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by Andrea Kay    

If you want to be cool, calm and collected in your next interview, you might be looking for the right "answers" to the most frequently asked interview questions. That is not what you need. Your answers must reflect your words, feelings and rationale. Prepare, yes. But memorize pat answers? Nothing doing if youíre intent on making a good impression and getting the job you want.

Instead, here are subjects and questions interviewers tend to ask and techniques to help you prepare.

Interviewers ask questions to determine three basic things:
1. Your skills and work experience
2. Your knowledge
3. Your personal characteristics

When asking about skills and experience they want to know what you can do, where youíve done it and why. They also want to know how youíve progressed, whether youíre results-oriented, as well as how well you get along with others, communicate and resolve conflicts.

They may say: Tell me about yourself. What do you like about this field? What are you most proud of? What are your strengths or weaknesses? Why are you job hunting? Tell me about your responsibilities and how you handled a particular situation.

To prepare, think of examples with lots of juicy particulars that illustrate how you applied a skill and solved a problem. Donít just say, "Iím a good communicator." Give an example of how good communications skills resolved a problem.

When they ask about your knowledge, theyíre looking for what you know, how that will make a difference, whether you have the expertise to do the job and how youíll stay current.

They may say: Tell me about your education. How do you stay updated? What have your learned from past jobs? What kinds of projects did you work on? What publications do you read? How will you make a difference here?

To prepare, think of how to give an overview of courses youíve taken to stay technically up-to-date and well-rounded, overall, and where that has made an impact. Donít be tempted to bring up what you lack. If they bring it up, acknowledge it, then mention the expertise you have to equip you for the job and your plans to develop in that area.

When asking about personal characteristics, they want to know what kind of person you are, how you handle situations, how you think and your overall style.

They may ask: How would you describe yourself? Whatís made you successful? Whatís important to you? What do you do when youíre not at work? How do you feel about working overtime? Whatís your leadership style?

Prepare by thinking through how to demonstrate your willingness to do what it takes to get the job done and show you have balance in your life. Think of examples that illustrate how your leadership style and personal approach to situations have been effective.

With any of these questions, always take the high road and end on a positive note. Practice with someone. Ask if you sound defensive. Think through what youíd say. Youíll get to know yourself better and give authentic responses that help both you and the interviewer decide if the job is a good match.

© 2001 by Andrea Kay. All Rights Reserved. Copyrighted work used with permission.

Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of: 

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