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Career Talk, Part 5: Tough Interview Questions

Hundreds of interview questions could be asked of candidates seeking a new job. This article takes a look at some of the tough ones you should be prepared to answer.

As I discussed in previous articles, the key to a successful job hunt is to prepare prior to participating in the process. Practice answering these questions with someone who can give you constructive feedback and help you build great answers.

Take a few minutes and tell us about yourself. Most interviews start with this request, and your answer to this question is one you must prepare and practice ahead of time, so that you don t stumble on your answer like many candidates do. Agencies are looking for your ability to summarize your career to date, including important accomplishments. If this is your first job in EMS, summarize your education and what you ve done to prepare yourself through clinical rotations and ride-alongs. Most agencies aren t looking for personal information about your family, hobbies or political statements. Unless you re asked to go into more detail, try to keep your answer to less than two minutes.

Tell us what you know about our organization. Silence Did you do your homework on the organization you re interviewing with, or are you going to try to bluff your way through this question? Organizations often look to see if the people who apply with them are interested enough to research the organization prior to being interviewed. They won t expect you to know all the details, but you should have a general knowledge of the organization and the position for which you applied, especially since it s now so simple to check out an agency s Web site.

Tell us about a mistake you made at work and how you handled it. The answer to this question should not surprise or shock the interviewers. This isn t the time to confess to something that may be revealed by a background check. Describe an incident where you did something wrong, and what your actions were to correct the problem. They want to see your level of maturity and if you can to stand up and accept the consequences for your actions.

If we asked your coworkers or last supervisor about you, what would they say about your work performance? Be aware that if your interviewer doesn t already have the answers to this question, they will get them. Will the actual answers from coworkers or supervisors match your answer? In most cases, it depends on whom they talk to at your place of employment. If you re not sure what their answers would be or how to respond, a safe answer is: It depends on who you talk to. Like most organizations, there are those people who are your friends and those who aren t. I know I always tried to work well with everyone and be open to other people s points of view.

How well did you get along with your most recent boss? If the reason you re applying for this job is because you had a problem with your previous boss, this can be a tough question to answer. Don t make excuses about why you couldn t work together or list their faults. Be positive in your response to this question and don t criticize your boss. It s OK to be honest, but equally important to be professional. Organizations are looking for team players who can work well with supervisors.

What can you bring to the job that exceeds what other candidates may offer? In answering this question, remember to be responsible for only yourself and not assume to know about the qualifications of the other candidates. Relate your strengths and abilities necessary for the position and your desire to be a team player someone who contributes to the overall success of the organization.

How would you resolve conflict with coworkers or supervisors? Explain that good communication is the key and that you would first discuss the issues privately with the individual. Conflict does happen, and how you approach it and deal with it indicates how you would act in a stressful environment. Obviously, they don t want to hire a trouble-maker, but probably don t want to hire someone who ignores significant problems either.

Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years? It s often hard to predict the future, but it s important to relate to the interviewers that you see yourself being a productive member of a successful organization such as theirs. I ve heard candidates answer this question by admitting they would be in a different career in five years. Needless to say, they weren t hired.

For more information about interview questions, I would suggest you research a number of resources on this topic that can provide you with some good information about performing during an interview. Such resources include the Web sites Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com, and the books 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, 4th ed., by Ron Fry, No Nonsense Interviewing: How to get the job you want, by Phyllis C. Kaufman and Arnold Corrigan, and The Complete Job Interview Handbook, by John J. Marcus.

I ll wrap up this series in my next column with a discussion about the questions you should ask at your interview.


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