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The Employment Zone



Cliché, but true. The first interview is your only opportunity for a second interview, so take it seriously. Here are some tips to help you ace your first meeting and increase your chances for a next one.

  • Dress for success. Dress conservatively - a navy, black or gray suit is your best choice, regardless of the corporate dress environment once you get the job. Wear minimal jewelry. Make-up should be understated and fingernails should be clean, neat and not brightly polished.

  • Don't overpower the senses. Interviews generally take place within closed quarters so wear light perfume or cologne. Watch what you eat before the interview and keep a breath mint on hand. Never chew gum during an interview.

  • Get a good night's sleep and plan your interview for the time of day when you are at your best. Avoid planning an interview before work or during lunch if you cannot be flexible with your time. Allow more time for the interview than you think you need to avoid feeling rushed.

  • Be conscious of your nonverbal behavior. Look the interviewer in the eye. Remain professional in posture and demeanor. Sit up straight and control nervous habits, like fidgeting or nail-biting.

  • Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your skills, knowledge, and abilities. Remain professional. Answer the question that is put before you, but don't reveal more information than necessary.

  • Be pleasant, but not overly friendly. You are interviewing for a job, not a new best friend, so remain professional.

  • Listen carefully. Don't interrupt the speaker, ask for permission to take notes, and don't let long pauses make you feel uncomfortable.

  • Remain positive. Never present a negative experience with a past employer. Be prepared for questions that can make you look bad like "Tell me about a weakness." Review typical interview questions until you are confident with your responses.

  • Do your homework. Learn about the company on the Internet. Ask your CareerTrust recruiter pertinent questions about the interviewer and the environment. Brush up on the industry by reviewing industry association Web sites or industry publications.

  • Arrive early for your interview and make sure you understand the directions to the location. If you're not familiar with the area, it doesn't hurt to find the location a few days before the interview.

  • Brush up on your knowledge of etiquette, particularly if lunch or dinner is part of the interview.

  • Write a thank you note immediately after the interview. Be sure to get business cards for proper spelling and addresses.

Here are some questions you can expect during an interview. Think about your answers, and practice saying them until you can answer them with confidence.

  1. Tell me about yourself. Avoid personal statements; this question refers to your work-related self. Keep it simple; two simple statements are best. This is not the time to review your resume and work history. That comes later.

  2. How does your education equip you for the job? No matter what schooling you have had, you have been prepared in some way for this position. Be creative, but not far-fetched with your response.

  3. Why do you want to work for us? If you did your homework and are familiar with the company, you should have at least two reasons. Benefits, opportunities, and work environment are always good answers.

  4. What are your long and short-term goals? Keep these goals in line with the company's mission. If you want to be a medical technician and are applying for an administrative assistant in the marketing department, make certain you keep the goal related to the job. Employers seldom hire people whose goals do not indicate they will be part of the long-term team.

  5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Only one place. Working as a critical member of the ABC Company. Keep your sights in line with the job. Don't get over anxious. An interviewer doesn't want to hear that anyone wants his/her job.

  6. What are your greatest strengths? Have two or three SHORT examples ready. Have specific examples ready, but don't go into this detail unless you are asked to.

  7. What are your weaknesses? Most interviewers will ask this question and no one wants to know you have any! Be ready for this question with a response like: "Can I tell you how I turned a challenge into an opportunity?" or "My weaknesses have been learning experiences."

  8. What things are most important to you in a job? This is as much about the company as it is about you. Tailor your answer to the types of things that are directly related to the position for which you are applying, as well as to the corporate culture.

  9. Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team? Respond with the voice of experience----from your last position. And as the voice of knowledge----what the current position demands. There are very few places today where you can take a position that demands no interaction.

  10. What would you describe as your greatest achievement to date? Be brief. One or two sentences can complete the picture. Try to keep it work related. Be ready to give an example, only if this is requested.

  11. What are your personal interests? Only mention things that can enhance your career like an organization to which you belong. If going outside the work realm, use interests that display a quest for knowledge.

  12. Why did you leave your last position? This answer must be carefully thought out. Be honest and stay positive. Even if the situation at your last job was unbearable, make certain you do not make your last employer look bad. Think about what motivates you, because a lack of these motivators will typically tell you why you are really leaving your current position.

  13. What do you know about our company? Do your homework. Research the company, its mission, products, size, and environment. Get to the Internet. Know about the types of people they need and how you can offer a positive contribution to the company.

