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How to Ace a Job Interview

Updated on January 25, 2017

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

With the economy in a difficult state at this time and unemployment levels at their highest in years, you may be concerned about your chances of finding a job. In the past employers would typically receive twenty to thirty resumes for a position, today they are receiving 100 to 300. In this highly competitive job market you need an edge, and that edge is knowledge and preparation. Once you receive the call for an interview, you need to be prepared to answer the interviewers questions. This is what I intend to help you with.

Gathering Information about Yourself

What are your most important traits, skills and accomplishments?

One of the most important aspects of being prepared to ace the job interview, is knowing about yourself, and being able to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job. You may only have a few seconds or a few minutes to wow the interviewer, so you need to make everything you say count. In order to maximize your time in front of the interviewer you will want to prepare a list of all of your best traits, skills and accomplishments. Remember that these skills, traits and accomplishments should relate to the position you are applying for. If you have already written your resume, you may use that to help you get started.

Your traits should be about your personality and how your personality will help you excel in the position you are applying for. For example, If you are applying for a customer service position, some important traits might be a cheerful disposition, ability to stay calm in stressful situations, and patience. If you are applying for a Sales position you might want to focus on your determined nature, your ability to self-motivate and your excellent verbal communication skills.

Your skills should be things that you are capable of doing, such as software programs you have worked with in the past, equipment you have used, typing, filing or organizational skills, etc.

Your accomplishments are probably the most important, they are your real selling points so be sure to spend some time on them, and don't sell yourself short. Most interviewers are looking for employees that have either saved money, made money, or saved time for their previous company. So as you write down your accomplishments, try to phrase them in a way that shows how this accomplishment saved time or money. Also don't limit yourself to just your previous job, if you had accomplishments in previous careers, in your home life or in a volunteering project then make note of those as well.

Gathering Information about the Company

Collect a list of facts and accomplishments that set this company apart from its competitors.

Job Interviewers want to know that you are serious about this new career that you are applying for. They want to know that you will be a happy and productive member of the team and that you are not just there for the paycheck. Most employers realize that if you are happy with your position you will be a more productive employee, so if you want the job, you need to be prepared to prove it to the interviewer. In order to prove it to the employer you need to be able to confidently answer two questions.

1. Why do you want to work for this company?

2. Why do you want this position?

These two questions are a golden opportunity for you to rise above the crowd of other applicants. Show the interviewer that you are not just in it for the money and that you have done your research. This is where researching the company comes into play. When they ask you, "why do you want to work for our company?", they are really asking, "what do you know about our company?" and "How will you fit in at our company and make it better?" So start your research, hop on the companies website and see what their current projects are. Have they won any awards lately? Are they the leader in their field? Do they have a progressive new product or service? What is their mission statement? Find something that you can relate to, take some notes and prepare to wow the interviewer.

Here is an example:

Why did you choose (company name)?

I have always had an interest in the __________ industry, and after researching several of the top companies in the field, I felt that (company name) stood out as a progressive company, with impressive policies toward customer retention, environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility. I was particularly impressed with the _________ award that (company name) won last year. I feel that (company name) would give me an excellent opportunity to grow and learn as a professional.

When they ask you "why do you want this position?" what they really want to know is how are you are going to solve their "problem". Now this particular question is a little bit trickier to research. What you really want to find out is where the company is struggling or could use improvement and how it relates to your position in the company. If there are no glaring issues, or none that would fall within your purview in the position you are applying for, than you will want to focus on the everyday issues that you will be tackling in this position. Review the job description and any information you can find about the department you will be working with. Focus on the list of traits and accomplishments that you have made and match your skills and accomplishments with the problems you will be facing.

Acing the Job Interview - How to ask and answer the questions that will get you the job.

