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Interview Tools!resume writing, resume tips, free resume samples, resume cover letters, resume words

Are you unsure how to handle those tough job interview questions?  Here are some great, free tips and tools to help you with those great answers and have a knockout interview!

Also, check out the Job Resources and "301 Smart Answers" book in the left sidebar for more help with interview questions and answers!

Thoughts for the Interview

The Boy Scout motto "be prepared" is so true in the job interview.  You must invest time and energy into this part of the employment process.  You only get one "first impression" at the interview.

[On to the Interview Thoughts]

Top Interview Questions

[General]  [Experience/Management]  [Industry Trends]  [Leaving a Job]  [Quantify Your Experience]  [Job Search]  [Work Habits/Style]  [Salary]  [Personality]  [Career Goals]

Interview Door Openers/Probing Extenders

A good interviewer will use these techniques when interviewing you.  Practice your interview with these in mind.

[On to the Door Openers]

Interview Bloopers   These are from actual job interviews!!

[Stories]    [Questions]

Interview Strike-outs!   Don't get caught by these interview snafus when you're "at bat!!"

[On to the Strikeouts]

Thoughts for the Interview

    Think "Strategic"

Contributing to an organization is more than just "working".  Everything you do has to fit into a business strategy.  To make what you do fit, you must first know what the strategy is.  You must project this image in the interview.


    Think "Solutions"

Every problem or challenge has a solution.  Every time you encounter a problem, you must think about a solution.  If you, personally, don't know the solution, you need to find someone who does and ask them.  Be known as someone who can get the answers.  Make sure that the interviewer thinks of you in this way as well.

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    Think "Planning"

Everything you do must have a plan behind it.  Planning is a pain, but is necessary to demonstrate that you are organized and in-charge.  It also helps to ensure that projects are properly carried out.  In the interview, make sure you are thought of as one who plans.


    Think "Attitude"

This is the time to be the most positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic person you can be!  Do it even if you don't feel like it.  Think of something to say good about the weather or your trip to the interview (don't say things like, "I had trouble finding your company").  Compliment the facility, the people, the company's location.  Express appreciation that the interviewer has taken the time to talk to you!


    Think "Appearance"

As much as we don't like to admit it, people make value judgments based upon how you present yourself.  Be sure you're dressed appropriately for the interview.  You can rarely be over-dressed, but certainly can be under-dressed.  Get the book called "Dress for Success" by John T. Malloy and apply what you learn!  Be sure that you are neatly groomed from head to toe, your clothes are clean, and your shoes are polished.  If you are going to an afternoon interview, watch what you have for lunch.  Things like indigestion, garlic breath, or a yawn (due to a big lunch) don't go over very well in an interview.

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    Think "Preparation"

Before the interview, practice answering "mock" questions with a friend as your interviewer.  If you have the tools and the time, audio or video-tape your practice session.  You will be amazed at what you see and hear about YOU!  Practice, practice, practice!

If the interview location is not too far away, drive to the interview location the evening before and familiarize yourself with the travel route, parking location, entry door, etc.  This will take the "where am I going" element out of the process and minimize the chance that you will get lost and be late for the interview.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview.  A good rule of thumb is to double the normal drive time, in case you run into unexpected traffic problems, detours, etc.  If you arrive early, you can use it as extra interview prep time!

When you meet your interviewer, give them a firm (not "killer") handshake.  Look them "square in the eye" when talking to them, not away from them or at the floor.

At the interview, be prepared to talk 80% of the time.

Know who you are.  In one sentence, be able to describe yourself.  FacilitatorGuy's one-sentence description is that he "takes pieces-parts that don't make any sense and puts them all together".  What is your "one liner?"

Be familiar with any formulas that back up claims of cost or time savings.  This will help you feel more confident with how you helped your present or previous employers and the interviewer will pick up on it.

Never speak poorly about prior employers or people.   Never say you didn't get the advancement you were looking for.  Rather, say you are looking for greater advancement opportunities.  Even better, say you are looking for an organization where you can contribute to their success and that you know your advancement will follow.

