Feature photo by dhollister

Economy-sheconomy. Get rid of the job interview jitters by reading this (almost) foolproof guide to impressing your future boss. Have the answers to all the tough questions before you even step in the door.

Why are you here?

This question is asked more for your benefit than the company’s. Plus, the interviewer wants to hear a solid response to indicate a solid work ethic. Giving a ‘whatever’ response betrays a ‘whatever’ employee. Be convincing. Employers are most impressed by unbroken eye contact and assertive facial expressions. Smile. Believe what you’re saying yourself. The ease with which you answer this question will make your employer comfortable in his decision to hire you.

Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

Open-ended questions are strategically deployed to catch any overt trait or quality that would clash with what the employer is looking for in an employee. Basically, they want to see what you’ll have to say for yourself. Especially if this is something like a call center job, they want someone who’s going to deliver a concise answer with a little finesse. To be frank, they don’t really care about your personal life. They just want to make sure you’re stable, and not a nut-job. A simple summary of your life to this point will do- they just want to make sure you aren’t going to stutter and choke. Nothing is going to make them not hire you based on this question except:

  • Indicating non commitment to longevity with the employer (time is money)
  • You tell them you shoot small kittens for sport or some other wacko pastime (you have to be stable to deal with customers and make them comfortable)
  • You’re kind of John Wayne Gacy-ish

Why are you interested in this job?

Honestly, who really aspires to being a call center technician for the Salvation Army? Nobody, really but it’s your job to make the interviewer think nothing gives you more joy (to an extent). It’s all about making them comfortable with their decision to hire you.

What are some feasible and convincing answers to this question?

This job will showcase your customer service skills.

  • What sort of skills have you acquired in previous employment? Previous job experience stories? Anecdotes are helpful, and make everything you say believable.
  • How are you able to make customers comfortable? When did you make a customer happy?
  • What can you offer that makes the customer’s call-center experience a mess-free and enjoyable one? Do you gain rapport? Make small-talk to put a customer at ease?
  • What will you do in order to make a customer feel not threatened?
  • Part of your job at a call center would be to make the customer feel like nothing is directly his fault. A hostile customer is the worst kind! Everyone has a crappy time when the customer gets angry!

Again, don’t stress. They smell fear. This isn’t the end of the world… It’s an interview.

What are your strengths?

If things are going well at this point, it might be okay to list (keep it brief) quirky strong points, even if they don’t necessarily have to do with your job. For laughs, maybe tell them about being both right handed AND left handed or that you can build a ship in a bottle (Disclaimer: GAUGE your interviewer… maybe he doesn’t like jokes or doesn’t care about random ‘strengths’) Nobody likes a comedian so soon in the process, so if you’re going for some lighthearted answers, know when to quit. Nothing’s more annoying than someone who doesn’t know they’re not funny.

Whatever you do, always finish with the relevant points. What are you good at that is useful to this company? Evaluate the job description and list applicable strengths. Give it a little bit of thought, and you’ll surprise yourself with talents you might not have thought about before (for example, typing really fast, random customer service techniques, abilities to smooth over arguments/conflicts with conversation, keen ear/eye for detail, learning new things quickly, ability to listen well, etc.).

A used car salesmen might point out a skills in highlighting key selling points in an old junker. Trying to get a job working at the Doughnut Shop inside your mall? Talk about your baking experience and passion for being inside the kitchen.

At the end of the day, your employer just wants to know what you can bring to the table. Remember, this dude has heard everything imaginable plenty of times. You don’t want to be easily forgotten. Focus on giving creative answers that make you stand out.

What are your weaknesses?

This question could be reworded like this: How well can you spot your own flaws? This tells your interviewer what you’re capable of recognizing about yourself in order to correct your flaws (admitting it is the first step). Your interviewer is probably trying to get an idea of how much over-the-shoulder supervision you’ll need if hired.

Will you need someone to constantly watch you and point out your mistakes? Or are can you take a healthy approach to your own improvement areas without a lot of prodding? Be honest, again, to a degree. Figure out what your future employer REALLY needs to know, and what is just superfluous information. Whatever you deem pertinent, be prepared with what you think will counter your shortcomings.

Short attention span? Suggest a break every few hours to clear your head and get you focused. Tendency to get defensive? Point out situations in which you might feel threatened, and why you might feel that way. What can you do to correct potential behavior flaws before they rear their heads. You’d be surprised how much an employer is willing to work with you if you express an active drive to communicate everything. Don’t be scared to list potential weaknesses. On the contrary, listing your weaknesses along with potential solutions shows employers that you not only recognize your weaknesses, you have the discipline to consider how you can fix them. It’s a very mature move. Mature and sexy.

What three words would your last supervisor use to describe you?

Well, well, well. This one might take some fancy footwork, but totally manageable. I’m fairly certain (depending on how intensely this company checks on your background) that your interviewer isn’t going to call your past supervisors and ask this exact question. DO NOT LIE, rather, don’t be afraid of a little flourish.

Remember, for every answer, have an explanation to back it up.

If your three descriptions are ‘innovative, diligent and punctual,’ give a reason for each one. It’s the reason why and well thought out explanations that will sell your credibility. Nobody really questions someone who looks like they wholeheartedly believe their own answers. Not with such an earnest look on their face. Don’t be afraid to practice your answers over and over, and memorize your elaborations. Once they’re burned into your brain, you can spout them with confidence.

Do you have any questions?

Yes you do. This is your chance to prove you’ve paid attention closely. While the interview is going on, take mental notes (or for extra points, take actual notes when any information about the hire is given) and use what you’ve remembered to generate intelligent feedback in the form of questions.

  • Ask about company/store policies.
  • Inquire about hypothetical situations you might be put in. What about unruly customers? Who do I go to if I need additional help and there is no supervisor present? How much training will I receive before I’m left unsupervised?
  • Ask about starting pay and raise increases; how will you be evaluated? You have a right to know.
  • What teamwork settings will you be introduced into? What about working alone?

Let the interviewer know he wasn’t wasting his time, and that you’re capable of analyzing possible solutions before there is even a problem.

This is a lot of information, but I elaborated insanely. This wasn’t meant to overwhelm you. If you look close, you can tell that I repeat myself a lot and emphasize the same things. Don’t concentrate on taking this all in and get bad anxiety. This is just a common sense guideline to make you think a little bit more in-depth about the questions being asked. That way when they ask you, you’ve already given it plenty of thought and won’t have to seem unsure of yourself. Confidence is key and if you’re confident then you already have one-up on a lot of people interviewing for the same position. Potential bosses remember clear, intelligent answers, and genuine smiles (and eye-contact!).

Give this some time to digest, and re-read it. You’ll be surprised to find how much you actually already knew.

Good luck!

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