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250 Job Interview Questions

ntroduction
Our goal for this book is to provide you with 250 of most commonly asked interview questions. Some are tough. Some are easier. Some are downright tricky. But all of them can make or break an interview. Answering a battery of interview questions can feel something like running a gauntlet. A little preparation, though, and the assistance of this book can help see you through, safe and sound. The interview questions and answers include here should give you a sense of how questions should be handled. They shouldn’t be used as the basis of “canned” or scripted answers. Adapt these responses to your own circumstances, and remember that the way you respond can be just as important as what you actually say. Keep in mind as you’re reading that behind every interview question is a hiring manager’s concern. And even though you may not encounter precisely the same questions that are included here, the concerns of the hiring manager remain the same. Your job is to define each concern and then alleviate it with a well-thought-out response. This book is designed to help you do just that. Additionally, we’ll show you how to land job interviews, find and research potential employers, and develop your own themes of the interview. We’ve include valuable advice for handling stress questions, strategies for second and third interviews, and information on how to negotiate job offers to get what you want. You’ll also find specific questions geared toward those in special situations, including career changers, recent graduates, and people re-entering the workforce. There’s even a section on illegal questions! So keep reading, and remember-you’re on your own way to a fabulous career! PART ONE

Before the Job Interview CHAPTER 1 Preparing for the Interview
Too many job seekers jump right into a full-scale job search without

much advance preparation other putting together a resume. A serious mistake! Although your resume may get you job interviews, to win job offers, you must prepare yourself further. It’s vitally important to distinguish yourself in some positive way from other candidates vying for the same position. One way of accomplishing this is by developing several themes you that you continually refer to throughout the job interview. This enables you to emphasize your strongest points and ensures that you’ll leave a positive impression in the recruiter’s mind.

Developing Your Personal Themes for the Job Interview
There are twelve types of information recruiters seek in a typically job interview. Knowing what these points are, and being able to discuss readily how each point relates to you, will make you better prepared and more in control of the interviewing process. Think of your twelve themes as sales messages. Each is designed to showcase your best skills and qualifications. Together, they make up a twelve-points strategy that will enable you to sell your qualifications in virtually an interview situation. Read through the following twelve topics. Develop a personalized approach to each and practice talking about it. Think of specific examples in your background and correspond to each topic. You can’t be prepared for every situation, but once you’ve developed your twelve key messages, you’ll be able to apply them to almost any interview question you face. Next, turn to chapter 4 to review common interview questions relating to each of the twelve themes. Try to answer each question aloud, incorporating the themes you’ve developed. Then evaluate your progress. You may discover that you need more practice in order to become comfortable discussing the topics in clear and concise manner. Nothing that you say for the first time will come out the way you like. Practice aloud delivering your twelve key messages until the words come easily in an organized yet comfortable, conversational way. 1. Passion for the Business Ask yourself, “Why am I interested in working in this field in this industry?” Do you feel a passion for the business? If so, why? Give

specific examples of the things that excite you. These could be anything from enjoying the challenge of meeting increasingly higher sales goals, to a sense of satisfaction derived from developing a product from the creation stage to final production. Offer personal experience where possible. 2. Motivation and Purpose Interviewers will want to know why you want to work for their particular company. Ask yourself, “Why do I want this interview?” Don’t simply repeat your resume and employ history. What’s the most compelling case you can make to prove your interest? Have you used the company’s products or talk to its customers or competitors? (Refer to the section that follows, “Researching Potential Employers,” to learn how you can locate this kind of information about companies you’re interested in.) 3. Skills an Experience Consider your key skills and how you’ll use them in this job. Avoid clichés and generalities; instead, offer specific evidence. Think about your weaknesses and how you can minimize and balance them with your strengths. Try to describe yourself as objectively as possible. Avoid sounding arrogant or defensive. 4. Diligence and Professionalism Describe your professional character, including thoroughness, diligence, and accountability. Give proof that you persevere to see important projects through, and that you achieve desired results. Demonstrate how you gather resources, how you predict obstacles, and how you manage stress. 5. Creativity and Leadership Offer proof of your effectiveness, including creativity, initiative, resourcefulness, and leadership. What examples can you provide for each? Focus on how you overcome problems, how you take advantage of

opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked, and how you rally the support of others to accomplish goals. 6. Compatibility with the Job Discuss your specific qualifications for the job. How well do they fit the requirements of the position? Your answer should include both positive and negative aspects of recent jobs, without dwelling on the negatives. Conclude by focusing on what you’re seeking in your next job. Keep in mind that your response should match closely the position you’re applying for. 7. Personality and Cultural Compatibility Consider your personality on the job. How do you fit in with other types of personalities? What types of people will enjoy working with you for hours a time? How would the company’s costumers or clients react to you? Your goal is to develop responses that make the interviewer feel confident there won’t be any surprise about your personality on the job. 8. Management Style and Interpersonal Skills Talk about the management style and interpersonal skills you use with peer groups and leaders. Focus on how you work rather than on what types of work you do well. What kind of boss, colleague, and employee will you be? Give personal or popular examples of leaders you believe are effective. Why are those people able to accomplish so much? 9. Problem-Solving Ability Offer proof, with examples, of your problem-solving ability. How have you resolved difficult issues in the past? Are you practical in how you apply technical skills? Are you realistic? Focus on real issues, on logical value-added solutions, on practical outcomes of your work, and on realistic measures of judging these outcomes. 10. Accomplishments Think about your initiative and accomplishments. Offer examples in

which you’ve delivered more than what was expected. Don’t give long description of situation; instead, focus your answer on the action you took and positive results you obtained. If you were hired, what situations would you handle especially well? What can you contribute to the organization? 11. Career Aspirations Tailor your aspirations to the realities of this particular job and its career path. Avoid listing job titles or offering unrealistic performance deadlines. Instead, reiterate the skills and strengths you want to develop further. Do you want cross-functional experience, a larger budget, or more supervisory responsibility? Why would you be effective with that additional experience? 12. Personal Interests and Hobbies Do you have a balanced lifestyle? Is your personality reflected in the type you choose as well as in the outside activities you pursue? Are your personal and career interests compatible? The interviewer will be interested in your community involvement. How commendably would you reflect the company’s image? After you comfortable with your twelve sales messages, develop them in a brief summary. This is a useful tool that you can use effectively at the end of the interview, when the interviewer say something like “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” Never let an interview end without summarizing your twelve key messages.

The Sixty-Second Pitch
Another good preparation technique is the sixty-second pitch. Approximately one week after you’ve sent your resume to a key decision maker, you should follow up with a phone call. Don’t simply ask if your resume has been received-this can be frustrating to employers who are inundated with hundreds of resumes. A better approach is to state that you’ve sent your resume and explain, in sixty seconds or less, why you are the best candidate for the position. Your sixty-second pitch should be a clear and concise summary of yourself, including three important

elements: ● What kind of work you do (or want to do) ● What your strongest skills and accomplishments are ● What kind of position you’re looking If you’re invited to an interview after you pitched yourself to the hiring manager, great! If not, don’t let it end there! Ask if there are any qualifications that he or she is looking for in a candidate. Is there anything else you can do or any additional information that you can send (writing samples, clippings, or portfolio) to help the hiring manager make a decision? Even the person says no, that your resume is sufficient, he or she may be impressed by your interest and enthusiasm. If you haven’t already done so, specially ask the employer if he or she would have a few minutes to meet with you. If that doesn’t work, ask if that person know anyone who might be interested in speaking to someone with your qualifications. If you’re unable to arrange an interview or to get a referral, ask the employer if he or she would mind if you called back in a month or so. The goal is to get a positive response from the phone call-whether it’s an interview or simply a scrap of job-hunting advice. Don’t give up too easily, but be professional and courteous all the times.