Research the company you will be interviewing with prior to the interview.  Get answers to questions like:

    What is their principal product(s)?
    Who are the executives of the company?
    What is the company's annual revenue?
    How many locations do they have?  Are they an International company?
    What is their most recent stock price (if traded publicly)?
    Where is the company based?
    How old is the company?
    What is the company's growth rate?
    What is the company's business philosophy?

Use the questions above to help you generate 3 business-related questions to ask the interviewer.  If you don't have questions to ask of them or their company, they may conclude that you aren't interested!

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Top Interview Questions
1) Tell me about you!
* Keep your answer to one or two minutes; don't ramble.
* Use your "positioning statement" (resume summary) as a base to start.
2) What do you know about our company?
* Know products, size, income, reputation, image, goals, problems, management
   talent, management style, people, skills, history, and philosophy.
* Project an informed interest, let the interviewer tell you about the company, let them
  define their business in their terms.
3) Why do you want to work for us?
* Don't talk about what you want; first talk about their needs.
* You wish to be part of a company project.
* You would like to solve a company problem.
* You can make a definite contribution to specific company goals: identify its
   management talent, etc.
4) What would you do for us?  What can you do for us that someone else can't?
* Relate past experiences which represent success in solving previous employer
  problem(s) which may be similar to those of the prospective employer.
5) What about our position do you find the most attractive?  Least attractive?
* List three or more attractive factors and only one minor unattractive factor.
6) Why should we hire you?
* Because of knowledge, experience, abilities, and skills.
7) What do you look for in a job?
* An opportunity to use skills, to perform and be recognized.
8) Please give me your definition of a .... (the position for which you 
     are being interviewed).
* Keep it brief...actions and results-oriented.
9) How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
* Very quickly after a little orientation and a brief period of adjustment on the
   learning curve.
10) How long would you stay with us?
* As long as we both feel I'm contributing, achieving, growing etc.

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11) You may be overqualified or too experienced for the position we have to offer.
* Strong companies need strong people.
* Experienced executives are at a premium today.
* Emphasize your interest in a long-term association.
* The employer will get a faster return on investment because you have more
   experience than required.
* A growing, energetic company is rarely unable to use its people talents.
12) What is your management style?
(If you've never thought about this, it's high time you did.)  Open door is best....
 but you get the job done on time or inform your management. 
13) Are you a good manager?  Give an example.
      Why do you feel you have top managerial potential?
* Keep your answer achievement and task oriented, emphasize management skills--
   planning, organizing, controlling, interpersonal, etc.
14) What did you look for when you hired people?
* Skills, initiative, adaptability.
15) Did you ever fire anyone?  If so, what were the reasons and how did you
      handle it?
* You have had experience with this and it worked out well.
16) What do you see as the most difficult task in being a manager?
* Getting things planned and done on time within the budget.
17) What do your subordinates think of you?
* Be honest and positive...they can check your responses easily.
18) What is your biggest weakness as a manager?
* Be honest, use positive words to describe your weaknesses, and end on a
   positive note, e.g. "I have a problem reprimanding people so I always begin
   with something positive first."

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19) What important trends do you see in our industry?
* Keep your answer to two or three trends.


20) Why are you leaving your present job?
* Refine your answer based on your comfort level and honesty.
* Give a "group" answer if possible, e.g. our department was consolidated
   or eliminated.
21) How do you feel about leaving all of your benefits?
* Concerned but not panicked.
22) Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.
* Where people are treated a s fairly as possible.
23) How would you evaluate your present firm?
* An excellent company which afforded me many fine experiences.

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24) Have you helped increase sales? Profits? How?
* Describe in some detail.
25) Have you helped reduce costs?  How?
* Same as above.
26) How much money did you ever account for?
* Be specific.
27) How many people did you supervise on your last job?
* Be specific.
28) Do you like working with figures more than words?
* Be honest but positive.
29)  In your current or last position, what features did you like the most?
* Same as above
30) In your current or last position, what are or were your five most
       significant accomplishments? 
* You could refer to the key accomplishments already identified on resume.

