Tackling tough interview questions

With my college graduation approaching in May, I have been thinking a lot about job searching. An article was published on August 29, 2010 in a special insert in my hometown newspaper (The Lancaster Intelligencer/New Era) about answering tricky interview questions. My mom shared the article with me, and I was glad she did because I found many of the tips very helpful.

Whether you are interviewing for a part time job or a full-time career job, you may find these tips helpful too.

  • “Tell me about yourself.”: This question is not asking for your life’s story. Rather, for a “thumbnail sketch of you professionally,” the article said.
  • “What is your greatest weakness?”: “This is not the time to bare your soul and reveal your deepest insecurities,” the author warns. In this situation, you should “either choose a weakness that is really a strength to an employer (you become so engrossed in your work that you find it hard to take a break until the project is completed), or choose something that you had to master at the beginning of your career that would be an expected learning curve for a recent college grad (you didn’t really grasp project management in your first job and you had to make a deliberate effort to learn about time lines and time management).”
  • “What salary are you seeking?”: The author recommends doing your homework in this case, coming to the interview with an understanding of what similar positions pay in your area. “Be sure to compare apples to apples on this one,” the author cautions.
  • “Why did you leave your last position?”: If you left because of a better opportunity, this question is a no-brainer. On the other hand, if you were let go, “do not say anything bad about your last employer,” the article advises. “If you were let go because of something you did,” the author says, “try to take responsibility while making it clear that you would handle things differently today and that you learned a valuable lesson.”

Do you have any tips to share? What are some examples of situations in which you responded to these questions well and situations in which you responded poorly?

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