Top 7 Interview Questions

Do you have an interview coming up and need to get prepared? By reviewing common interview questions and developing your responses, you can make a good impression by appearing well-spoken and thoughtful.

While every interview is a little different, there are some questions that are standard. Since the chances are high that you’ll be asked at least a few of these questions, it’s a good idea to give some thought to what your answers would be. Nothing’s worse than drawing a total blank during an interview, so take a few minutes to think about how you’d respond to these popular interview questions.

1. What do you know about our company?
2. What are your strengths?
3. What are your weaknesses?
4. How would your last boss describe you?
5. Why did you leave your last job?
6. Where do you want to be in five years?
7. Why do you want to work here?

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some of the better ways to answer these questions.

What Makes a Job Great?

Everyone is motivated by different things. That’s why the perfect job for your best friend or next door neighbor might not be the right job for you.

Have you ever sat down and really evaluated what makes you happiest (or unhappiest) at work? Many people just assume money is the only factor to consider when taking a new job, but in fact, good compensation alone will rarely make people love their jobs.

In order to find a job that’s a perfect fit for your strengths, personality and values, you must first know what you’re looking for. Take a moment to think about what would really provide you the most satisfaction at work.

Five Tips for Getting Past Résumé Gaps

A reader recently asked a great question in response to our post about telling the truth on your résumé . She asked what to do when you have a spotty work history with many employment gaps but for good reason. We think this is a great question.


Employment gaps happen to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Those who’ve been stay-at-home parents, had the opportunity to travel, attend school, serve as a volunteer, or be a care-giver for a loved one, often choose to return to the workforce after a period of time. Unfortunately, because employment gaps are typically associated with poor performing workers, employers tend to look negatively on all applicants whose résumés reflect a large period of time without work. This can make it tricky to get in the door for an interview and show that you’re a qualified candidate.


But, there are some résumé techniques you can use to highlight your capabilities and not the gaps.


1. Focus on skills. Using a skills-focused résumé can help you emphasize your qualifications over your work history. Try opening your résumé with your objective and then give bullet points with key skills or qualifications you possess and those you’ve attained while on hiatus instead of launching into your employment history.


2. Use a functional format. Instead of relating your work experience in a chronological format like a traditional résumé, use the functional style. This type of résumé groups experience not by chronological order but by relevance to the position at hand.


3. Highlight unpaid experience. If you served as a volunteer for a religious or civic organization during your employment gap, list the position you held along with the title “volunteer” and describe the transferable skills you used in that position to show that you have unpaid experience in the field you’re applying for.


4. Don’t fudge on the dates. It’s critical not to exaggerate or lie about the dates of employment you’ve held. It’s easy for employers to verify employment dates, and fudging the facts will only make matters worse.


5. Send a cover letter. It’s typically not appropriate to write “Stay-at-home-parent, June 2004-August 2007” on your résumé, but you can talk about your situation in a cover letter, if you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t get into the nitty gritty, and whatever you do, don’t complain about your situation. But you can explain your situation, highlighting how it pertains to the position at hand. For example, you could say that for three years you used time management, care-giving and financial skills by maintaining the family budget and caring for your child at home.


Be honest with prospective employers about the reasons you have a work gap, and keep in mind that if you’ve been busy with other pursuits while away from work, you’ve probably gained a variety of transferable skills that may make you a prime candidate. Your break from the work world may just make you the perfect candidate for the right employer. In fact, recruiters are beginning to look for returning workers with past experience to fill the void of Baby Boomers who are beginning to retire. Using these tips to highlight everything about you that makes you the right candidate can help you make sure recruiters look past the gaps and see what you have to offer as an employee instead.

Television Shapes Our Career Paths

TV and CareersWhen I was young I knew what my parents did for a living. My father was a petroleum geologist and my mother was a teacher. I never grew up thinking that I would follow in their career footsteps. It’s not that I wasn’t proud of what they did. I think a big part of not wanting to follow in their footsteps is that television shaped my future career aspirations. There weren’t any shows about people who found oil and gas reserves and “Welcome Back, Kotter” was my only teacher-influenced television program.

The world of TV got my wheels turning as I thought about my future career path. Through television, I was introduced to more than characters and storylines. I learned about different jobs and that, for the most part, my TV role models had jobs they loved and were passionate about. Here are the top eight TV shows that had a strong effect on my career path:

  • Bewitched – The world of advertising never looked better to me.
  • Happy Days – Mr. Cunningham ran a hardware store and Fonzie had an auto repair shop. I could relate to those jobs since my father took me to the hardware store in his car that was constantly in the shop in the early 1980s.
  • The Brady Bunch – Mike’s study (man cave) was huge, and he made architecture look exciting.
  • Adam-12 and Barney Miller – Law enforcement careers were presented in two very different formats. Regardless, I wanted nothing to do with potentially getting shot.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati – I learned all about the radio: sales, programming, on-air talent, weather and promotions.
  • Emergency! – I got a good look at what goes on in the daily lives of the fire department and hospital work, and everyday life-and-happenings.
  • The Love Boat – I discovered that I could be a captain, doctor, cruise director or bartender and never get sea sick.

That was 30 years ago. Today, children have a much more diverse group of television role models.

  • Bob the Builder introduces kids to the field of construction and teaches them important lessons along the way.
  • SpongeBob Squarepants is the world’s best food-service worker. His boss, Mr. Crabs is an entrepreneurial restaurateur.
  • Hannah Montana is a rock star, and her father is a songwriter and her manager.
    The father on Cory in the House is the personal chef to the president of the United States.
  • Kim Possible’s mom is a brain surgeon and her dad is a rocket scientist.
    Each episode of Higglytown Heroes educates kids on a different career.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is a comedy about identical twins living at the Tipton Hotel with their single mother who is a lounge singer at the hotel.