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31) Why haven't you found a new position before now?
* Finding a job is easy but finding the right job is more difficult.  (You are being
   "selective" and won't settle for the first thing that comes along.)
32) Had you thought of leaving your present position before?
       If yes, what do you think held you there?
* Yes, but always weigh my options carefully before acting.  Challenge,
   but it's gone now.
33) What do you think of your boss?
* Be as positive as you can.  Mention all of your bosses strengths.  If asked about
   boss-negatives, minimize them (e.g., 
34) Would you describe a situation in which your work was criticized?
35) What other types of jobs or companies are you considering?
* Keep your answer related to this company's field

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36) If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he say are your
      greatest strengths and weaknesses?
* Emphasize skills -- don't be overly negative about your weaknesses; it's always
   safe to identify a lack of a skill or experience as a shortcoming rather than
   a personal characteristic.
37) Can you work under pressures, deadlines, etc.?
* Yes. Quite simply, it is a way of life in business.
38) How have you changed the nature of your job?
* Improved it...of course.
39) Do you prefer staff or line work? Why?
* Depends on the job and its challenges.
40) In your present position, what problems have you identified that had
       previously been overlooked?
* Keep it brief and don't brag.
41) Don't you feel you might be better off in a different size company?
       Different type company?
* Depends on the job -- elaborate slightly.
42) How do you resolve conflict on a project team?
* First discuss issues privately.
43) What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?
* Attempt to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.

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44) How much are you looking for?
* Answer with a question, i.e., "What is the salary range for similar jobs in
   your company?"
* If they don't answer, then give a range of what you understand you are
   worth in the marketplace.
45) How much do you expect, if we offer this position to you?
* Be careful;  the market value of the job may be the key answer (e.g.,
   "My understanding is that a job like the one you're describing may be
   in the range of $______.")  Don't undersell yourself, in any case.
46) What kind of salary are you worth?
* Have a specific figure in mind...don't be hesitant.

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47) Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?
* Depends on the circumstances.
48) What was the last book you read?  Movie you saw?
       Sporting event you attended?
* Talk about books, sports or films to represent balance in you life.
49)  What is the toughest part of a job for you?
* Be honest, remember not everyone can do everything.
50) Are you creative?
* Yes.  Give examples.
51) How would you describe your own personality?
* Balanced.
52) Are you a leader?
* Yes.  Give examples.
53) What are your future goals?
* Avoid, "I would like the job you advertised."  Instead, give long-range goals.
54) What are your strong points?
* Present at least three and relate them to the interviewing company and job opening.
55) What are your weak points?
* Don't say you have none.
* Try not to cite a personal characteristics as weaknesses, but be ready to have
   one if interviewer presses.
* Turn a negative into a positive answer: "I am sometimes intent on completing an
   assignment and get too deeply involved when we are late."

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56) If you could start your career again, what would you do differently?
* Nothing....I am happy today so I don't want to change my past.  I look at everything
   as a positive, learning experience.
57) What career options do you have at the moment?
* "I see three areas of interest..."  Relate those to the position and industry.
58) How would you describe the essence of success?  According to your
       definition of success, how successful have you been so far?

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-- Source: Don Monaco of The Strickland Group.  Enhancements by FacilitatorGuy.

Interview Door Openers

    Uh, huh.

    I see.

    Tell me more.

    Tell me about...

    I do not understand...

    What makes you think...

    I'd like to hear more about...

    I'd be interested in your point of view about...

    How do you feel about...

    What do you mean by...

    In what way...

    How would you describe...

    It would be helpful if you could tell me more about...

    Have you had the opportunity to...

    What made you decide to...

    How did you happen to...

    Why do you suppose that...

    How would you explain...

    What didn't you like about...

    When did you...

    How did you...

