The Three Questions Every Job Seeker Must Be Prepared to Answer

job-interview.jpgYou’ve created your resume, are applying for jobs, and waiting for the phone to ring. But are you ready to answer the call? Are you prepared to answer these three often-asked job interview questions?

  1. Why are you looking for a new job?
  2. What do you want to do?
  3. Tell me about yourself?

If you don’t have specific answers for each one, I recommend that you pause your job search and work on this first. As a job seeker, you want to present yourself as a prepared professional. Some hiring managers and HR professionals even claim that the way you work on your job search is good indication of how you will work for them.

Here are some strategies to ace these common interview questions:

Why are you looking for a new job?

If your position was eliminated, make sure you use those words. If your company was saving money by laying people off, put the emphasis on the position, not you. If you know the scope of the layoffs, mention that, too. Finally, to move them on from this interview question, say something about what you want to do next.

“Due to a recent reorganization at my company, my position along with 50 others was eliminated. I am now looking for a new position that will leverage my technical skills along with my project management expertise.”

Maybe it’s time to look for a new opportunity in your current field or make career change. Perhaps you even were fired. Whatever the reason, make sure you state why you are looking for a new job in a positive manner or at least neutrally, if necessary.

“I’ve had 15 great years in retailing, but with the recent downturn in that industry I would like to make a change. With my experience in coaching and managing staff, as well as my personal commitment to the community through many volunteer activities, I would like to move my career into a leadership position for a local non-profit organization.”

What do you want to do? What is your objective?

“I can do a lot of things,” or “I’m open and don’t want to box myself in,” does not tell the hiring manager anything. What are you interested in and what positions do your skills and experience support? This is your chance to look for something that will make you happy, so give this one a lot of thought. The more clarity you have around what you want to do, the easier it will be to answer this job interview question. Your answer can be specific without using a job title.

“I am looking for a senior marketing position focused on social media in a small to midsize consumer packaging company.”

Tell me about yourself.

You may have heard of this as the elevator pitch or two-minute commercial. So, where should you start? A great place to start is with the professional details that are most relevant to the person you’re speaking with. Now that you know your objective, what are the skills, abilities and expertise that support your point of view? Beginning your statement here allows you to highlight your strengths and the professional achievements that will demonstrate what a great candidate you are for the job.

Done correctly, this can set the table for the rest of the conversation, so be concise, specific and don’t ramble. You can always vary your response, depending on who you are speaking with or the situation. In the case of an interview, you can use the requirements of the job to help you develop this answer.

A sample answer to the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question:

“I am a human resource professional with successful experience in the financial services and insurance industries. My recent focus has been on creating strategies to recruit and retain top talent. Partnering with leadership, I have developed and facilitated training programs that support the goals of the organization in a changing environment. I am also skilled in collaborating with cross-functional teams to gain consensus. I have been recognized by management for my ability to create a positive work environment.”

Hopefully you now have a little more confidence answering these three predictable, yet critical questions that come up in nearly every interview process. Best of luck in your job search!

Teri Madden

Teri Madden is a Strategic Career Advisor with The Bauke Group. She has over 20 years’ experience in career consulting and human resources. Teri is recognized as a mentor and motivator that helps clients identify their passions, navigate through the changing job search landscape and land the right job. Throughout her career, she has worked with hundreds of clients at all levels of an organization from small local companies to Fortune 500 organizations including Procter & Gamble, Hewlett Packard, GE, Kroger and Macy’s.