Job interviews and the job search can be a very stressful time in your life. If you are looking for motivation along with further instruction, than I highly recommend "Acing the Interview" by Tony Beshara. Beshara, a head hunter who has successfully placed over 7000 people, has been featured on the Dr. Phil Show many times and is considered an expert in the field of Job Placement. This book clearly shows his over 30 years experience in understanding what employers are looking for. It will teach you, not only how to say the right things in the interview, but also how to prepare for the interview and teach you why employers ask the questions they ask. When you understand the why, it is so much easier to formulate the best answer to win you the job.

Behavioral Interviews

How do you prepare for a Behavioral Job Interview?

Business's are turning more frequently to the Behavioral Interview technique to determine a potential employees skills and experiences. Behavioral Interview questions are harder to answer without preparation, so if you only have time to focus on one thing, this is where you will want to focus.

What are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral Interview Questions are questions designed to elicit from you your past experiences in story form. They are designed to let the interviewer know what type of skills you have, and how you will cope in certain situations that you may be faced with in the job you are applying for. These questions allow the interviewer to see in real life examples, what you are telling them you are capable of in your resume.

These questions are typically open ended questions which begin with:

Tell me about...

Describe for me ...

Preparing for the Behavioral Interview

The S.T.A.R. Interview Technique

What is a S.T.A.R. Interview and How do you prepare for it?

S.T.A.R. Interview stands for Situation or Task, Action, Results. A S.T.A.R. Interview (also sometimes referred to a S.A.R.) is a common form of the Behavioral Interview. When presented with S.T.A.R. or behavioral format questions you are expected to respond in story form covering the three aspects of S.T.A.R. Each story will begin with the Situation or Task that you where confronted with. Then you will explain any Actions you took to resolve the situation. And lastly you will explain the Results of your actions.

How to prepare for a S.T.A.R. or Behavioral Job Interview

Step 1: Make a list of the skills that the employer will be looking for in the position you are applying for. Some examples might be: Motivation, Communication Skills, Energy, Confidence, Reliability, Honesty/Integrity, Analytical Skills, Listening Skills, Efficiency, and Dedication.

Step 2: Make a list of any ways that you have helped your previous company make more money, save more money or save time.

Step 3: With your lists from Steps 1 & 2, identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated the top behaviors or skills that the employer is looking for. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.

  • Half of your examples should be completely positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.

  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.

  • Vary your examples, don't take them all from one area of you life.

  • Use fairly recent examples- most companies are looking for examples within the last year.

  • Try to describe examples in story form- practice stories and fine tune them so you can tell them in 30 to 90 seconds.

Try to come up with stories to cover these 5 situations:

  1. A crisis in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.

  2. A time where you functioned as a part of a team and what your contribution was.

  3. A time in your career or job where you had to overcome stress.

  4. A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.

  5. A failure that occurred in your job and how you overcame it.

Typical S.T.A.R. or Behavioral Style Interview Questions

  • Describe a situation where you felt overwhelmed with multiple tasks, and how you handled the situation.

  • Sometimes customers come into a store and think they know exactly what they want. Describe a time when a customer came in and asked for a specific product/service and you offered them something better to meet their needs.

  • Describe a specific situation with a partner/ business associate you have worked with that did not go well.

  • Describe your responsibilities of your last job

  • What did you like most about your last position?

  • What did you like least about your last position?

  • Name 3 things that motivate you.

  • Tell me about yourself (remember job-wise, not your personal info)....

  • Tell me about a time when you have to explain the company's policy to a customer's complaint...what did you do and what was the result...

  • What would your co-worker/boss tell me about you?

  • What makes you interested in the _________ position?

  • Why did you choose __(company)__?

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.

  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.

  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.

  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.

  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.

  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.

  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).

  • Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.

  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.

  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.

  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.

  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.

  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.

  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.

  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.

  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.

  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.

  • Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.

  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).

Has the economy affected your job search? Do you have any job search tips to share?

How is your job search going?

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My son is job hunting so I will send this link to him. Glad that it popped up on SquidRank Random Lens Viewer.

    • Natalie W Schorr profile image

      Natalie W Schorr 8 years ago

      Most excellent advice, and timely since I am headed for an interview in a couple of days. Thank you for your well thought out lens.