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Interview Bloopers - Stories

We've all been interviewed for jobs.  And, we've all spent most of those interviews thinking about what not to do.  Don't bite your nails.  Don't fidget.  Don't interrupt.   Don't belch.  If we did any of the don'ts, we knew we'd disqualify ourselves instantly.  But some job applicants go light years beyond this.  A survey of top personnel executives of 100 major American corporations turned up these stories of unusual behavior by job applicants.

The lowlights:

1. "... stretched out on the floor to fill out the job application."

2. "She wore a Walkman and said she could listen to me and the music at the same time."

3. " A balding candidate abruptly excused himself. Returned to office a few minutes later, wearing a hairpiece."

4. "... asked to see interviewer's resume to see if the personnel executive was qualified to judge the candidate."

5. "... announced she hadn't had lunch and proceeded to eat a hamburger and french fries in the interviewer's office - wiping the ketchup on her sleeve"

6. "Stated that, if he were hired, he would demonstrate his loyalty by having the corporate logo tattooed on his forearm."

7. "Interrupted to phone his therapist for advice on answering specific interview questions."

8. "When I asked him about his hobbies, he stood up and started tap dancing around my office."

9 . "At the end of the interview, while I stood there dumbstruck, went through my purse, took out a brush, brushed his hair, and left."

10. "... pulled out a Polaroid camera and snapped a flash picture of me.  Said he collected photos of everyone who interviewed him."

11. "Said he wasn't interested because the position paid too much."

12. "While I was on a long-distance phone call, the applicant took out a copy of Penthouse, and looked through the photos only, stopping longest at the centerfold."

13. "During the interview, an alarm clock went off from the candidate's brief case. He took it out, shut it off, apologized and said he had to leave for another interview."

14. "A telephone call came in for the job applicant.  It was from his wife. His side of the conversation went like this: "Which company?  When do I start?    What's the salary?"  I said, "I assume you're not interested in conducting the interview any further."  He promptly responded, "I am as long as you'll pay me more.  "I didn't hire him, but later found out there was no other job offer. It was a scam to get a higher offer."

15. "His attaché [case] opened when he picked it up and the contents spilled, revealing ladies' undergarments and assorted makeup and perfume."

16. "Candidate said he really didn't want to get a job, but the unemployment office needed proof that he was looking for one."

17. "... asked who the lovely babe was, pointing to the picture on my desk.   When I said it was my wife, he asked if she was home now and wanted my phone number.  I called security."

18. "Pointing to a black case he carried into my office, he said that if he was not hired, the bomb would go off.  Disbelieving, I began to state why he would never be hired and that I was going to call the police. He then reached down to the case, flipped a switch and ran. No one was injured, but I did need to get a new desk."

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Interview Bloopers - The Questions
(How *not* to answer!)

Barry Shamis of Selecting Winners, Inc. has compiled a list of really bad answers to interview questions.   Here they are:

Q. Why should I hire you?
A. Because they say you should always hire people who are better than you.

Q. Why do you want this job?
A. So I can have a front for my more lucrative activities.

Q. What do you remember about your life as a child?
A. The courts promised to suppress all that after I turned 18.  Why do you want to know?

Q. Who do you admire most in history?
A. The Three Stooges.
Q. Why?
A. Because when someone asked them a stupid question, they smacked the idiot in the face.

Q. What five or six adjectives best describe you?
A. Really, really, really, really, really cool.

Q. What can you tell me about your creative ability?
A. I think my answers to most of your questions are pretty good indicators.

Q. Tell me about you as a team player?
A. Teamwork is OK, as long as other people don't get in the way.

Q. Are you willing to take a drug test as part of your employment?
A. Sure.  What kind of drugs do I get to test?

Q. Did your grade-point average reflect your work ability?
A. Absolutely.  Maximum results for minimum effort has always been my goal.