  14. What can you do for us that no one else can? You don't need to be a rocket scientist to be able to offer a positive contribution. Your enthusiasm is always the best attribute to offer and no one else can match that because it belongs to only you!

  15. What do you find most attractive about the job offered? List three things that excite and motivate you. Be brief.

  16. Why should we hire you? Because of your skills, knowledge and ability. Give an example of each.

  17. How long do you plan to stay in a position? "As long as I am a contributing member to ABC Company." OR " I think ABC has many opportunities and challenges to offer me." OR "As long as I continue to grow in this position." No matter what, let a company know you are with them for the long haul. This question relates to your long-term goals. Tie the two together here.

  18. It looks like you are overqualified for this position. Let the employer know that he/she should view your knowledge as a great investment in the company. You come to the table with a skill set that will be immediately productive. Let the employer know you are interested in the company as well as in the job.

  19. Why haven't you found a new position before now? Let the employer know that you are being selective---looking for the best fit with the most challenge. Be selective with this answer and review it with your CareerTrust counselor.

  20. How do you handle criticism? Can you give an example? Have an example ready and remain positive in the description of events. Make it in to a learning experience. Everyone needs to be humble every now and then.

  21. What did you think of your boss? Even if you think your boss was a 'zero,' be positive. Everyone has at least one redeeming quality. "My boss taught me perseverance." OR "My boss taught me how to prioritize."

  22. What other types of companies are you considering? Talk about the industry, not about specific companies.

  23. If I asked your previous boss about your best qualities, what would he/she say? Have three good answers (skills or abilities) ready.

  24. How do you resolve conflict? Talk about your communication skills, your respect of your fellow workers, and everyone's right to privacy. Let the interviewer know you are, above all, an ethical person. Know how the chain of command works.

  25. What is the toughest part of your job? If you have a problem here, think about dividing your day into four parts and identify one common task from each segment. Pick the toughest or easiest one, depending upon your comfort level. Remember that the toughest part of a job can sometimes be the most rewarding learning experience.

  26. Where do you see your career going in the next five years? Have three areas of interest ready to list. If you are applying for a Project Manager position, tailor your answer to that specific job description. Relate your answer to both the industry and the position.


It is both valid and expected that you will have questions for the person who interviews you. Do your homework! Know about the company---it's mission and long term goals. Have three or four specific, generic questions ready to show that you are seriously pursuing this opportunity.

These questions can be used at the end of the interview. Generally, the interviewer asks "Do you have any questions for me?" If you do not hear this, ask if the interviewer has time to answer a few general questions. Know that if you are being sent on to a second interview within the company, it is highly likely these questions will be answered as you progress.

  1. Does this position offer an opportunity for career growth?

  2. Does your company have a policy on promotions from within?

  3. What standards are used for employee evaluation? Yearly?

  4. Why do you like working for this organization/firm/company?

  5. When will the hiring decision be made?

  6. What is the next step in the hiring process?

Questions and topics to avoid during a first interview:


Focus on the job and only the job until the potential employer makes an offer. You want the client to know that you are interested in the company and what you have to offer them. Timing is everything. These types of specific questions DO have a time and place, but it is not on the first interview.


Your resume should reflect both you and the position for which you are applying. Have two resumes:
A generic copy reflecting your general skills and
A specific copy relating directly to the position for which you are applying.

If you have properly completed your homework on the company to which you are applying, you should have a very good idea of how your skills should be highlighted:

  • Select a focus

  • Have a written description of the job

  • Delete detailed past experiences not relevant to the current position

  • Insert key words relative to the industry

  • Be clear and concise

  • Make sure the resume flows-no gaps in job history

  • Have your resume available to e-mail

  • Avoid gimmicks. Concentrate on skills, knowledge, and ability.

  • Check and recheck for typos, grammar, spelling, date errors, etc.

During the interview you will review your resume. Formulate brief descriptions or lists for the following items:

  • Describe your job

  • What does your company do?

  • What is the environment like?

  • How big is the company? The department?

  • Detail your duties (don't exaggerate)

  • To whom do you report? Title?

  • Inventory your successes (give statistical examples)

  • Concentrate on skills, knowledge, and abilities.

  • Be brief, concise, and accurate.

  • Have your reference list ready. Make certain your contacts have been notified.

  • Do not include personal data or references.

  • Sell only the skills that pertain to the job.

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