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Top 5 Interview Questions

Interview questions and answersJob interviews are tough, and so are the questions. Learn how to answer five of the toughest interview questions here:

  1. "Tell me about yourself."

    This is not the time to share your life story. What they're looking for is a brief overview of the aspects of your experience and background that relate to the position. Talk about some accomplishments or strengths you felt really good about, and how you think they prepared you for the position you're interviewing for.

    Example: "I have six years of advertising experience, and spent the past three years as the Assistant Production Manager at This Company, overseeing production schedules, hiring, and deadlines. In that time, I streamlined the workflow so that we were able to meet the deadline for every monthly print project, and in many cases we went to print well before the actual deadlines. I saved the company two weeks worth of staff overtime and expenses. Time management is one of my greatest skills, and I'm sure it would easily transfer to the Production Manager position you're offering here." 
     
  2. "What do you think is your greatest weakness?"

    The best way to answer this question is honestly—mention a real weakness that won't affect your ability to do the job, or address a skill you're just learning and want to develop. Avoid calling attention to any weakness that's one of the critical qualities the hiring manager is looking for. And don't try the old "I'm a workaholic," or "I'm a perfectionist" approach.

    Example: "I'm not as strong as I'd like to be on social media, so I'm spending about three hours a week blogging on topics I'm interested in, and reading some perspectives on the business-to-business value of social media. I'm already learning some things I can bring here, and hope to find more ideas on how to use social media as a customer relationship tool."
     
  3. "What did you like least about your last (or current) job?"

    Don't vent or focus on the negative with brutally honest answers such as "My boss was a jerk," or "They just weren't giving me the opportunity to take my career to the next level." Instead, keep the emphasis on the positive, even though there are sure to be things you weren't happy about.

    Example: "That's a tough question to answer. I've had lots of opportunity at This Company, and I work with some outstanding people. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it would be the occasional meeting that goes an hour longer than scheduled. I like to tackle a certain number of tasks each day and that extra hour could have let me to get back to a client more quickly."
     
  4. "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

    Since anything can happen and change in five years, this is an impossible question to answer. What they really mean is: "If I hired you, could I count on you to stay with this company long-term?" Therefore, avoid answers such as "I hope to be running my own business," or "I plan to be retired by then."

    You can provide an answer that satisfies their interests by indicating that you hope to be well established as someone who is helping the company succeed.

    You can also turn the question back to the interviewer, and ask where they see the company in five years. You might not know on a personal level where you'll be, but most companies have goals and plans that look out two to five years. Their answer might give you an idea if it's a company worth settling down with.
     
  5. "Tell me about a time you failed."

    Think of a work-related situation that didn't turn out quite as you had hoped. The interviewer is interested in seeing how you took responsibility for your failure, what you learned from it, and how you would prevent similar failures from happening again.

    Examples:

    "I once rushed a project to make a shipping deadline but inadvertently skipped a couple of critical steps. We ended up discovering the mistake before the customer installed the products, but they weren't pleased. I never made that mistake again."

    "I thought my aggressive sales tactics were a great quality until I lost a client for being too pushy. I've since learned to tone things down and really understand my clients' needs before determining how to help them."

Looking for answers to other common interview questions? Ask them in the comments below.

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