Q. Do you consider yourself to be a smart person?
A. No.  But I'm the only person in the world with that opinion.

Q. What is your greatest weakness?
A. Three-foot putts for par.

Q. How do you handle change?
A. I usually put it in a jar in my sock drawer.

Q. Can you supervise people?
A. Sure.  Tell people what to do, then kick their butts if they don't do it.

Q. Describe your management style.
A. Don't do anything you can make someone else do for you.

Q. How do you go about setting an example?
A. I never let anyone catch me sleeping in my office.

Q. How would your subordinates describe your management style?
A. Who cares.

Q. How do you define a "problem person"?
A. Anyone who disagrees with me.

Q. Are you a good communicator?
A. Huh?

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The Strikeouts

A survey was conducted to determine why candidates who are capable of doing a job are not hired.

    These responses all relate to the interview process.  Avoid these at all costs!

  1.    Poor personal appearance. A company will be more likely to hire someone who is well groomed and will represent their company in a good light.
  2.   Lack of interest and/or enthusiasm.   A passive and indifferent attitude is instantly recognized as "I don't care if I get this job."
  3.    Too much emphasis on money. Your interviewing goal is to sell yourself to the interviewer and to get an offer of employment.  Salary discussion is secondary.
  4.    Condemnation of past employer.   Present facts only surrounding the termination of past positions.   Interviewers will be sensitive to comments about past employers.  Too much information may come across as gossip.
  5.   Talking too much.   Answer questions as asked, without being abrupt; expound only to the point that the interviewer has a clear understanding of what you mean.  Unnecessary conversation wastes time.
  6.    Weak handshake. The interviewer's first impressions are lasting impressions!  A firm handshake shows confidence in yourself and your abilities.
  7.    Refusal to travel and/or relocate. Always be open for discussion concerning travel and relocation.   The employer may be talking future plans, not present.
  8.    Being late for the interview.   Tardiness is a sign of irresponsibility.  This demonstrates a lack of interest, and what the employer can expect in the future.
  9.    Failure to seem interested about the position.  An interviewer will be impressed by an eager and inquisitive mind.  Don't hesitate to ask questions concerning the company or the position you are interviewing for.
  10. No definitive career objectives.   Don't be caught off guard!  Try to anticipate questions you will be asked and have answers prepared in advance.  Uncertainty and disorganization show the interviewer that you don't know what your goals are.

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  11.    Overbearing, conceited, know-it-all attitude.  An upfront, confident discussion of talents and achievements is more likely to work in your favor than incessant bragging about yourself.
  12.    Inability to express yourself clearly. Don't let your mouth get ahead of your mind.  Take a moment to think and construct your answers to questions before rushing into a vague and senseless reply.  Interviewers will carefully watch and listen to your communication skills.
  13.    Lack of confidence and poise. Everyone will be somewhat nervous during the interview; this is to be expected.   However, preparation to handle the interview will come across as confidence in your ability to handle the job.
  14.    Too much concern about rapid advancement. Few people are able to jump automatically to the top of the ladder.   Let the interviewer know that you are willing to learn the business from the ground up.
  15.    Lack of long-term commitment.   An employer will not waste his time with you unless you convince him that the position in question is THE ONE that you want to make was your career.  A "merely shopping around" attitude on your part displays lack of interest.
  16.    Lack of interest in the company or products.  It will be obvious to the interviewer that you will not be able to effectively contribute to the company or industry if you have no real interest in its products and/or services.
  17.    Intolerant prejudices. They tend to narrow your perspective and could easily keep you from performing to your fullest potential in the position.
  18.    Inability to take criticism.   Take it without flinching and in a constructive manner.  Agree that you need to work on whatever is being criticized and promise to improve in that area!
  19.    Second-guessing the interviewer.   Let the questions be fully asked before you answer.  Do not volunteer irrelevant information.  Overaggressiveness in this way does not gain favor with the interviewer.
  20.    Low moral standards.   Personal ethics parallel business ethics.  If your personal morals are questionable, your business ethics will be viewed in a similar manner.  Although you only work 8 hours a day, you represent your employer 24 hours a day.
  21.    Displays laziness. No one wants an employee who is afraid of hard work.  Show a desire to earn your salary.
  22.    Lack of eye contact.   Failure to look at the interviewer when conversing will cause the interviewer to doubt your sincerity.  Direct eye contact will assist in supporting your statements.

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