I've noted previously that before any interview you should rehearse your answers to common interview questions. And if you really want to fine-tune your responses, you'll even want to take a few practice interviews. Why? Because being able to clearly and concisely give great answers that demonstrate your quantifiable accomplishments is something that will get you hired.
In order to help in this process of developing answers to common interview questions, Yahoo lists as well as sample responses. Their thoughts:
"What are your strengths and weaknesses?" -- Tailor your "strengths" answer to skills that will benefit the prospective employer. When it comes to weaknesses, or areas of growth, Olson recommends building on your answer to include "how you have improved, and specifics on what you have done to improve yourself in those areas."
"Why did you leave your last position?" -- "Be prepared to tell the truth, without speaking negatively about past employment."
"Can you describe a previous work situation in which you ... ?" -- "The key to responding well is preparing real job examples, describing your behavior in specific situations that demonstrate important skills that the job requires."
"What is your ideal work environment?" -- This question is not about whether you prefer a cubicle or an office, so think broadly to include ideas about supervision, management styles, and your workday routine.
"How do you handle mistakes?" -- "Employers want to know they're hiring someone with the maturity to accept responsibility and the wherewithal to remedy their own mistakes," says Debra Davenport, a master professional mentor and columnist for the Business Journal in Phoenix.
"What is your most notable accomplishment?" -- "Being able to quantify your achievements in your career will launch you ahead of the rest," she says, "and demonstrate your ability to do the same as a future employee."
My thoughts on these:
1. For strengths, I always go with things required for the job (organization, leadership, etc.) Of course, you need to think through these before the interview and develop several responses along with examples to back up your thoughts. For weaknesses, I'm now going with the "I had this problem but worked/am working on it" response.
2. My "pat" answer for leaving the last position is that it wasn't challenging enough -- that I had hit the ceiling and needed more responsibility, opportunity, and, yes, compensation (I throw the last one in here in an almost after-thought sort of way, but it gets the point across -- they shouldn't think they can get me for the same amount of money I'm currently making.)
3. Of course I can, how many examples do you want? I prepare several different work-related stories that show my skills from a variety of angels. Then when they ask this question, I pop out the examples that fit the best.
4. Again a "pat" answer: I like an environment where I'm given my objectives, told to accomplishment them, and left alone to deliver the results (I also throw in a couple examples here where I was allowed to do this and it went very well for the company.)
5. There's only one answer to this: "I take responsibility for the mistakes, learn from then, and then move on, making changes so they never happen again." (BTW, a smart aleck answer like, "I don't know, I'll let you know when I make one" gets you negative ba-zillion interview points.)
6. I usually pick something that delivered amazing results (sales, profits, cost-savings, etc.) to the company I worked for. I also comment that it wasn't just my efforts but a team result (shows not only the ability to lead and get results, but hints at people skills and humility -- very good combinations.)
How about you? Any suggestions for answering these questions?