Researching Potential Employers
There are two good reasons why you should set aside some time early in your job search to research companies in your field of interest. First, it’s a great way to locate potential employers. It’s an effective way to learn more about particular companies you’re considering working for. Researching potential employers can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth the effort. To use your time effectively, however, you should divide you research into two distinct phases. The first phase should involve gathering only basic information about many different companies, including: ● Company name, address, phone and fax number ● Names and job titles of key contacts ● Whether the company is privately or publicly held ● Products and/or services

Year of incorporation ● Number of employees The second phase of research begins as you start to schedule job interviews. This involves getting more detail information about each company you are interviewing with. Your goal is to be able to walk into an interview knowing the organization inside and out. You need to know the company’s products, types of customers, subsidiaries, parent company, principle locations, rank in the industry, sales and profit trends, type of ownership, size, current plans, principal competitors and their relative performance, and much more. Incorporating this information into your discussions is certain to impress the toughest of interviewers and will distinguish you from the competition. The more time you spend on this phase, the better prepared you’ll be. Even you feel extremely pressed for time, you should set aside at least twelve hours for pre-interview research.


Where to Look
To find the information you need, you’ll have to dig into every resource you can find. Libraries are a fantastic source of both publicized and hidden job opportunities. Most have a vast array of resources, including major newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and trade journals like Advertising Age and Publishers Weekly. To identify publications in your field of interest, consult the Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources or Predicasts F&S Index. There are a number of other resources you can used to find listings of companies, most of which can also be found at your local library. Ask the reference librarian to help you locate the many directories that list basic information about companies in your field of interest. Be sure not to overlook these great tools: The JobBank series published by Adams Media Corporation is a good place to start. Each book in the series is a regional employment guide covering a specific metropolitan area. The Boston JobBank, for example, includes thousands of employers in Massachusetts. Unlike most other industry guides, which cost

hundreds of dollars and may be found only at libraries, the local JobBank books cost only $16.95 and can be purchased wherever books are sold. Dun and Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Directory lists approximately 160000 companies that are both publicly and privately held and is updated annually. Standard & Poor’s Register of corporations lists fewer companies than the Million Dollar Directory (about 45000) but provides valuable biographical information on thousands of company officials. Corporate Technology Directory (Corporate Technology Information Services) focuses on the products of approximately 35000 companies. This is a great resource for job seekers interested in high-tech industries, including computers, biotechnology, environmental engineering, chemical and pharmaceutical, and transportation. Personal Executives Contactbook (Gale Research) lists key personal and other contacts at 30000 publicly and government agencies. The National JobBank (Adams Media Corporation) lists key contacts at over 21000 small and large companies. It includes information on common positions filled and educational backgrounds desired and is updated annually. Directory of Human Resources Executives (Hunt-Scanlon) names human-resources executives and provide information on number of employees and area of specialization of 5000 public and private companies.

Directory of Corporate Affiliations (National Register) is one of the few places where you can find information on a company’s divisions and subsidiaries. This particular book lists information on approximately 4000 parent companies. Also, don’t overlook the countless industry-specific directories that are available, such as The jobBank Guide to Computer & High-tech Companies, The JobBank Guide to Health Care Companies, Dunn’s Directory of Services Companies, Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and Standard Directory of Advertisers. There are terrific places to find potential employers and often include information on professional associations and industry trends. Many of these resources can also be found on CD-ROM at your library. These “books on disk” are easy to use and can serve you a lot of time. They often attached to printers, so you can print the information you need. Usually, libraries will provide free access to CD-ROM databases. Your local library is not the only place to look for valuable company information. Why not go straight to the source ? Call the inventor-relations departments of companies you’re interested in and require their annul report. (This approach will generally work only with larger companies.) Call the sales office or the PR office of the parent company to a copy of any literature distributed to consumers, including product literature, recent press releases, or even annul reports (for public companies). If the company is public, call a stockbroker and ask for additional information to supplement what’s already in your file. If the firm has a human-resources department, ask for a recruitment package or any other information available to job seekers. If you’re interested in a small company that doesn’t have a human-resource department or publish annual reports, don’t panic! Most companies have brochures of catalogs of their products or services they’ll send to you upon request. If possible, speak to someone at the firm before the interview. If you can’t do this, speak to someone at a competing firm. The more time you spend, the better. Use all of your research to develop educated, informed opinions. You’ll

be better prepared to exchange ideas, create interesting conversation, and make a positive impression on the interviewer.

