1. What are your greatest strengths?
This is an opportunity to examine your self image. Do not get caught without an answer to this question that is short and effective. Do not oversell or undersell yourself. You can start with something like this:
“I have many strengths which include problem solving, creativity, working well with others, and other skills that contribute to success in the job. Is there a specific strength you are looking for that I can demonstrate?”
2. What are your weaknesses?
Here is another loaded question that is often asked. What benefit is there to you in discussing your specific problems and issues in an interview? None. Do not be caught off guard with a question like this. You can provide a simple answer like:
“I'm a work in progress like everybody else. Professionally, we can discuss any concerns you might have about me. ”
If the interviewer pursues this question beyond this kind of answer, do not be intimidated by probing, and do not let down your guard by confessing all your self perceived weaknesses, past incidents with former employers, or any other unpleasant information. An escape clause would be a good thing to develop. To move on, you might say:
“Let me think about that for a while and come back to that later if you'd like. Is there something in particular that you are concerned about?”
After giving your answer, you might also try smiling and asking the interviewer what their greatest weakness is. By turning the question back to them, you may find something you can work with to satisfy why they ask such questions of you. As a general rule, never be afraid to ask questions that will clarify the level of answer expected from you. You may find that your thinking is on a completely different level than the person who is interviewing you. Asking your own questions in response can help to give you control over your answers. You should not respond with questions to every question being asked, but when you do not understand why the dialog is moving in a specific direction, questioning the intent is justified.
3. What are your salary expectations?
If you are in a hurry to get through an interview, and this question is one of the first ones asked, you can eliminate yourself from consideration by being unrealistic in what you expect to be paid for the position. Think about this one before you answer, or better still, wait until the company has actually said they want to hire you for the job. The interview is where you find out about the job, so you can determine what it would be worth for you to accept it. If you are wise, you will not focus totally on salary, but also consider the other benefits the company has to offer. Do not state a salary expectancy on an application, or in an interview until you have information on the “big picture. ”
What you really want to consider is salary, how far from home you would have to go, what kind of health insurance, dental, retirement, perks, bonuses, and services the company offers to their employees. These details are rarely provided during the interview, and will take time for you to analyze before giving your response. How much is the company thinking they want to pay for the job? Whatever figure they quote is likely to be their lowest bid. How much flexibility is there in their starting salary figure? How often do they give salary reviews? All these questions should be answered, and all of them should be asked at the end of the hiring process, when it is time for you to decide on whether or not to accept the position being offered.
Until you are offered the position, you should firmly defer the discussion of salary. Offer a response something like this:
“We can discuss that after I have had a chance to review the entire benefit offering available from your company, and find out whether or not I am a fit for your organization. I'm sure you are willing to offer a fair wage for the position, but right now, you are more qualified to state what the job is worth to the company than I am. ”
4. What is your salary history?
Great or small, short or tall, this is another attempt to determine whether or not you are over or under qualified for the position. Whether you are asked this question on an application form or during an interview, use a deferral tactic in answering the question. The right time to answer is after you have received a job offer, and not before. The idea here is to make the question moot as it relates to the position you are interested in. Stick to your stand on providing this information in a positive approach. If you are trying to move up or down the corporate ladder, you can be eliminated too soon by giving the wrong answer. One approach would be to say something like this:
“My salary has varied significantly depending on job responsibilities. My wage has been appropriate to the level of responsibility accepted, and I will be happy to discuss salary with you at the appropriate time. ”
You might also say something like this:
“I pretty much focus on what the pay is for the job I am interested in doing rather than what I have made in the past. ”
If they pressure for an answer, ask them directly, “Are you offering me the job?”
You have nothing to lose by employing these answers unless your salary history is right in line with the job you are interviewing for. If you are making a lateral move, you can afford to provide your salary history. You can only know this if you already know what pay level the job offers. Few people ever look for jobs that are equal to what they are presently making. How hard is it for you to locate a new job? If you cannot handle the pressure, you should give them the broadest possible range of past salary, and add that the range is based on what you have been asked to do in the past, and the benefits that come along with the salary. If you cave in on revealing past or future salary expectations, you may find yourself disqualified from a position you would otherwise find perfectly acceptable. This is true especially if you have decided to move down on the scale rather than up.
5. What makes you think you are qualified for this position?
A provocative question like this is designed to see if it will make you squirm. Your best approach is to have an answer prepared that might be something like this:
“That is what we are here to explore. So far, I see no reason to believe I am not qualified. Do you have some specific concerns we can discuss?”
If an interviewer is stupid enough to bring unqualified candidates in for interviews, they should be the one to explain why they selected you as a candidate. The very fact that you were chosen to discuss a position shows there was something in your qualifications that interested them. Find out what they saw in your background that interested them, and exploit it.
At the end of your interview, you will often be invited to ask any questions you might have. This segment can be crucial for your success. You should always ask when the company expects to make their decision on the position. This will give you an idea how much longer you will be waiting to be accepted or rejected. You can also learn something by asking them if they have any concerns about you. Using this method, I once learned that I was about to be eliminated because the interviewer felt there were some weaknesses in my skill sets. When I filled in more information about those concerns, the interviewer was visibly moved. The person said, “Really? Well, that’s the sort of thing you should have told me!” I responded by asking if they had any objections to notating this new information at this point of the interview, and it was like someone hit them with an electric shock. They hurriedly scribbled some more notes on my resume, and ultimately chose me for the position. Always remember that an interview is not over until it is over. Apply any insights you receive when they become available to you.
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