Job Interviews 101: How to Ace 5 Key Questions Every Recruiter Will Ask

We know the job market is really tough, and the pressure to ace an interview (when you land one) has never been greater.

There are several questions every jobseeker should be ready for, no matter what the position. Many are very common, yet they're also the ones that pose the greatest challenge when you're sitting in the hot seat, especially if you haven't fully prepared a response.

Before the big day, rehearse your responses. Write them down. Record yourself and play back the responses. Solicit feedback from trusted advisors who'll give you a candid opinion. Use social media, such as message boards and Facebook friends, to ask for feedback too. Do whatever it takes until you're convinced that the answers convey confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job you're seeking.

Question: Tell me About Yourself

Abby Ludens, a recruiter with Mattress Firm, always starts with this: "Tell me about yourself, and by that I mean tell me about your background, your experience and highlight anything you'd like to share and we'll go from there."

This is the most common interview question, and it's the one where so many people get tongue-tied. This isn't your life story, nor should it be too personal. Your answer should reflect your professional side and it should directly tie into the position you're seeking. Sell yourself for his particular job by highlighting that you have the skills the role requires.

Let's say it's a retail sales position. Your response may be, "I"ve spent the last six years in retail sales. Before that I worked in call center customer service, and I found that what I liked most -- and where I really excelled -- was in working face to face with customers. I'm an exceptional communicator, I connect well with the people I'm serving, and I'm very goal-oriented so I thrive on meeting and, many times exceeding, sales targets. In fact, in my last position, I was the top sales person at my location for 10 out of 12 months." And then, if possible, end on a smart question: "I'm curious how sales excellence is measured here?"

Question: What is your greatest weakness?

Another common question along these lines: What's your greatest weakness?

Always avoid generic stuff like, "I work too hard. I care too much." That won't go over well. Focus on a genuine weakness, but one that won't prevent you from getting this job. For example, "I haven't had a lot of experience with public speaking before large groups, so I don't feel my best when giving big presentations. It's a skill that I'd like to build on so I've enrolled in a course or I'm hoping I'll have a chance to build this skill here."

Another example: "I've had trouble in the past with managing e-mail -- instead of allowing it to manage me and monopolize my time. It's so easy to get distracted by the pressure to respond instantly when e-mails pop into your inbox, but I'm learning that the best time management rules dictate that it's best to check and respond to e-mail at designated times instead of every minute of the day. That's helped me to be far more productive than ever before, and it's a work in progress that I'm constantly aware of."

Maybe there's a technical skill you need improvement with. Just be sure to show how you're working on this objective.

Question: What do you know about us?

Jim Thomason, vice president of human resources for Nashville-based Thomas Nelson, a publishing company, usually asks candidates what they know about this company.

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