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How to handle common job interview questions

In order to get that dream job, chances are you'll have to participate in a traditional interview. Barring industry trends, these question and answer sessions tend to follow a standard format, one that's been adept at separating the cream of the crop from less qualified applicants for years. 

Interviewers use common questions to search for qualified candidates 
When entering a customary interview, you should be prepared to speak to a few tried-and-true subject points. According to a ProOpinion Poll, 16 percent of business professionals surveyed reported having been asked "Where else are you interviewing?" by their potential employers. About 56 percent were given the question "What is your biggest weakness?" and 66 percent were asked to discuss their strengths. Almost 70 percent of respondents were asked "Any questions for me?" by their interviewer, while 27 percent of people received an entirely different set of interview questions. While these popular questions might seem fairly straightforward, answering them correctly requires you to be focused and well prepared.

The Huffington Post asked veteran interviewer Maria Zaslove to discuss what employers are looking for when they ask these types of broad, almost stereotypical questions. Zaslove explained that interviewers tend to be optimistic when meeting with a potential hire - they're looking for reasons to invite that person on board. What your potential employers are searching for in your answers is quite simple: They want to know if you're able to perform the tasks associated with the position, to see that you genuinely want the job, to get an idea of whether you're a good fit with existing company culture and to make sure you won't quit early on or be a source of negativity. 

Be ready to answer common interview questions honestly and concisely. Be ready to answer common interview questions honestly and concisely.

Question prep is the key to interview success 
It can be difficult to appropriately convey your desire, skills and flexible personality over the course of an hour-long interview, which is why preparing yourself for major questions ahead of time is crucial. Take a step-by-step approach to your pre-interview training by crafting detailed answers to the most common questions. 

1. "Where else are you interviewing?"
This might seem like a loaded, awkward question, but it's very common for potential employers to gauge where else their candidates are seeking job opportunities. Often, this isn't so much an inquiry into the company's competitors as it is a method of seeing how focused and goal-oriented you are. Zaslove told the Huffington Post that she once asked this question of a top candidate for a competitive sales position whom she was seriously considering hiring. The other jobs he was interviewing for were in the finance realm, and as the conversation continued it became clear that his heart wasn't truly in the sales industry. Zaslove knew that if she hired him and he was offered a finance position shortly thereafter, he would likely leave the company and she would need to start recruiting all over again. 

It's no secret that the job market is competitive, and most people apply to many different types of positions when searching for gainful employment. It's alright to spread your resume out among a variety of sectors, but keep your interview answers focused on the opportunity at hand. For example, if you're interviewing for a graphic design position, don't start talking about the interviews you've been having for social media jobs. You can mention other graphic design openings you're exploring, but always try to keep a focus on the company you're interviewing for at that moment. Make it clear to them that, while other organizations are interested in your graphic design skills, you have your heart set on joining this specific team. 

2. "What is your biggest weakness?"
Being asked to discuss your worst professional areas with someone you want to work for can be a sticky situation. You want to be honest, but you also don't want them to think your weaknesses will impede your productivity and leave you struggling to keep up. Forbes magazine noted that this inquiry comes with the unspoken follow-up question of "How do you overcome these weaknesses?" Failing to answer this hidden topic could make or break your interview. 

If your biggest weakness is poor communication, discuss honestly how in past roles you've struggled to manage relationships and delegate work. Finish your answer by explaining how you've overcome this and what steps you're continuing to take to constantly refine your communication skills. 

"Zero in on one to three strengths."

3. "What is your biggest strength?"
It might seem easier to discuss your accomplishments than your downfalls, but it's easy to ramble for minutes on this topic and come off sounding arrogant and misdirected. Zaslove explained that applicants should zero in on one to three strengths they feel represent their professional abilities as they pertain to the desired role. Do some research into what qualities the most notable people in your industry possess, and try to explain how you're a strong example of these characteristics. 

For instance, when you're talking about why you'd be a great fit for the graphic design position, focus on your creativity and technical skills. You might have an impressively mathematical brain and a knack for corporate sales, but discussing these qualities will simply waste time and confuse your interviewer. 

4. "Any questions for me?"
According to job site Monster, the most common answer to this question is a resounding "No." The source explained that while you want to seem informed and familiar with the organization's goals, there's simply no way you know everything there is to know about the business and the position. Successful applicants use this question as an opportunity to find out more about the job, the company dynamics and the general industry.

Monster suggested tailoring your answer to what position your interviewer holds. If a human resources rep is leading the conversation, ask broad questions about the company and how your potential department fits in to the overall organization. If upper-level management from your department is asking you this, respond with in-depth questions about the industry. This will give you the opportunity to show that you've done your homework and possess relevant knowledge.

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