Five Common Job Interview Questions and the Right Way to Answer

Graduating from college and walking into your dream job is so 20th century. Today, statistics show that nearly one out of two college graduates will not find a job related to their degree right out of college.

It’s not only recent graduates.

According to statistics, you’re actively looking for a job or know somebody who understands the frustrations with finding a new career. But when you finally get the interview, you’ll need to have the right answers to these questions. Your responses will either land you the position, or leave you asking what went wrong.

Here are some common questions and how to answer them.

“Tell me about yourself.”

This is the “break the ice” question that interviewers from the smallest company all the way to the giants like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) will ask. You’re not only being judged by your response but your communication skills and your confidence. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear your life story.

They expect you to describe traits you have that would make you an asset for the company. Your education, past career experiences and a hobby or two. Hint: Look around the office. If you see something that you have in common, this is where you might bring it up.

“What Do You Know about the Company?”

If you didn’t research the company before the interview, you won’t have an answer.

Be prepared. Know what they do, where they’re located, top level leadership and any positive news. If it’s a financial position, know the company’s balance sheet if it’s publically traded. Do not, however, mention the negatives. Bringing up cash flow problems or negative press can be discussed if you get an offer, if that worries you.

“Why did you Leave Your Last Job?”

First, no excuses. “The company unfairly scrutinized me more than others in my department,” isn’t going to impress the interviewer. If you were fired, own up to your mistakes and what you learned. If you sought out further education as a result, mention that. If you were laid off because of downsizing, the interviewer won’t see that as a negative.

Some positions, like those that pay predominantly on commission, may want to hear that you sought out opportunities that had more financial potential but as a rule, don’t make money the primary reason you left. The key is to be positive. Don’t badmouth your former employer.

“What’s Your Greatest Strength?”

First, notice that the question was about your greatest strength, not all of the strengths you can cram into one ridiculously long sentence. Be positive but not cliché. If you’re a great motivator, provide an example. If people come to you to keep a project organized and on task, tell them why. “I’m a hard worker” or “I work well with people” isn’t going to gain you any points.

“What are you expecting to get paid?”

Before arriving for the interview, research the salary range of the job. Be honest about your experiences and accomplishments and talk with your spouse or parents for more input. If the question is raised, try to deflect. Tell them that money is important, but before you talk about salary, you would like to talk more about how the position fits into your career goals.

If the person presses you on the subject, first ask them to lay out the benefits package and other questions you have that would affect your answer. If they won’t let you go without providing a number, be confident and give them the number that makes you comfortable.

Bottom Line

Above all, answer all questions in a way that fits your personality, values, and expectations. Don’t try to make yourself fit the position. Be confident and prepared.

(c) 2013 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
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