Top Three Interview Questions
Let’s face it, if you’re out of work, the hundreds of hours spent reading job postings, working on and sending out resumes, pounding pavement, going to networking events, etc., etc., ALL of that effort is really about ONE thing: the interview.
The interview (either live or by phone) is where you need to bring your best stuff – and to be quite honest, there’s no second chance to get it right. So let’s jump in and cover the top three questions everyone needs to be ready for.
#1. Tell me about yourself. This is usually the FIRST question that comes up and the FASTEST way to end an interview. First of all, be sure to make your answer short and sweet and try to focus on experiences and goals that relate to your prior work experiences. We don’t need to know that you like to canoe or bake. If you can, make the effort try to tailor your answer to the specific job you’re applying for. If you’ve been in the workforce for a long time, resist the desire to stress that fact. It’s much more important to focus on your skills, achievements and how you add value. Be sure to emphasize your personal attributes as well, but only if the interviewer seems open to hear more – stress great assets, like flexibility and a positive attitude.
#2. Why are you looking for a job? Be sure to keep this answer brief and straightforward. For example, “My company was forced to downsize.” Avoid negative statements about yourself, your work, the company you left, or your ability to get along with your team. I share this quite often, but never criticize former employers or coworkers. What do you say if you really hated where you worked? You can say that you simply did not find the opportunities that you were looking for. It’s also important to have a few goals at your fingertips, in case the interviewer asks you to expand on that thought.
#3. Why have you been out of work for so long? This question can come in a variety of ways, but responding to gaps in your employment history is definitely a tricky one, especially with the economy being so tough. People end up out of work for a variety of reasons, but they’re not ALL downsizing. So first of all, be sure to be honest. Next, make every effort to speak confidently about your experiences during gaps in your employment. Some of those efforts can surely transfer to on-the-job skills. For instance, if you were a caregiver, you may have managed complex financial issues. If you volunteered while looking for work, you might have worked with diverse groups of people and on flexible schedules – and definitely talk about your achievements. If you managed a huge annual fundraiser for a local charity while you were out of work, that speaks VOLUMES about your organizational skills, your work ethic and your integrity.
The bottom line is to not be caught off guard by these questions. They WILL come up. REHEARSE your answers and have them ready to pull out at a moment’s notice. In fact, take the extra time and make the extra effort to tailor them to each specific company that you meet with. This will demonstrate knowledge, initiative and sincerity. What might take an extra hour or two could result in a lifetime of opportunity (and employment!) with the company of your dreams.
Catherine Palmiere, CEIC, CPBA, CPCC
President of Adam Personnel, Inc.
Phone: 212 557-9150 ext. 208