Your may be totally qualified for the job. You may want it more than anything and you may even be the best candidate…on paper. However, if you don’t nail the interview, your chances are pretty slim, so here are some job interview tips to help you land that dream job.
Tell me about yourself.
Simple enough, right? It is, but sadly many interviewers do not prepare for this one. What they really want to hear is stuff that relates to the job, not your hobbies or family life. In fact, you may want to steer clear of things that may cause the interviewer to pass judgement such as your religion, political views and family life. Focus on a few past accomplishments and how you ended up at this point. For example, a nice response might be:I grew up in East Kansas where I graduated high school and then I attended college at Kansas State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in marketing. My first job was with ABC Publishing where I helped increase revenue by about $1M through an aggressive marketing program that I was part of implementing. Next I went to XYZ retail where I was placed at the head of marketing and again established a campaign that increased our bottom line. Now I hope to have the opportunity to do the same for your organization.
How did you hear about the position?
Another seemingly innocuous question that actually isn’t. They DON’T want to hear that you happened across the position by pure accident and figure ‘what the heck.’ Your response should be more focused on your diligence, even if you did happen across the position. Ideally you learned about the company because you sought them out and researched their company and then applied for the position. However, realistically you likely came across it like everyone else; on a job board or other similar place. In any case, talk about what impressed you about THIS company. For example:I first learned about your company on Indeed.com and it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I decided to research your company before applying and was quite impressed what others were saying about you and how you make a real difference in the lives of your customers with such high quality products.
What do you know about the company?
You should already know plenty about the company because you should have done your research. Particularly pay attention to their mission statement and goals. If it is a wheelchair manufacturer and their mission is to ‘increase wheelchair access through innovation that decreases costs that can be passed on to clients in savings,’ then you ought to mention something about it in your response. Don’t quote it, but comment on it. For example:
I know you have been manufacturing wheelchairs for almost 60 years now and are one of the leaders in the industry. But what really impressed me about this company is the honest desire to improve manufacturing in such a way as to keep costs low and pass those savings onto customers so that those that need a wheelchair can get one.
Why do you want this job?
Your response to this (like most others) should be about how you can help them, not the other way around. They don’t want to hire you because of what will help YOU, but how you will help their business succeed. Even if YOU want benefits, YOU want higher pay or YOU want a less stressful job, telling them that will only make you look like you are a taker and NO business wants a taker. So here’s an idea:
In my research of your company I was really impressed with your mission to serve all customers like family and that is the same way I feel. I want to be part of an organization like this and help it to grow and serve even more customers.
Why should we hire you?
Here is where you should be VERY familiar with the job description. They are looking for you to mention how you can accomplish the things they want. For instance, if they need a manager who can motivate their team, increase sales and improve customer satisfaction, they you darn well better tell them how you are the person to do those things. Again, this is NOT about YOU, but about how you can help THEM!
First of all, I have a naturally cheery disposition and I think that is always good for morale. Besides I have helped motivate teams in the past. I’m also great at interacting with customers and teaching my team to do the same. In fact, in my last job, they referred to me as the “Beast Tamer” because I was known for turning irate customer returns into additional sales. Overall, I am confident that sales would increase with morale and customers will be happier than they ever have been.
What are your strengths?
Of course the question they are asking is about strengths that relate to the job. This is not a list, but maybe two strengths that you have (they should be real strengths) and examples. For instance, if you are applying for a position as an administrative assistant, you might talk about how fast you are at typing and good under pressure. You might say:
I am a really fast typer, with a record of 93 wpm and I do really well under pressure. One time, my boss brought me a hand-written transcript that had to be typed up within 15 minutes, but it was 6 pages long. So I got right on it and finished just in the nick of time, even though it seemed impossible. It’s funny, because I’m pretty sure I did more than 93 wpm that day, but I hardly had time to keep track of course.
What are your weaknesses?
Be careful with this one. Don’t answer that you have none because that is of course not true, but also arrogant. Also don’t raise any red flags such as ‘I really don’t like people’ or ‘I have trouble getting to work on time.’ Pick a real weakness, but one that is not-that-bad AND include how you are working to overcome it. For example:
I would have to say public speaking. I get pretty nervous speaking to groups of people, but in my last job I often volunteered to do presentations because I wanted to improve on it. I’m still not great at it, but I’m getting better.
What is your greatest achievement?
Here is your chance to really shine because interviewers want to hire people that will help their business excel and if you have a track record of just that, you’re a shoe-in. Of course make sure you have already identified and thought about your greatest achievement and don’t be afraid to embellish. Don’t lie, but talk yourself up. Briefly describe the situation, what YOU did and the result. For example:
When I was hired to manage the Coach store, things were in disarray and the store was on route to be closed in a couple years if it didn’t turn profitable. There were so many things to be done, so I did all of them every day. These included making the store and products clean and presentable at all times, organizing back stock and the back room, training employees on product knowledge and customer service and scheduling better to meet customer demands. Within 3 months the store became profitable and within 6 months, we achieved an all-time record in sales.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Whatever you say, the answer should include still being employed by the company you are interviewing with. If it isn’t, then maybe you are looking in the wrong place. They want to know you are ambitious, realistic and if you are right for the position. So don’t suggest you will be the CEO in 5 years, in the same position or retired. Instead, look to the next position “up” or one that is similar. For example:
I can see myself moving from Junior Account Manager to a senior position. I think my work will speak for itself and the management will see that I could have a bigger impact on the company in a position of greater influence.
Tell me about a conflict you faced and how you handled it.
The interviewer is trying to get a sense of how you deal with conflict with this question because there always is some. Depeding on the job, there may be a lot. Regardless, you should have a good example ready to go and again, embellishment is OK. Just make sure to briefly describe the situation, how you responded to it, how that “fixed” it and the happy ending that resulted. You might say:
When I worked at the employement center, we would interview clients and that information was passed on to the secretaries, one of whom did not seem to like me. She was just plain rude sometimes, so I decided to approach her about it. I calmly entered her office and asked why there was such a problem between us. In the process of the conversation, I learned that I had been inputting some of the information incorrectly into the system and she had to fix it all the time. I asked her if she would be willing to show me how to do it properly so as to avoid the problem in the future. She did exactly that and we are still good friends today.
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