The Information Interview
Particularly if you’re an entry-level job seeker or a career changer, you should consider conducting at least one information interview. An information interview is simply a meeting that you arrange to talk to someone in a field, industry, or company that interests you. With the help of this kind of interview, you can prepare for a real job interview in several ways, including:




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Examining your compatibility with the company by comparing the realities of the field (skills required, working conditions, schedules, and common traits of people you meet) to your own personal interests Finding out how people in a particular business, industry, or job view their roles and the growth opportunities in their businesses Conducting primary research on companies and industries Gaining insight into the kinds of topics your potential interviewers will be concerned about and the methods for interviewing Getting feedback on your relative strengths and weaknesses as a potential candidate Becoming comfortable talking to people in the industry and learning the industry jargon Building your network, which can lead to further valuable information and opportunities

To set up an informational appointment, request a meeting with someone who has at least several years’ experience working in your field of interest. Your goal is to learn how that person got into the business, what he or she likes about it, and what kind of advice someone with experience might pass on to someone who’s interested in entering the field. Tell your contact right away that you’d like to learn more about the industry or company, and that you’ll be the one asking all the questions.

Most people won’t feel threatened (especially if you ensure them you’re not asking them for a job) and will be inclined to help you. If you tell a contact that all you want is advice, though, make sure you mean it. Never approach an informational interview as though it were a job interview-just stick to gathering information and leads and see what happens. Also, unless specially request to do so, sending your resume to someone you’d like to meet for an information interview will probably give the wrong information.

Conducting Information Interviews
Now that you’ve scheduled an informational interview, make sure you’re prepared to take the lead. After all, you’re the one doing the interviewing-not vice versa. Prepare a list of ten to twenty questions, such as:
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How did you get started in this business? What experience helped you to be prepared and qualified for this job? (How did you get to this point in your career?) What do you believe is the ideal education and background? What are your primary responsibilities in your current job? What do you like most about your job, your company, and your industry? What do you dislike most about them? What’s been your greatest challenge? If you could work with anybody in this field, whom do you want to work with? Five years out, what are your career goals? What are typical career path options from here? If you could change something about your career path, what would you change? What are the most valuable skills to have in this field? What specific experience helped you build these skills? What opportunities do you see in this business? Why did you want this job?

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What would you say are the current career opportunities for someone with my qualifications in the industry? If you were in the job market tomorrow, how would you get started? What would you do? What are the basic requirements for an entry-level position in the industry? What do you consider a must-read list in your field? Where do you see the industry heading in the near future? Is there a trade association that might aid me in my job search? What are turnoffs when you interview candidates? What critical questions should I expect to be asked in a job interview? What advice would you give to someone looking for a job in the industry? Is there anything else I should know about this industry? Do you know of anyone who might be looking for someone with my qualifications? Is there anything you think I should’ve brought up (but didn’t) that should be a consideration? (What have I missed in this line of questioning?) Always end by thanking the person and promising to follow up on any leads he or she has provided and to let the person know how things turn out. You should also send a thank-you note within one or two days of the informational interview. Follow up periodically with everyone in your network-even after you get a job. Once you develop a network, it’s important not to lose those contacts. You want to translate your informational network into a support network and maintain it throughout your career.





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Preparing for Telephone Interviews
Telephone screening interviews are becoming more commonplace because companies want to reduce their hiring costs by avoiding travel at screening stages in interviews. Using phone interviews, recruiters can

quickly weed out most candidates and decide on the best candidates to pursue- that is, to invite for a face-to-face interview. This is when developing a sixty-second pitch can also come in handy. Here’s why planning for a telephone interview is so important: unlike a planned first interview, for which you have done all the preparation already discussed, a telephone interview can come at any time and from any company. Also, once you begin t network, a phone interview may result when all you expected was possible leads. Sometimes recruiters will call to schedule an interview at a later time, but more often they’ll call hoping to interview you on the spot.


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