Interview questions and how to answer them to grab the attention of an employer.

Answering interview questions is, for most people, a very stressful event that they would rather not have to do…but we all have to interview at some time in our life. If you consider that most people change careers 5+ times in their life it can seem a very daunting proposition. However if you are prepared, you can change the tone, feel, and outcome of a usually stressful event and navigate your way through with less trouble. I have coached hundreds of clients in workshops and individually and successfully assisted them to help make the experience less fearful and easier to manage. Remember, your first impression is critical to success and a career coach can help you practice your entry statement for a strong impression.
What are the most commonly asked interview questions and how do you answer them?
An employer wants to know what you can do for their company and they are only interested in your previous experiences that relate to the job for which you are applying. This is not the time to give any personal information regarding family, hobbies, or activities; this is the time to let them know how your previous skills transition into the new position.

The big question-and usually the first question:

  • Could you please tell us something about yourself?

The interviewer is looking for a general answer but it needs to relate to the new position so as an example we will use me and my job as a Career Coach…

I have worked in my current position for 3 years as a Job Readiness Specialist, during this time I have worked to facilitate career options and decisions in workshops and helping clients individually. According to your job description there will be some workshop facilitation so my skills will transition easily. I also have 3+ years of experience in a community college setting where I worked with individual clients, assisted with resumes, and helped successfully implement 2 job fairs a year with approximately 100 employers that needed to be organized into groups, made aware of all the upcoming deadlines for application, event preparation, table placement, catering and helping with the publicity to maxamize attendance so my skill sets would fit easily into any organizational activities that would be needed in this position. I am dependable and honest, and I like to be flexible so that when new and challenging tasks come up, I am ready to experience them and do my best to make them successful.

The dreaded question!

  • What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?

Answering a question about your strengths is usually the easier part of this question; but again you want to relate your strengths to the position for which you are applying. If a person were applying for a receptionist position and appropriate response would be to talk about heavy phone usage, getting along well with customers, and computer knowledge.

A restaurant Server would talk about serving customers with a smile and meeting their dining needs, cash handling, and computerized order/menu entry

The weakness portion is a little more difficult because you certainly don’t want to reveal a true weakness that could hurt your chances but you also probably wouldn’t seem right to say you have no weaknesses. So how do you answer this question? You answer it honestly without stating that you have a weakness; for instance…I have never been told at any job or in any academic setting that I have a “weakness” but I have been told that I have areas that I could improve upon so I use those words and leave the word weakness in a different context. My answer might be something like…

In my previous positions I have not been told I have any weaknesses but of course I have areas that need improvement, we all do, and one of the things I am working to improve at this time in my life is my educational level and my expertise in Microsoft Excel. I am sure that I have many areas that I can improve and I try to keep identifying those areas and work toward changing and doing better in those areas. I think it is about improvement and not focus on the negative aspect.
During our coaching sessions we will formulate answers to these questions and many more. We will build a relationship that encompasses trust and respect. For me to help you, you must be honest with me but I also will share with you aspects of my life and lessons that I have learned that may be of help to you in your new quest.

Customer Service and Stress questions

Another question that often comes up is about working under stress or dealing with angry customers. I will show you how to take previous life experiences and weave them into a story that might grab the attention of the interviewer and create a climate of curiosity so the interviewer wants to know more.

  • How do you deal with an angry customer confronting you?

While working at XYZ Mart I actually had a woman come in and she was very upset because an item she purchased was defective and unfortunately she didn’t find that out until it caused some problems for her during a social event at her home. I certainly could empathize with her so I expressed that empathy and walked her to a place where we could have more privacy. Then I simply listened and let her vent her frustrations because she needed to talk about it. Once she was finished telling her side of the story I asked what resolution she would like to see happen, and then listened again to make sure I knew exactly what she wanted and to make sure that I had the authority for that particular level of response. She really just wanted someone to listen and validate her frustrations and feelings and a replacement item that we checked before she left the store. She was a satisfied customer, she felt better for being listened to and her feelings validated and I felt better because I had created a great customer relationship and knew she would come back to our business.

What about changing careers?

If you are changing careers and seeking new employment in the new career we will have to answer certain questions about experience and why you are undertaking this new endeavor. As a Certified Career Coach I am qualified to help you answer these questions in the way an employer needs to hear so you are portrayed as a great candidate for the position. Sometimes being new in something can give you and advantage and I will help you showcase some advantages. Some questions you might be asked could be…

  • Why should we hire you over someone with much more experience?
  • What qualities do you think you possess that make you a better candidate than some of our others?
  • Why did you decide to enter this line of work after years of ____________?

There are good answers to these questions and I will help you figure them out and sell yourself to a potential employer. It takes time and some work and practice but as a Certified Career Coach I am not only qualified to assist you, I have been in similar shoes and I want to see you be successful. I will be a big cheerleader for you and what you want to achieve. I have formulated answers for hundreds of clients and have given them the tips and wording to express their confidence in the abilities they have…I am not giving you those abilities…you have those…I am teaching you how to showcase those talents, skills, abilities, and the best of yourself. I cheer you on because this is about you and what I am sure you can accomplish if you choose to do it.

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Non-verbal communication is still communication
You have made it to the interview and now you need to make a great impression. What are your nervous habits? Do you really sit as straight as you think you do? Are you making eye contact? Watching the clock? Read more to ensure you are communicating what you want... Career Blog

Colleague Statement
“Loretta is a highly experienced and productive professional in the field of Workforce Development, Job Readiness, Career Counseling, Workshop Facilitation, and Job Search Preparation. I have worked with her closely for over six years, and she has consistently been a valuable, key resource in the employment community. For three of those years, she was at Napa Valley College as a resource specialist in their career center... 
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