Try Better. Fail Better “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”

“Your palms are sweaty, knees weak arms are heavy, there’s vomit

on (your) sweater already; moms spaghetti (you’re) nervous but

on the surface (you) look calm and ready to drop bombs but (you)

keep on forgetting what you wrote down the whole crowd (inside

your head) goes so loud, (you) open (your) mouth but the words

won’t come out (your) choking now…everybody’s joking now (or so

it seems)… the clocks run out, times up, over, BLOHW!!”


“You snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity….”

And it’s bringing you screeching back to the nails on a chalk

board feeling of the lobby area you’re sitting in waiting for

Leslie to call you back to your interview. And if you’re an

Eminem fan like myself then you know where my opening lyrics come

from and the true meaning they inspire at the moment when how well

you perform in the next 20 minutes “may be the only opportunity

that (you) get”

But back to the lyrics..”It’s a hard knock life for us” –Jay Z

and it doesn’t matter what part of town you come from. Hell, you

can “live in a big rich town” and still “come from the poorest

part” -50 Cent Bottom line is we are all “tryna make a dollar

outta 15 cents” -2 Pac The problem with that is, where do we

begin because standing on the corner hustling these days just

isn’t going to cut it. Times have changed and while it’s always

been a dog eat dog kind of world those skills and a fresh face

just don’t get you as far anymore. Networking: getting your name

in the right ear, selling yourself; sacrificing everything to

start at the “bottom” just so you can be “here” as Drake so

eloquently flaunts in his song is where it’s at. And we all want

just that…to have arrived at the top, but when your lively hood

relies on knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone (as

we all know Snoop Dogg does) then it all comes down to reinventing

ourselves, our image, our brand (business or no business), our

approach, culture, environment. If you’re not a triple threat you

mostly likely don’t even get an interview time slot and even then

that’s a close call. Filling a quota, we’re passed all that

nonsense, we’ve become expendable and that means that there are

20 other identically ready to go labor slaves waiting to do less

than you or more than you.

That being said I haven’t been in the business of finding a job

in pretty much my whole work career. My first job was at the ripe

old age of 20 and I stayed in that line of work for 8 years. I had

a part time within the last 3 years of that job and it was the

first interview I’d been on in 5 years but I wasn’t really going

to be disgruntled if I hadn’t landed a part time cause I had such

a great thing going for me at my full time. In all honesty I need

the extra cash for odds and ends…no biggie.

Right after I left my long standing job I went on to another full

time position with a girl I knew from childhood. Needless to say

that didn’t last very long and I had given up my part time and

was really struggling. Then into my lap fell a position that was

recommended by my Chiropractor that I had applied for months

prior. It was a well paying job and I was back on my feet. Of

course with me, hard times are never too far behind and so I

picked up seasonal work by which I got an in from a friend of mine

and am currently there now. But then I got laid off the dream job

and the part time at the same time and was on unemployment for a

little more than 6 months. Thankfully I had a great rapport with

my part time and they gladly called me back when hours picked back

up and they were able to afford me.

Currently, unemployment has stopped months ago and I am currently

working a part-time job that while pays well, wasn’t giving me

sufficient steady hours. Every day I go to check the schedule is a

struggle because I silently pray that this week I will have enough

to cover my life. I haven’t been so lucky in the job hunt these

days and even those that I know who have extended an olive branch

or looked out for me by putting in a referral hasn’t helped. Of

course I am grateful for their loyalties as a friend but I thought

at least that would get me somewhere.

That being said after countless hours of filling out 3 hour long

applications (I feel like they want you to get so discouraged

filling out the application that you give up trying to apply) and

crying and feeling depressed and unworthy or void of talent and

skill, after 21 years of work experience I pulled myself together

and started to approach the way I am going about walking into an

interview. More precisely how my mind walks into an interview.

The last interview I went on I studied the night before, yes

studied. I had the mind set of going in having the upper hand.

