visit Behavioral Interview Guide.

Rita said...

One question you can always expect is some form of "Tell me about yourself." What this really means is, "Why am I talking to you?" Your answer should be geared to the specific job you are applying for, not a biography. "I am passionate about building quality products and Acme Software has a reputation for the best." "Most of my career has been in the wireless industy and Acme wireless is attractive to me because your are the most innovative."
If you understand this question is an opportunity to market your self, and not a biography, you will have the right answer.
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