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Do Your Homework for a Successful Job Interview

written by: Andrea Campbell•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 5/4/2011

The current job market is weighted to an employer’s advantage—they are getting any number of applications all vying for too few positions. Not to mention, but job interviews create anxiety for most everyone. Making sure you are well prepared ahead of time is the best way to quell those nerves.

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    choosingyourcareer Preparing for your job interview: We will go over some typical interview questions and help you to create winning answers, but first let’s talk about actual homework.

    • Visit the company or business online

    • Study the job description to see what’s expected of you

    • Check to see who is in charge of the department you’re interested in

    • Read their mission statement

    • Make note of any other company information

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    Typical Interview Questions About YOU

    bizok There are a few questions you can typically expect to get in a job interview.

    The first one is: “Tell me about yourself."

    This is not the type of question you should field without preparation, really. The interviewer does not want to know where you were born or where you are from. They also don’t need to know what your hobbies are or anything about your family. They want cogent information about your professional life. This is a good time to illustrate your relevant skills or accomplishments.

     

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    “What are your strengths?" “Why should we hire you?"

    The only way to figure out how to answer this type of question is to make a list.

    Put all of your technical skills on one side of a paper. Then take your copy of the job deepthoughtopt description and look at each skill required. See if you can match up what you know and do, with what is required in the job. For example, if the job asks what computer skills you have, write down the software you have mastered, websites built, courses taken, etc.

    You should look at what’s relative and compare like to like skills only.

    Do this too for any personal qualities you bring to the job. This could mean things such as examples of leadership style and skills, punctuality, work ethic, reliability and more.

    Go back to the job description and study what qualities the hiring manager is looking for and how you fit that profile. Add these to your list. Then act with a positive humility, but don’t hesitate to tell them what a great addition you would be to the company.

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    “What is your greatest weakness?" “How have you overcome it?"

    importanttagopt 

    Do not fall into the trap. This is not therapy and you cannot bare your soul. If you highlight insecurities you will not be doing yourself any good. Don’t say you hate deadlines, or that you don’t always get along, or that you have a tendency to procrastinate.

    It would be better if you said you were a stickler for detail, or you find it hard to leave a project at work. Find a way to make your weaknesses your strengths.

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    “Can I call your past employer?" “What would your past employer say about you?"

    Hopefully you can welcome them to call and you will get a stellar character and work reference. Whatever you do, don’t complain or say anything negative about your last boss or job. These types of issues are minefields. Just talk about a few strong qualities that reflect a work ethic that you bring with you. You might mention what you've gained from previous work, but keep it succinct.

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    “Why did you leave your last job?"

    listeningopt Everyone wants to know.

    Perhaps you had to relocate, good. Maybe you got a better offer? Fantastic.

    But if you were terminated, perhaps it was because of budget cuts, okay. If you were let go because of something you did or didn’t too, turn it into a positive by saying you have learned an invaluable lesson and would do things differently today. We are all human and losing a job does happen to everyone at some point. Don’t ramble when explaining gaps in your employment record.

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    “What kind of salary are you looking for?"

    Here’s where your previous investigation can pay off. The interviewer knows what the job pays.

    If it is posted, stay in line with what’s offered.manwlaptopopt

    No clue? Go online and check out what similar jobs pay in your area. Remember to check that against experience because a recent college grad shouldn’t be making the same as someone with 10 years of experience. Open with, “My research tells me that assistant secretaries in this field make an average…. How does that fit in with your company’s offer?"

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    Resources & In Closing

    bizhandshake2opt • Practice. You might roll-play with a friend or just read over your notes in order to be comfortable.

    • Be prepared to ask the interviewer questions.

    • Dress the part.

    • Smile and be polite, confident and relaxed.

    • Send a thank you note.

    Preparing for your job interview and doing your homework will enable you to have the best chance of being hired. When you're at the interview, take a deep breath, relax and don't try to overthink things too much. Your preparation will enable you to give the best answers.

    For more tips, see the Occupational Handbook: http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco20045.htm

    Photos from Clipart.com