These managers and bosses and such have had the same journey that

I have had in my career as a worker. Yes they now have the

position to vote but I am also in the position to vote…and I vote

for me!! That being said following is a compilation of real meat

and potato questions that I feel stand out in an interview and

mock answers either from me or sources that have helped me to

tailor my responses. I have listed websites for future viewing and

exploring. We are creatures of habit and this is not healthy in

creating a wealth that diminishes our circumstances. We need to

constantly be educating ourselves on the current politics…one has

not learned a different approach to problem solving by reading the

same old news.

So here’s the cold hard truth on the question answer portion of what seems to be a pop quiz….and of course a couple cheat sheet notes to assist you along the way. Although I’m sure you’ve got this coverd.

Tell me about yourself?

“Well, I currently hold the generalist sales associate position at Victoria Secret, where I am

trained in several areas of the store but primarily cashier. Before that, I worked at for a

chiropractic office where I was responsible for a large amount of patient care. And while I

really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to get back to my roots within retail,

which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Journeys.”

What are your strengths? (Focus on Experience, Talents, Soft Skills, Education/Training)

 8+ years retail experience

 2 years management experience

 Relationship Building

 Work Ethic (getting the job done no matter what-deadline driven and responsible)

Other questions that might take the place of “what are your strengths”

Why should we hire you?

Why are you the best person for the job?

What makes you a good fit?

Or this can be described as a question asking you to describe a time when……focus here on

your strengths! And if they do not I am reading that you should add it in yourself after you have

asked the employer some of your own questions. Summarize your strengths and reiterate your

interest in the position!

What are your weaknesses?

Self-Critic — Strength: Meticulous/Careful

(Confession)”I feel that my greatest weakness is that I am very critical of my own work. I have

always prided myself on producing excellent and error-free work. While this is beneficial to my job

performance, it is possible to go to extremes.

(Recovery)”I have also found that I can easily waste time checking and rechecking. Now I am aware

of what to look for in being such a stickler, so I am always making a conscious effort to trust myself

and my quality and to focus more on not being so incredibly critical of my work.

People Pleaser — Strength: Easy to Work With

(Confession)”It’s important to me that everyone gets along in the workplace. In the past I have

always gone the extra mile to help out whenever it is necessary in trying not to disappoint or let

(Recovery)”I’m not saying I no longer help others out. However, I’ve learned to be more assertive, to

better recognize and prioritize projects, to know whether I can bail others out without jeopardizing my own projects”

Ohhh, I freaking love this portion of my research because I always get caught

up in my weaknesses and this just completely opened up my whole perspective on

not only answering this question but on life, #mindblown. This is definitely a

great journey because I am always better at putting myself down and flaunting

my weakness as opposed to my strengths and now I can boast about my weaknesses

in a positive light and in turn learn to feel confident in my strengths as

What do you know about the company?

 Journeys is a leader in the teen specialty retail scene, with more than 800 stores in all 50

states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

 Journeys uses fashion savvy and merchandising science to keep in step with the fast-paced

footwear and accessories market for 13- to 22-year-old guys and girls.

 Journeys offers a wide variety of trendy, relevant brands that cater to teens that seek the

hottest, new styles.

 Journeys store is more than a retail environment — it’s an extension of the teen lifestyle.

From the plasma TVs playing exclusive content and the latest music videos, to the visual

merchandising strategy and promotions, to the employees whose image and style reflect the

customers’ lifestyle and attitude.

 Journeys reaches its customers through, a mobile website, catalog,

national advertising, strategic cross-promotions, social media and grass-roots events like

The Noise Tour.

 Journeys is, in every way, an attitude you can wear!

 Founded in 1986

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

It is helpful to understand that the interviewer is looking for five primary things in your answer:

Do you have a solid grasp of the position and what it entails? 

 Do you have the right attitude? 

 Are you going to be dependable? 

 Are you a good cultural and social fit for the organization? 

 How are you going to use your strengths to achieve success in this job?

 How is your ability to work under pressure?

Or…..Can you tell me about a time when you were under significant pressure and how you handled

that? Do you thrive under pressure? How do you cope with the numerous conflicting demands on

your time? What causes you stress at work and why?

