How to prepare for tough interview questions

Rich Hein

Ripaldi offers this advice, "You'll want to be honest but keep it short and transition the response into a positive and then the next question. For example 'It was a blessing in disguise, now I have the opportunity to explore a better matching position such as this opportunity with your company, would you like to hear more?' Many times it was probably the wrong match from the beginning and you can state that. If it was for personal problems then you can reference that you've solved them and now you're ready for the next phase of your career."

Harvey Batra, Director of Information Technology at The Truland Group, Inc. reminds readers to always demonstrate your ability to stay current. Let the interviewer know what you did to better yourself during your time between jobs. "Out of work does not mean outdated, be ready to explain how you utilized the downtime time to catch up on either a new technology or fine tune an existing one. Think creative, volunteering is often a great way to make use of this downtime," says Batra. Employers like to see that potential employees have managed, in a difficult time, to keep it together and improve their skills.

Question #2 - What is your biggest strength?
This is a softball question that is typically followed by the next question on our list. That said, it is an opportunity to demonstrate how your abilities align with their goals. Our experts say that preparation is key to framing this correctly. Use what you have learned from the job description and your online search of the company to prepare an answer that highlights your strength in a way that aligns with the positions objectives. "The most important thing is to know your audience--do some research to think about where your skills overlap with their needs and place emphasis on these areas when talking about your strengths, says Mark Stagno, principal consultant and team leader of software technology search with WinterWyman, an IT recruitment firm.

"Answering the 'what is your biggest strength' should tie into your 30 second elevator pitch," advises Ripaldi. An elevator pitch is a brief, well-rehearsed response that clearly states your strengths and how they align to the position.

As we get older and more experienced we evolve and so should your strengths and weaknesses, according to Batra, who says, "Strengths and weaknesses also change as you progress through your career, so if yours have been static all along, then that is a sign that you haven't taken the initiative to develop or overcome them." This isn't necessarily something an interviewer might pick up on but it is a signal that you need to take your work on the particular weakness a little more serious.

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