How to Answer Job Interview Questions, PART 1

Dr. Burrell’s classnotes

In order to prepare yourself for the workforce, there’s no way, in general, that you can bypass the dreadful interview process. The following is an essential guide from Dr. Burrell, a graduate school professor, that will help alleviate the fear of answering common interview questions.

Job Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself?
The only way to handle this question is to truly prepare to answer it ahead of time. Prior to your job interview work up a 2-3 minute summary that combines your past achievements and challenges you have faced and the kind of opportunities that interest you the most. Always when answering this question, try to relate it to the job opportunity you are interviewing for when discussing your experience. Make sure it is a positive and enthusiastic response.
Hint: Make sure you detail your accomplishments here, make a summary, and learn it!

2. How did you hear about our organization?
The key to this question is to demonstrate a true interest in the organization. Researchers suggest that spending at least one hour doing research on the organization. Website and reading about the company via websites such as Yahoo and Google can further chances of continuing on through the interview process.
Hint: Draw upon the research of the company that you have done

3. What are your most significant strengths?
My best advice on this question is to know your top five strengths and be able to discuss each one by giving a specific example. Select your attributes that are compatible with the job for which you are applying. When discussing your strengths, give an example of how you have used these strengths in previous positions. If you do not have as much work experience, you can relate it to college projects, classwork, etc.

4. What are you major weaknesses?
In my experience, this is another tough question for all my graduates. The answer is simple in that you can take the opportunity to discuss what you are working on improving. “I really did not understand the value of a graduate degree until I realized that all of the senior leaders in my organization had graduate degrees. I used to think that education was not important, which was a weakness for me but I have overcome it.” Be specific with your examples to show how you have improved over time and how you turned your weakness into your strength. I feel being honest with your answer is what the employer is looking for. If you can admit you make mistakes then you are a person who can learn from them.
Hint: Take a negative and turn it into a positive explaining how you have overcome a weak area and turned it around

5. Why do you believe you are qualified for this position?
I think this is another question you want to be prepared to answer prior to your job interview. Review the job description once again and think of three main factors about the job and your attributes that are most relevant. Illustrate why you are qualified as it helps to select technical skill, management skill, and/or personal achievements that you want to highlight in your answer.

6. What are your short-term goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
What you should try to convey to the interviewer is how much you want to grow with the company, take on additional responsibility so that it will lead to your career growth. Make sure you elaborate on how you could be a great addition to the team and contribute to the company’s future.
Hint: Be general in your answer and touch on goals that are realistic, i.e. within your grasp

7. What is your most significant accomplishment?
What a great opportunity this can be to make the impression you want with the employer during your job interview. You want to review your past job experience or college experience and select a significant contribution and/or accomplishment that pertains to the position at hand. It’s important to discuss what it took to achieve the accomplishment, sacrifices made and the steps taken to achieve the overall success. I like to think of this question as a confirmation to the interviewer that you are an effective communicator. If you talk about yourself you can communicate with the client, etc.
Hint: If you got it, flaunt those achievements!

8. How do you handle stressful situations?
Give some examples of stressful situations you’ve dealt with in the past. Tell how you use time management, problem-solving or decision-making skills to reduce stress. For example, tell them that making a “to-do” list helps. Site stress-reducing techniques such as stretching and taking a break. Don’t be afraid to admit that you will ask for assistance if you are feeling overwhelmed. If it’s true, say you actually work better under pressure.

9. What is the toughest problem you’ve had to face, and how did you overcome it?
Try to make this about a problem that faced your company and not just you or your particular work group. The bigger the problem, the better. Give specific examples of the skills and techniques you used to resolve this problem. Emphasize the successful results. Be generous in sharing credit if was a team effort, but be sure to highlight your specific role.

10. If I were to call your past employer, what would they say about you?
It’s a given that this question will be asked every time as the employer wants to know your past experience with employers and how well you have performed in the past. Be honest in this answer and list your strengths that you felt your previous supervisor recognized in you. If you start off saying, it was a personality clash, you might as well get up and walk out of the interview because it is important to not use this question as an outlet to criticize a past employer and/or supervisor. Unfortunately time and again this question can be the ultimate blunder in the interview process and set you back in the eyes of the interviewer.
Hint: Answer positively and stay on track with your answer speaking of the strengths you displayed at your last place of employment and the kudos you received from your supervisor and co-workers.

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