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Ace These Common Interview Questions

Written By Jessica J. Williams | Jun 15, 2015

It takes a ton of time and energy for employers to find great applicants, review resumes, screen candidates, set up interviews and pick the right person. One bad decision can cost employers years of revenue and growth.

This is why employers ask hard questions in your interview—to make sure they are hiring the right person by uncovering any red flags ahead of time.

You can, however, make their job easier and increase your chances of getting hired by being prepared for those challenging interview questions.

Here are some examples of questions you might get asked and how to answer them:

I see you’ve been travelling this past year, what about that experience is relevant to this job?

As a world traveler myself, don’t EVER underestimate the value you bring to a job because you’ve been traveling instead of working. In fact, most employers see the value in hiring a world traveler—you just have to believe it, too, to prove it.

Think about the challenges you faced in your travels and what you learned about yourself, others and the world as a result. Position that learning into a unique value proposition, and incorporate a good travel story while you’re at it!

Example: When I was travelling in Costa Rica, my motorcycle broke down in the middle of the country and I had to make my way back to the nearest city, which was over two hours away! I learned that I could navigate even the toughest of situations if I put my mind to it.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I’m sure you could rattle your strengths off the top of your head, but what about your weaknesses? (If not, take the Strengths Finder assessment).

Portland based career counselor Vicki Lind addresses this question in depth in her post, “5 Ways to Answer the ‘What Are Your Weaknesses?’ Question in a Job Interview,” but here’s an example of how you might frame your response:

Example: I want to acknowledge that your job description asks for someone with fill in the blank experience and I know that my experience in that skill is limited, but I believe that my commitment to your mission, my ability to learn quickly and my fill in the blank more than makes up for that weakness.

Tell me about a time when you encountered conflict in the office and how you overcame it.

This is what’s called a behavioral interview question, and it’s meant to understand past behavior as a predictor of future behavior.

In order to answer this question, all you need to do is explain the situation, talk about how you handled it and summarize what you learned.

Example: At my last place of employment we were a close group – working in small teams, on tight deadlines – and there was this new girl who was not learning quickly enough for the rest of the team. Everyone was getting frustrated. I recommended that we go out to happy hour to get to know her better and to understand how we might be able to help her learn faster. Turns out, she had recently experienced a death in the family and it was distracting her from her work. Everyone immediately had more compassion for her and patience in helping her get up to speed. It wasn’t long before she was an integral part of our team.

You’ve been a full-time parent for the last decade, what have you done to keep your skills and education up-to-date?

If you’re coming back into the workforce after a long stint of being a stay-at-home-parent, I’m sure you’ve done a lot of work to update your skills and education.

Explain any volunteer positions you’ve held, associations you’ve networked with, degrees or certifications you’ve acquired and trainings you’ve participated in.

Example: When I took time off to raise my children, I stayed current on the sector by attending meetings at fill in the blank, reading fill in the blank periodical or magazine, taking classes at fill in the blank and volunteering for fill in the blank.

What makes you think you’re a good fit for this job?

Don’t be shy—own your good work, your accomplishments, your awards and your successes. Think about how that work is relevant to the job you’re applying for and explain that in a succinct and memorable way.

Example: In the past decade, I’ve been successful in my career by being able to build authentic relationships with key stakeholders that are personal, professional and long lasting. When I am passionate about a job and an organization, it shows in my work and transfers to my relationships with clients. I know that if you hire me, you won’t regret it—I will make you more money and help grow your business in ways I can’t wait to show you!

Show that you’ve done your homework on the position by asking thoughtful and informed questions based on your research.

Do you have any questions for us?

This is the most important but most often overlooked part of the interview. Do not rush through this opportunity to build a relationship with the interviewer.

Show that you’ve done your homework on the position by asking thoughtful and informed questions based on your research. Here’s where the interview can go from a question and answer session to a conversation—an opportunity for you to get to know one another. Don’t waste it.

Example: In my research, I can see that your largest client is fill in the blank, what are the team’s day-to-day responsibilities for this client? How do you see this position growing in the next three years? What is the culture like in your organization? What is your management style for direct reports?

Finally. As always – if you want the job, SAY SO.

Example: Thank you for the opportunity to interview today. I really enjoyed getting to know you and based on this conversation, I can tell you that I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather work. I do hope you’ll consider me for the position. Do you know what the next steps in the hiring process are?

What interview questions are you nervous about?

Jessica Williams served as Mac’s List editor from 2012 to 2015, and is a contributor to “Land Your Dream Job in Portland (and Beyond).” This post originally appeared on the Mac’s List blog.

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