Job interviews: Rehearse answers to tough questions

Job candidate Arturo Martinez looks for a driving Job candidate Arturo Martinez looks for a driving job during an employment interview at the Goodwill Southern California job fair in Bell, Calif. (March 9, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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With so many job hunters on the market right now competing for limited positions, candidates need to be ready to handle tough interview questions with ease, according to a new CareerCast.com report on standing out in the recession.

"If you rehearse answering tricky career-related questions, you'll be more apt to respond to them confidently," said Tony Lee, publisher at CareerCast.com. "Practice in front of the mirror, with friends and family, or use a webcam to record yourself to fine-tune your responses, facial expressions and mannerisms. Nothing beats preparation."

CareerCast.com describes five tough interview questions and offers strategies on how to answer them in a way that makes you stand out:

1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

Don't launch into a mini-speech about your childhood, schooling, hobbies, early career and personal likes and dislikes. Instead prepare a personal branding statement that quickly describes who you are and what you can bring to the company.

2. Why did you leave your previous employer, or why are you leaving your present job?

If you were fired for performance issues, it's best to merely say you "parted ways," and refocus the discussion on how your skill set matches the current position. If you currently have a job, focus on why you're seeking greater opportunity, challenges or responsibility.

If you're transitioning to a new industry, discuss why you're making the transition and tie it into the new job responsibilities. (Make sure that you have very strong references.)

3. What are your greatest strengths?

One proven approach is to include four specific skills that employers value highly: self-motivation, initiative, the ability to work in a team ,and a willingness to work long hours.

4. What are your weaknesses?

Turn this question around and present a personal weakness as a professional strength. If you're detail-oriented, a workaholic and you neglect friends and family when working on important projects, turn these weaknesses around by saying that you're very meticulous and remain involved in projects until you've ironed out all the problems, even if it means working after hours or on the weekend.

5. What can you tell me about our company and/or industry?

Most public companies post on their websites investor information which typically lists their management team and board of directors, and the firm's past financial performance. Write down a few key points that you can cite when asked

Above all, do what others fail to do!

Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala. For contact information, see marvin-walberg.com.

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