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How to Answer Skills-Related Questions at Job Interviews

Experienced interviewers often want to know the essence of your skills — how you arrived at your accomplishments from previous jobs. Skills-related job interview questions may include: How would you rate your writing skills in comparison to your verbal skills? How do you delegate responsibility?

Here are some ways to respond to these and other skills-related questions.

What is the toughest job problem you’ve ever faced?

  • Recall a problem, the skills used in your action to deal with it, and the successful results; this is a skills-detailed version of PAR (problem, action, result).

  • Explain how you could apply those same skills to the prospective job.

What do you like least about gathering information to deal with a problem (research)?

  • Comment that wanting to do a first-rate job, you’re uncomfortable when you’re uncertain that you’ve compiled enough research to quit and make a decision that affects the wellbeing of others.

  • Explain that you use multiple resources — Web, books, journals, and expert people — and you become frustrated when key resources aren’t adequate.

How good are you at making oral presentations?

  • Discuss how you prepare. Name presentation skills. Mention specific instances where you’ve given a good show.

  • Offer to give a one-minute oral presentation on a topic you’ve practiced.

How would you rate your writing skills in comparison to your verbal skills?

  • Discuss how both skills — as well as listening — are important to being a good communicator, and that while one or the other may be your strong suit, you’re working to become strongly proficient at both speaking and writing. Explain how you’re doing so — class work, independent study, membership in Toastmasters International or a writing group; show brief writing samples.

  • Concretely explain a real communication situation in your past; describe how you communicated the information and the result.

  • * If you’re a weak communicator, give a compensatory response that substitutes another skill for writing or verbal skills; for example, in a technical call center, problem-solving outweighs the need for golden tonsils and laudable business writing.

How do you deal with unexpected events on the job?

  • Discuss how you immediately reprioritize your assignments in emergencies.

  • Mention specific instances where you were able to complete a project (or projects) on time despite unforeseen complications.

How do you organize your time?

  • Affirm that you put first things first. Each day you identify A-level tasks and get those done before moving on to B-level tasks. You return voicemail messages once or twice daily and urgent messages immediately.

  • Comment that you use up-to-date planning products. These include planning software such as PlanPlusOnline, and PDA (personal digital assistant) hand-held devices, such as a BlackBerry. If you organize yourself on paper, mention a formal business product such as a Franklin Planner. (Pulling out a pocket calendar is like pulling out a slide rule.) Conclude with true examples showing that you completed multiple tasks on time.

  • Discuss how you went through a typical day on one of your previous jobs.

How do you delegate responsibility?

  • Discuss how you involve everyone in the overall picture.

  • Discuss specific projects that were successful because of your team effort.

What’s your experience with group projects (teamwork)?

  • Mention a specific project, including the group goals and your particular responsibilities.

  • Discuss your positive relationship with the project supervisor; compliment coworkers.

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