Answering Tough Questions, Avoiding Mistakes

Set yourself apart as the best applicant for the job

businterviewdealhandshakewomenInterviewers can be tough simply because they are regular people with quirks, dislikes, pet peeves, and other idiosyncrasies that may or may not have anything to do with how you will perform your job. Add to that the high unemployment rate and the amount of people now competing for the same job, and hiring managers are likely to interview a much higher ratio of smart, capable individuals.

So their job is to weed out bad candidates and find an employee who will not only perform exceptionally well, but fit into the culture of the organization.

What does that mean for you, the job seeker? Bring your A-game and avoid the pitfalls.

Here, we offer the most common mistakes that candidates make, as well as the toughest questions:

BIGGEST MISTAKES

Lack of confidence: Be self-assured in what you are bringing to an organization, says Veronica Conway, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Black Professional Coaches Alliance. Your body language and how you carry yourself during the interview are very crucial. Begin with a firm handshake and eye contact. It’s natural to be nervous, but don’t allow your anxiousness to control you. Being confident shows the interviewer that you’re a strong individual and that you won’t crack under pressure.

Not enough prep time: Upon arrival, you don’t want to seem overwhelmed or rushed, Conway says. You want to be calm and organized. Give yourself “the gift of time to prepare” this way you can be focused during your interview.

No follow up: Send a follow-up thank you note reiterating your interest in the position. If an interviewer is flooded with applications, following through can help you to get noticed.

TOUGHEST QUESTIONS

Tell me about yourself. The interviewer is not interested in your personal interests or hobbies. They want you to describe specific qualities on how you deliver results. Are you a problem solver? Are you a consensus builder? How do you execute your skills? Focus on positive experiences and talk about accomplishments that can relate to the desired position such as internship experience, your entrance into the industry, and insight gained through lessons learned.

Why did you leave your last job? When dealing with this question, you never want to criticize your former employer, or talk negatively about your past work experiences. Instead, talk about your interest in growing and accepting broader responsibilities. Never respond with personal concerns such as, “It was a long commute,” or “It was difficult to pick up the kids from school.”

Why do you want to work for us? Structure your answers based on your knowledge of the company and what you’ve learned about it and the contribution you would like to make to the growth and expansion of the organization. You don’t want the interviewer to feel like this is just another job for you or that it doesn’t matter where you’re employed.

Tell me about a time when you failed or about your weaknesses. The goal here is to focus on your strengths and successes. Do not emphasize failures, but rather how you were able to fix a problem or rectify a misstep. You should be able to demonstrate how your department benefited from your strategy and how lessons learned contributed to future successes.

Why should we hire you? This is your chance to sell yourself and go for the goal. Don’t be modest. This can make or break your interviewer’s decision to hire you. Freely express that you are willing to go above and beyond in order to succeed in the desired role.

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