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Job Search Strategy
To Get The Job You Want.
Tour Overview
1. Assess Yourself
2. Research Potential Employers
3. Establish Your Fit
4. Write Your Own Resume
5. Start Networking
6. Get In On The Ground Floor
7. Create Your Own Job
8. Informational Interviews
9. Interview Preparation
10. Tough Interview Questions
11. Negotiation Skills
12. The Key To Hirability

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Online Career Guide



10. TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: How to answer and what the employer really wants to know about you. Practice answering the following questions before your next appointment..

Tough Job Interview Questions and Answers

Question #1 -- Tell me about a time you saved money for an employer or an organization?
Show the employer how you can contribute to their bottom line.

As sales manager with XYZ Company, I was concerned with the high costs associated with the development of interactive multimedia through our advertising agencies and graphic design studios.

I spent some time researching our needs, and found that with today's technology becoming ever more affordable, multimedia tools are now more accessible to smaller companies. In fact, much of the multimedia tools we needed to produce very professional looking multimedia presentations for our Web sites were already available on our desktop PC's.

Within a period of ninety days, I had our own in-house multimedia department up and running. After our initial start up costs for staffing, equipment and training, my efforts resulted in a 32% savings of $80,000 in the first full year of operation. The best news however, was that project completion dates were cut in half, and the faster turnaround times generated more income to our marketing efforts.

What the employer wants to know: Companies are always interested in saving money. The interviewer is looking for a logical step-by-step approach in which the candidate exercised their initiative by isolating a problem and effecting a cost saving solution.

Question #2 -- How do you manage your work week and make realistic deadlines?
Using examples from your current or past jobs, describe how you allocate time. If you are in sales, do you reserve Monday for cold calling, Tuesday through Thursday for sales calls and Friday for administration? Do you reserve an hour a day for planning? Do you set aside a certain period each day for interruptions or unanticipated meetings or setbacks? Be as specific as possible if you are interviewing for the same type of job that you currently have or have had. Otherwise, you will need to have elicited a lot of information from the interviewer (or your informational interviews) about the particular position and what it might entail so that you can accurately answer this question.

If you've been successful in your past jobs in organizing your time (even if you were a student or housewife) mention specific examples of how you plan your day and week and how that led to efficient use of your time and success on the job. A student, for example, needs to balance class time with study, plus sports or a part-time job or both. A housewife often manages her husband's, and children's schedules in addition to her own. You want to make the connection between whatever you have done in the past and the current job opening so that the interviewer can be convinced that you can handle the time requirements of the job.

What the employer wants to know: Are you well organized? Do you manage your time well? Do you follow a time management system? How well do you plan ahead? He/she wants to know if you set reasonable expectations and goals for yourself and know how to achieve those goals within a reasonable amount of time.

Question #3 -- How do you define success and how will you make our company more successful?
This is one of those make-or-break questions that determines hireability. Based on your response you'll be ratcheted up the interview ladder, or eliminated from further consideration.

This is a two-part question. Begin with your definition of success, such as:
I learned early in my career, it's the passion that drives you toward your goals but it's the hard work that produces your success. I constantly strive to improve my performance by questioning today, how I could have accomplished more yesterday. This way, I'll always feel my next achievement will be greater than my last.

Now to the second part of the question, how will I make your company more successful? I am confident I can make an immediate contribution in the following ways... (state brief examples of your achievement stories that relate directly to the needs of the open position. This enables the interviewer to gauge more accurately how your talents, skills and accomplishments match up to the qualifications they're looking for).

Remember: You never want to talk longer than two minutes at a time. State key points briefly, yet thoroughly. If the interviewer needs more information, they'll ask.

What the employer wants to know: The interviewer wants to see if the candidate has placed the company's interests before their own. For example: Has the candidate adequately researched the company to determine how they can help solve a problem, increase profits, or reduce costs? What value-added benefit will this candidate contribute to the organization? Are the candidate's prior achievements indicative of how successful he or she will be in this position?

The interviewer will also try to assess your enthusiasm, confidence and ambition in determining whether you'll fit within their organization's culture and work environment.

