Tough Questions, Easy Answers
How to Handle 8 Common Interview Questions.

It is important to prepare for interviews by knowing how you'll answer common, but sometimes difficult, questions. Below are guidelines for how to handle eight common questions. If you are unclear as to what the interviewer is asking, don't be afraid to ask for clarification.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Probably the easiest difficult question you will face, and it is usually one of the first questions. Typically the interviewer is looking for an overview of your professional experience. Provide an answer that shows a logical progression in your career moves. If your educational background has led you in a certain direction, bring that into the overview.

2. Why did you change jobs?

Interviewers always want to know your reasons for leaving a particular position/employer. It is important to stay positive about your past experiences. Nobody wants to hire a person that complains about past employers. They figure you may complain about them in the future. Talk about why it was time to move on, that you learned a lot, etc.

3. What makes you stand out when compared with your peers?

Employers want to know that they are considering someone that will go above and beyond the call of duty. It is easy to hire a person that will do what they are asked to do between nine and five. However, it is better to hire a person that does that and more. Provide examples of projects undertaken, ideas that helped streamline operations, or new sales/marketing techniques that increased revenues. If you put some thought into it, there are probably several things you did in past jobs that make you stand out.

4. What type of management style do you prefer?

This question can come in many forms, but the meaning is always the same; can you be managed by people with different styles. You probably have reported to managers with vastly different approaches to managing people, and have learned which styles you prefer. Since you probably do not know the managers style at the prospective employer, talk about the positive aspects of each style you've encountered.

5. What did you like about your last position? What would you have added to make it more challenging?

Interviewers are looking for people that have some relevant experience for the position offered. This question allows you to pick the responsibilities that you enjoyed that are also included in the available position. (I liked the people is NOT an acceptable answer, unless you are taking them with you!). The second part of this question focuses on what you want to learn in your next job. If it were available in your present/last position, you would still be there. Think about what this position offers and what you can contribute. This should match well with what you want to learn/do.

6. Where do you see yourself in X years?

Tough question! If you only had a crystal ball. Interviewers are doing a reality check here. They want to see if you are realistic about your career goals and what it will take to attain them. The best answers start in the present and work forward. Talk about your next move and what you hope to accomplish over the next year or two, and then take that one or two more steps. Keep your dreams within the realm of reality.

7. Why should we hire you for this position?

This question is as straightforward as they come. If you've prepared for the interview this one should be easy. Your answer should focus on your experience, your accomplishments, why you are different than your peers, and your work ethic. If you have handled the interview well up to this point, you are just tying it all together.

8. Do you have any questions?

If you have done your homework, you'll have several questions to ask about the position, company or industry. (see Interviewing Strategies for help with research ideas). If all else fails, ask the interviewer if they need any further clarification about your experience.

That's It! The key to a successful interview is being prepared and on your toes. These are common questions, but you never know what to expect.