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Tackle These 5 Common Interview Questions with Confidence


Despite a struggling economy and high unemployment numbers, job seekers finally have a reason for optimism.

In November 2011, the national unemployment rate was at its lowest (8.6 percent) since March 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The country added 120,000 jobs in November, and has generated 100,000 or more jobs for five straight months — the first time that's happened since April 2006.

This should encourage any job seekers, particularly members of the military who are returning home from Iraq and seeking civilian employment.

Have been on a few interviews lately looking to jumpstart or continue your career? From the time you send in a resume and cover letter to the time a potential employer calls you to come in for an interview can feel like an eternity. And to someone looking for work, it is because it's generally a long process.

Once you snag the interview, cherish the opportunity to make a lasting impression on a potential employer. Treat it like it's the most important part of your day (or week or month, for that matter).

You'll want to be prepared for the big day. With that in mind, we came up with a list of five common interview questions, with recommendations on how you can start to formulate an answer to each question. Happy job hunting:

1. What makes you the perfect fit for the position?

Recommendation: Focus on the future, not on the past. Potential employers are curious about how you are going to help their company; not about reasons your current job isn't the best fit. You will be a more desirable candidate if you give the employer ways you could impact the company. Utilize your skill-set in a forward-thinking manner.

2. Tell me about your biggest strength and/or weakness in the workplace.

Recommendation: Make sure the strength is an applicable strength to the job in which you're interviewing. As for the weakness:

"The key with the weakness is to pick something that is true, but a weakness that can be seen as a strength to the employer simultaneously," said Cheryl Hayek, Associate Provost and Vice President of Faculty and Student Experience at Grantham University.

Ideas for potential weaknesses: You may be a perfectionist and spend too much time on a particular task. Maybe you're too hard on yourself and are working on ways to improve that mind-set.

3. How do you typically handle conflict?

Recommendation: Stress that you clear your mind of emotional response, which allows for the beginning of a logical solution. Then outline ways you directly address the conflict in an open and honest manner. If there's a mistake to own up to, own up to it. It will help for future circumstances.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Recommendation: Research the company so you're prepared for this common question.

"See if there is a senior-level corresponding position," Hayek said. "If there is, mention you would like to strive to learn and see if that would be an option. It shows you are committed to self development and reaching your goals."

5. What questions do you have for me?

Recommendation: It's OK to take a moment to think about an appropriate response to this common question, which typically comes up at the end of the interview. Don't take forever, but if there's a five- to 10-second pause to collect your thoughts, don't worry. Try to relate your response to a fresh topic not previously discussed in the interview. What is the work culture like? What characteristics would an ideal candidate have for this position?

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