Bewitched had the biggest influence on my future career – Darrin Stevens was in advertising. I’m a professional communicator, but my wife is definitely not a witch like Samantha.

Based on what my older daughter watches, she’ll never leave high school since she’s hooked on High School Musical.

I’m more concerned about my four-year old daughter. She has high expectations, and I hope reality sets in soon. When she grows up, she wants to be the yellow Power Ranger, and serve on the Justice League.

Did the TV you watched as a child impact your future career choice? Does it have an impact on your kids?

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

What do You Want to be When You Grow up?This past weekend, my oldest daughter operated a lemonade stand and started a dog-walking business. She also asked me to take her to the local children’s hospital so she could collect the broken toys, repair them and return them anonymously. That’s pretty ambitious for a nine-year-old.

She wasn’t interested in getting paid – she just wanted a job.

Sunday evening, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. As she’s gotten older, her answers to that question have changed. This time, when I asked her, I wasn’t really surprised with her response. She wants to be a large-animal veterinarian who specializes in horses – during the week. On the weekend, she wants to be a paleontologist. And as a hobby she wants to be an artist (in her free time).

I know that the careers she chose are also linked to her interests. We have three dogs, a cat and two guinea pigs, so we go to the vet frequently. She loves riding horses, so becoming a large-animal vet made sense. My oldest daughter is also in to rock and fossil collecting. She has quite a collection that she keeps in her room next to her dinosaur books. Her love for art comes naturally to her. She’s not the best artist in her third-grade class, but she certainly is the most passionate.

Career awareness begins as early as elementary school. The attributes you develop as a child are carried with you into adulthood. So, if you’re searching for your dream job, exploring what interests you now and what’s interested you in the past can help you find the right career path.

Are you a social butterfly? You might be well-suited for a career as a lawyer, teacher, sales rep, receptionist, concierge or restaurant manager.

Do you love the outdoors? You might have a future in landscape architecture, commercial fishing, archeology or forestry.

Are you a protector? What about a career as a police officer, firefighter, security guard or building inspector?

Do you like art? You could be a clothing designer, graphic artist, architect, cartoonist or floral decorator.

Are you good with your hands? You might excel as a machinist, automotive technician, welder, farmer, chef or pianist.

Do you like to help? Consider a career as a personal trainer, nurse, childcare worker, counselor or social worker.

Are numbers your thing? A love of math could open the door to a career as an accountant, engineer, software designer or astronaut.

Did you know early on what you wanted to be when you grew up? Are you still searching for your dream job? What do your kids aspire to be? I’m interested in hearing.

Leaving on a Good Note

Ever start a job and know immediately that it wasn’t for you? If you read my post on Picking the Job That’s Right for You, you’ll remember the dilemma that my sister-in-law faced when trying to pick between several job offers. She ended up picking a job by following those tips. However, she didn’t plan on one of companies she interviewed with calling her back and offering her more money, better hours and increased benefits (which was the reason she turned it down in the first place). This was the job she originally wanted, and now it was a perfect match.

My sister-in-law decided to take the new job offer. Now, she had to figure out how she was going to tell her employers she wasn’t going to continue to work for them. She had only been there one day. Breaking the last tip on my post – don’t back out, she had to find a professional way of leaving without burning bridges.

Leaving a company, whether after one day or five years, is always difficult. Try following these tips to ensure that your transition out is a good one.

Let your boss know first. When you decide that it’s time to leave a company, talk to your supervisor before you talk to your co-workers. One thing that will surely upset your boss is to find out that you’re leaving the company from someone other than you. Try to schedule a meeting with your boss as soon as you make the decision. After you have informed your boss, then you can tell your colleagues.


Be honest. When talking to your boss, let them know why you are leaving the company. Whether it is for a professional or personal reason, being upfront and honest will give them the opportunity to remedy the situation if possible. It also allows them a chance to know what they might need to correct to retain future employees.

Be polite during your exit interview. If you are leaving the company due to a clash in the corporate culture or negativity among your co-workers, let them know the situation in hopes that they can correct the problem for future employees, but do it tactfully. Inform them of the situation with professionalism and maturity. Your boss is more likely to take your complaints and resignation positively if your demeanor and dialogue are well thought out and without malice.

Give a two-week notice. This is a typical time frame when leaving a job; however, if you work in a position that requires more time for your employer to find a replacement, then notify accordingly. Also, follow up with a short and simple resignation letter. Include your boss’s name, employment dates, departure date and your signature. If relevant, thank your boss for the opportunity, and try to say some positive things about him/her and the company.

Wrap up loose-ends. Try to finish up all your projects before your departure. If possible, type up detailed instructions for the next employee on how to do your job. Offer assistance in training the next employee if possible. By offering help and making the transition from one employee to the next a little easier for your former employer, you will demonstrate and generate respect rather than ill-will.

To keep yourself from having a bad experience on your way out of an old job and into a new one, keep these tips in mind. You never know, your past might collide with your future. And you wouldn’t want a bad exit to hurt your future career plans.

Have you ever had a bad experience when leaving a job? How did you handle your departure?

Find Jobs With Express Employment Professionals

eep_3color_sign_rWith Express, you choose how and when you want to work. Are you looking for a full-time administrative position? Do you need a flexible schedule? Or are you looking for a career in the accounting/financial arena? You can find what you’re looking for at Express.

You can apply in person or by phone with Express Employment Professionals. To find the office closest to you, click here.

Or to register online, click here.