Ace your next interview

ace your next interview

How to answer answer interview questions and ace your next interview.

Congratulations! You just landed a job interview. Your resume proved enough to get you in the door, but now the real work starts. How do you approach your interview preparation to ensure that on interview day you’ll be walking in cool, calm, and collected?

Start your preparation by reviewing our suggested approach to these common interview questions.

Can you tell me about yourself?

Despite this being one of the most frequently used interview questions (and often used as an opening question), this seems to be the one people find most difficult to prepare for. But if you’re successful in confidently articulating your fit for the position beyond what’s on your resume, you’ll set a favorable tone for the rest of the interview. Instead of reciting what has already been presented to your interviewer, use this time to share a little more detail. Is there a particularly relevant aspect of your previous position that you’d like to highlight? Now’s the time to mention it.

Why should I hire you?

Lucky for you, the hiring manager just pitched you a big, fat softball question. While initially intimidating to some, the “why should I hire you” question is really the best opportunity for you to start a dialogue with your interviewer about the things you feel make you most qualified for the position. For example, if the position requires someone that is customer service-oriented, you’ll want to include in your response not only your experience working with the public, but also an example that demonstrates how you handle unhappy customers.

What are your salary requirements?

While you likely have a specific number in mind based on your current lifestyle and income needs, it’s important to spend some time on sites like Glassdoor or Payscale to make sure your request is in line with what’s typical for your location and industry. Taking into consideration your education, experience, and skills, you’ll then be able to formulate an appropriate salary range. Most importantly, be flexible, but also firm with yourself and your interviewer during salary negotiations. If you feel the company’s offer is too low, don’t be afraid to cite relevant industry information to bolster your case for an offer increase. And by all means, no matter how badly you want the job, never agree to accept less than your minimum income requirements.

Why are you leaving your current job? Or, why did you leave your last job?

Regardless of the reason you’re seeking new employment, you’ll want to keep your answer to this question positive and keep the focus of the interview on your interest in the new position. Making negative comments about previous employers is a red flag that will cause hesitation for many hiring managers. Besides, you shouldn’t turn down an opportunity to convey your excitement about pursuing a new career, taking on new responsibilities, or expanding a specific skill set.

What are your greatest professional strengths/weaknesses?

When formulating an answer to these questions, remember that honesty is always the best policy. Never overreach and claim to be strong in an area you clearly aren’t just because you think it would help you land the position. Eventually, your dishonesty will be exposed and you might find yourself in hot water. To address the question of strengths, identify your forte in a functional area or highlight a strong character trait that’s most relevant to the position for which you are interviewing; be as specific as possible when giving examples on how you’ve demonstrated these in a professional environment. You’ll want to approach the question about your weaknesses a bit differently. While the hiring manager isn’t expecting you to come right out and say you’re terrible at something, she most assuredly isn’t looking for a declaration that you’re perfect. Offer your interviewer specifics about an area that you are working to improve. Don’t feel like your spreadsheet skills are up to par? Tell the interviewer about the classes you’re enrolled in at a local college. It’s expected that no one is perfect, but acknowledging an area where you have some room to grow, and actively working to advance your skills in that area shows self-awareness and initiative.

While there are some variables over which you won’t have control on the day of your interview, thinking through your answers to the most likely questions will improve your chances of presenting a strong and focused case for your candidacy.

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