Question #4 -- Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?
In answering this question, you want to choose an example from your experiences that highlights your initiative, your drive and determination to accomplish a task. Explain how you prioritized the items and calculated what you would need to complete the jobs on time. Did you recruit other team members or temporary help? Did you "farm-out" some of the work to a quick print shop or a secretarial service? Did you organize a team of people in such a way that all of the elements could be completed and you could combine them for the finished products? Even if you were a team member on such a combination of projects, you could describe how your role, ideas or suggestions were instrumental in helping complete the work on time.

What the employer wants to know: He/she is looking for your initiative and ability to work under pressure. Every company has deadlines to meet and often the deadlines put everyone under extreme stress. How you handle this stress, organize or prioritize, shows a potential employer how valuable you can be to his/her organization.

Question #5 -- What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?
Our personal characteristics are evident in most everything we do. This question strikes at the very core of who you are. Your response will speak volumes about your own set of personal values. Companies understand this and screen for candidates having favorable interests and attitudes.

Answer this question using an achievement story directly related to the company's greatest need. Paint a vivid picture of the nature of the problem and how you got involved, the obstacles you overcame and the final outcome.

What the employer wants to know: This is not meant to be a breakthrough technology or earth shattering event and it may very well be insignificant in the eyes of others, but it presents the interviewer with a glimpse of what the candidate is most proud of. Did accomplishing this deed require taking a risk? What did this person have to give up or sacrifice in order to succeed? What occurred in this one event that filled the candidate with inspiration, drive, and the will to achieve?

Question #6 -- Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged. How did you handle it?
This is a difficult question and needs to be answered carefully. You don't want to appear as a whiner or someone who runs to the boss whenever another person questions you. Reflect on your career to date. Can you think of any incident that occurred where someone questioned your motives or behavior? Were you ever accused of stealing something from work - even something minor like pencils or paper? Using the copy machine to print personal documents? Using the phone at work for personal calls or using work time for personal matters? If you have had your integrity questioned, you need to explain what happened and how you successfully responded to the situation. Be positive!

Who accused you and how serious the accusation was will determine how you answer. How you handled these types of accusations is often more important than the actual accusation. For example, you could say that a co-worker thought you were using the copy machine for personal use when in actuality you were printing the information for the company golf tournament. When you explained this to your accuser and to the boss, everyone had a good laugh about it. Don't point fingers at your co-worker or a boss; just explain the situation had a good outcome.

What the employer wants to know: For some strange reason, people sometimes feel the need to confess some deep secret in their life when they are being interviewed. They will let their anger at a situation get the better of them and start ranting and raving about how they were unjustly accused of something. That's exactly why the interviewer asks this type of question. She's/he's trying to learn something about your personality as well as your honesty and integrity. That's why it's so important to be prepared for these types of questions so that you can answer honestly and unemotionally.

Question #7 -- If you think you are such a good salesperson, sell me a new shirt!
In the past, hiring managers enjoyed springing this question on prospective employees asking them to sell them a suit, a tie or perhaps even a computer. If you are in sales, do prepare for this kind of question.
One of best responses we ever heard went as follows:

Candidate: What features of a shirt are most important to you?
Interviewer: I need buttons that won't break the first time the shirt is laundered.
Candidate: What other features are important to you?
Interviewer: I want a collar and cuffs that don't fray after just a few launderings.
Candidate: Is there anything else about your shirt that's a concern?
Interviewer: Yes, I am hard to fit, needing a 17-inch collar and 30-inch sleeve.
Candidate: If you have a hammer, I'd like to demonstrate how sturdy the buttons on this shirt are. Then, if you have something rough like a nail file or sandpaper, I'll illustrate the sturdiness of the collar and cuffs. Then, as I understand it, if I can find you a dozen shirts with 17 inch collars and 30 inch sleeves with these sturdy buttons and strong collars and cuffs, you'd be willing to buy them all, is that correct?

What the employer wants to know: How well do you think on your feet (or in your seat)? Are you creative? Can you take basic sales skills and apply them to everyday objects? Are you easily stumped when customers ask unusual questions? How composed are you in a sales situation?

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