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The finer nuances of facing a job interview

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<<The phrase can have implications for our whole lives. At times, it can determine where we will live, how well we will live, how happy we will be in a major pursuit, what colleges are children will be able to afford or how we will spend our retirement years.

This is a loaded phrase, no matter how you read it.

But the Five O'Clock Club, a New York-based career coaching network, is trying to give us a perspective on dreaded job interview. It believes that if you have the right attitude about the job interview and demonstrate your self-confidence, you'll do just fine.

"Hiring managers are often less interested in what candidates say than in the way they handle themselves," says Richard Bayer, chief operating officer of the Five O'Clock Club.

Bayer has put together a list of 10 tough job-interview questions and advice on how to best respond to them. His advice is worthy of our attention.

Q: Tell me about yourself?

A: Don't head into a two-hour recitation of your work history. The interviewer already knows where you have been. Instead, talk about your strengths, some of your achievements and why your hands-on experience makes you a sound candidate for the job you are seeking.

Q: Why didn't you finish college?

A: Most of us would feel backed into a corner by this question, but don't let that happen. Tell the interviewer about the value you received from your education and how it intersected with career opportunities that you just couldn't pass up. This characterizes you as results-oriented.

Q: What is this gap in your resume?

A: Job gaps happen, even to good workers. You have to be honest with this, but you should be prepared to discuss what you did during that gap that you found personally rewarding or educational.

Q: Tell me about the worst boss you've ever had?

A: Speak very carefully here. Your future employer is likely to internalize the way you describe your former employer. Don't get sucked into a situation that may torpedo your chances of landing a job. Talk about what you learned from each boss you've had, including the one that was the worst. Don't be afraid to say you disagreed on strategic issues with a former boss, but steer clear of providing details.

Q: What are your weaknesses?

A: Now why would you reveal these? Well, because if you say you have none, you will be labeled evasive. We all have weaknesses. Address one of two of yours, demonstrate that you are fully aware of them and discuss how you are working to improve that aspect of yourself. Your honesty will score you valuable points.

Q: What are your strengths?

A: OK, we know you are a good employee. Everyone is - at least in their own eyes. Tell a story that demonstrates your strength in action and shows how the impact it had. Be prepared for this question because it is definitely going to be asked.

Q: What are you looking for?

A: This is another one of those landmine questions. Be prepared for it. Invest some time in creating an answer that addresses why this particular job fits into your career or life plans. You have to have a good answer for this, or you'll shoot yourself in the foot.

Q: How would you handle this?

A: Be careful with this one. Unless you are absolutely certain of what to do and all the ramifications, steer around it. Say something like "That is similar to a situation I faced a couple of years ago and here's what I did about it." You are giving a response the interviewer wants, even if you are not addressing the question at hand.

Q: How much are you looking to earn?

A: Stall. Keep your current salary to yourself. Tell the interviewer that while you are looking to earn more, you are not out to rob the bank but expect a salary that is commensurate to the job responsibilities. Insist that it is more important that you both agree you are the right person for the job before you talk salary.

Q: What questions do you have for us?

A: By the time this question rolls around, you're probably emotionally drained from the interview and won't be able to think on your feet. That's why you should have completed a list of half-dozen questions you'll have ready once the interview ends. One of two of them might have been addressed during the interview, but you've still got more.

There are 10 tough questions and some ideas on how to answer them. Remember, the important thing is to prepare yourself for the interviewer with answers that are true to your character. Don't lose a job because you didn't spend enough time thinking about questions like this.

© Copley News Service

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