Job hunting can be nerve-racking, but no matter how nervous you may be, it is imperative that you put your best foot forward during an interview. How should you handle an interviewer’s tough questions without hurting your chances of landing the job? Here are a few scenarios and tips from career coaches that just might help you get hired.
Interviewer: Tell me about yourself.
How to respond: “This is not the time to be bashful. Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” says Richard Bayer, chief operating officer of the Five O’ Clock Club (www.fiveoclockclub.com), a career coaching and outplacement network for professionals, managers and executives based in New York. “Talk about your accomplishments. On your resume do a bulleted listing of your accomplishments before going into your chronological listing of your job history. In the interview and on your resume be very clear about your strengths.”
Interviewer: Tell me about your work history.
How to respond: Be sure you have reviewed your resume before going into the interview. You don’t want to forget any of your jobs.
Interviewer: Explain the gaps in your employment.
How to respond: Explain why you’ve had so many positions. “Make it believable,” says Debbie Brown, president of D&B Consulting, Atlanta (www.DandBconsulting.com), which specializes in career consulting and life coaching. “For example, if you worked for several start-ups and they went out of business, that’s believable.”
Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
How to respond: Sit down with your former employer and work out what each of you is going to say about your departure, says Baker. Come up with an explanation that is acceptable for each party. “Never say anything bad about your former employer,” he counsels.
Interviewer: Why do you want this position?
How to respond: Again point out your skills, how they will fit the job and why you will find the position challenging. “Talk about the company and what you know about the company,” says Bayer.
Interviewer: What can you offer us?
How to respond: “Give the specific skills you have that the company can benefit from,” says Brown.
Interviewer: What do you know about our company?
How to respond: “Do research before the interview. With the Internet there is no excuse not to,” notes Bayer. “Study the company’s annual report and any information you can find. The company wants to know what you can do for them, and in order to tell them this, you must know about the company. We have a saying at the Five O’ Clock Club that ‘only insiders get hired,’ which means that you have to make yourself an insider. Join professional organizations, network at professional events, keep abreast of the industry and its goings-on, know the jargon of your profession.”
Interviewer: Why did you leave?
How to respond: “Answer honestly,” says Brown. “But try to put a positive spin on it even if it was a bad situation.”
Interviewer: What are your weaknesses?
How to respond: “Make it sound like your weaknesses are actually strengths, like you get so involved in your work that you find yourself working all the time,” Bayer points out. “You don’t want to get put off your two-minute pitch on why this company should hire you. So bring this question right back to your positive points and why you would be an asset to the company.”
Interviewer: What is your salary expectation?
How to respond: “Don’t talk salary,” says Brown. “Don’t answer with a number. Answer that the salary is not the most important factor and that you are seeking a job that most fits your interests and skills.” And when it does come time to talk salary, Bayer suggests you prepare yourself once again through research. “Find out the going rate in the market from professional organizations or on the Internet at such Web sites as www.salary.com. Be sure to conduct the salary negotiations in a friendly manner.” If the salary offered is below what you expected, “grow the job,” Bayer adds. “Talk about the job and how, with your skills, you can expand the job’s scope. Make yourself valuable and talk about the skills you have that will merit the extra money.”