Key interview questions for job-seekers

Feature Article- Thu., May. 26, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Many Americans are living a harsh economic reality. Everybody knows somebody who is looking for a job. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported the unemployment rate at 8.8 percent in March 2011. This translates to 13.5 million Americans who are out of work, with some major worker groups facing a higher unemployment rate than others, including:

• Adult men – 8.6 percent

• Adult women – 7.7 percent

• Teenagers – 24.5 percent

• Caucasians – 7.9 percent

• African-Americans – 15.5 percent

• Hispanics – 11.3 percent

• Asians – 7.1 percent

While many men and women struggle to find work, teenagers, African-Americans and Hispanics top the numbers among the unemployed. As a result, people of all ages and vast differences in job experience are out there trying to get noticed and land an interview. Those who succeed are sometimes not prepared to answer questions from prospective employers.

Two specialists from Brown Mackie College have teamed up to offer insight into questions interviewees are likely to hear. Human Resources Generalist Beverly Smith is responsible for hiring qualified professionals at Brown Mackie College. Gizelle Ortiz-Velazquez, director of career services at the same campus, works daily coaching students and graduates on interview preparedness.

Together, they outline key interview questions to expect.

What do you know about us? “I usually begin with this question,” said Smith. “This lets me know how well a candidate researched the company. When applicants know the company and understand the position, they are able to talk about their marketable skills and how they relate to the job. The answer tells me a lot about how qualified they are to be here.”

Tell me about yourself as it relates to the position. “This is a broad question that lets the interviewer know if you have a good sense of the position and the company,” said Ortiz-Velazquez. “I coach students to stay away from personal information and focus on skill sets and how they relate to the position. It also opens the door for students who don’t have much experience to sell themselves to an employer. The employer gets the opportunity to train a new hire the way he or she wants them to be trained.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses? “A standard question that people many people dread, but it’s asked often. Employers are tying to find out how you see yourself,” Smith said. “The answer can demonstrate how you approach a challenge, and maybe help identify areas for improvement.”

What changes will impact your industry in next three years? “Everyone should expect at least one question specific to the industry,” Smith said. “It’s important for an applicant to demonstrate involvement in professional associations and awareness of industry issues and changes.”

What do you like most and least about your current or last job? “Employers will ask this question to discover your mindset. You don’t ever want to talk negatively about another company during an interview. It’s a red flag for an employer,” Ortiz-Velazquez said. “If someone is willing to share negative comments about a current or previous position, the next negative comments may be said about the position sought now. You can point out past responsibilities you didn’t care for, but always keep your answer positive.”

“Interviewers tend to begin with general questions and drill down deeper to ascertain problem-solving abilities,” said Ortiz-Velazquez. “It’s important to keep answers specific to the question without rambling.”


Courtesy of ARA Content


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