How do you make yourself standout in an interview? How do you make sure you're presenting your experience and qualifications in a way that you are the candidate the company chooses? Interviews are not fun, but there seem to be stock questions asked in every one of them. Here are the top 5 answers, according to Interview Answers in a Flash, that should help you nail your next interview.
Q1. Tell me about yourself
This is a tough question to answer because you don't know for sure what the interviewer is seeking. In general, however, interviewers ask this question for two reasons: 1. to learn more about you and what you consider important than will be obvious from your resume, and 2. to see how well you are able to think on your feet. Don't simply provide your work and educational history.
Answer for small business: "I moved here about ten years ago and really have enjoyed living in this area. The hiking, skiing, and natural beauty are wonderful. I've been married for five years and have one child who is just starting to hike with my husband and me. We both want to instill a love of the outdoors in her early. Part of the reason I am interested in working for your company is my appreciation for the outdoors. Your company has supported all of the initiatives to create increased park land in our area over the last five years, and I want to work for a company like that."
Answer for a large corporation: "As you can see from my resume, I have a lot of experience helping customers solve problems. In my current position, I am responsible for working with approximately 150 families. As a result, I have become highly organized and complete my documentation of service directly after working with a customer. In my last review, I received the highest customer service rating in my group."
Q2. Where does your boss think you are now?
Obviously, this answer is going to depend on what you have told your boss about today. The best answer is honest, straightforward, and short. Do not focus on anything that could be perceived as negative.
- "I took a vacation day so I could be relaxed and focused on this interview."
- "My boss and I have discussed my career opportunities and she has helped me with my decision to look for a new job. My current company cannot offer the advancement I am seeking."
- "My lunch hour is flexible, so I am currently on break.
Avoid answers such as, "She thinks I am at a doctor's (dentist, school, etc.) appointment." Or, "I took a sick day today."
Q3. Why did you leave your last job?
Be positive here. Even if, in your heart of hearts, you hated your last job, find something good to say about how it ended. It won't do you any good to whine about it now. Put it behind you and move on. Here are some ideas for good endings:
- "Our department was eliminated (or consolidated)."
- "My company went out of business (or restructured)."
- "I'm interested in more responsibility and growth than my previous employer was able to offer. From my research, it appears that your company is on the cutting edge of our industry and there is room for me to advance."
- "I am currently at the top of the salary range for my position. I would like an opportunity for salary growth."
Q4. Why are you interested in working for our company?
Before the interview, you should have done some research on the company where you are interviewing. What caught your attention? What made the company interesting to you, causing you to apply? People like to be proud of where they work, and that includes your interviewer.
- "I am interested in working for your company because you value our community, and your employees are important to you. You are often in the newspaper, participating in community cleanup activities or contributing volunteer hours to senior citizen events. Your employees speak highly of the company and its products, and they seem very pleased with their jobs. Those qualities in an employer are important to me."
Q5. What is your current salary?
The one who mentions dollars first loses! Don't play the game. Avoid answering this question as long as you possibly can. You want the interviewer to talk salary numbers first. Make sure you do your homework before you interview so you know the salary ranges for the job you are applying for. To answer this question, there are several comebacks that will throw the ball back into the interviewer's court.
- "While salary is important to me, other considerations - including benefits, vacation time, and the opportunity to learn new skills - are also important. I would like to have the salary discussion when I move to the next stage of this process."
- "I think it's premature to talk about salary just yet. I haven't had time to give you enough of my history so you can put my salary into context. I would rather talk about my experience and accomplishments first. I'm sure we can come to some agreement when you're ready to offer me the job."
- I'm sure you need that information at some point in order to make your decision about hiring me, and I would be happy to provide you with it, but right now I would rather wait until you are closer to making an offer."
If the interviewer just won't continue with the interview until you have answered the question, then you have no choice but to cooperate. In that case, provide a range and not a single number. It will give you some "wiggle" room later in the negotiation.
- "I made from $________ to $________ on my last job. However, my employer was a small start-up company and couldn't afford to pay me the going rate in our industry. I accepted the job anyway because I was excited about the challenge of building a business from the ground up. I found the job very rewarding."