Pressure vs. Stress:

Being under pressure is a matter of having significant demands made of you – being challenged to

achieve something which is either difficult to achieve in and of itself or difficult to achieve within the

timeframe that has been set. Pressure is largely a positive force and a motivating factor for many


Stress, on the other hand, is not so positive. Stress occurs when the pressure you are under

exceeds your ability to effectively meet the demands being made of you. Stress is essentially what

an individual experiences when exposed to excessive pressure – and long-term stress can cause all

sorts of problems.

From prior experience, working for one of the top Starbucks locations in the city there was

naturally quite a high level of pressure. I’ve had to deal with numerous conflicting demands

on my time – and often very limited resources. With careful planning and organization you

could normally reduce the pressure you are under – but there will always be factors at play

which are outside of your control. I use it to help channel my energies into accomplishing as

much as possible. Naturally, there are sometimes occasions when the pressure I’m put

under is excessive and this can be stressful. However, I’m sufficiently experienced to

appreciate that there is only so much you can reasonably be expected to be capable of and

the solution is not to panic but to remain focused on delivering your very best. As well as to

ask for assistance when needed.

Are you a team player?

 Teamwork is essential in almost any work environment. Questioning your ability to work in a

team is therefore one of an interviewer’s favorites. They’ll be looking for evidence of a

number of core abilities:

 The ability to communicate effectively with others

 The ability to recognize and understand the viewpoints of others

 The ability to appreciate the contribution you are expected to make

I certainly very much enjoy working with others; I’m outgoing, I enjoy the team spirit and I’m

understanding of the needs of others. I’m good at helping the team to see the bigger picture – to see

the wood from the trees – helping them to focus on what really matters rather than getting bogged

down in irrelevant detail. I’m also good at helping the team to spot flaws in our approach – and

potential problems and pitfalls. I believe I have strong communication skills and have a talent for

liaising between different team members and resolving any disputes which may arise. Conflict

between different team members is rarely very productive and is normally best avoided.

How do you handle criticism?

Interviewers love real-life examples because they show that your answer is based on the person you

are, rather than a person you have created in order to blitz the interview. Make sure the example

illustrates the answers above – that you have viewed the criticism objectively, have taken ownership

of the problem and have used it to improve your work. If you are in a leadership position, you will

need to show that you are responsive to criticism by calling a meeting to discuss feedback and work

The dos and don’ts of hearing what you don’t want to hear:

 Do listen objectively

 Do ask for specifics

 Do get a second opinion and do your own research

 Do take ownership and responsibility

 Do take feedback into consideration

 Do learn from it

 Don’t ignore the criticism

 Don’t get defensive, angry or rude

 Don’t make excuses

 Don’t dwell on the error

Why do you want to leave your current job?

Avoid saying something negative about an ex-employer or ex-employee. Resist the temptation and

keep the answer upbeat concentrating on the advantages of what the new job would offer. You could

mention the increased salary, but do not dwell on it, emphasize the other benefits first.

“I enjoy my previous job and as I have demonstrated, I make a solid contribution which is

appreciated. However I am looking for more experience, a greater challenge, increased

responsibility, and a more dynamic organization that this role offers.”

Make sure you have a list of reasons for joining this company.

You need to reply using one or a combination of the following five replies:

Challenge. You need a new career challenge.

Traveling. The commute to work was taking too long or I was constantly being asked to travel with

Career. I had reached the likely top and there was no room for advancement until someone else

Money. You feel you were not being paid what you were worth.

Security. The organization was unstable and my role may have been at risk.

Followed by the question:

What are your thoughts about the last company you worked for?

This is a truly open ended question and an opportunity to talk positively. However, you need to keep

your answer at a high level. One response to this question could be:

“I have learned many things as you can imagine, such as ownership thinking and responsibility and

integrity. But one point always rings true. Everyone needs to be treated with respect, their opinion

should be valued, and they should be encouraged to contribute to the good of the organization.”

“I believe I am better suited to work in an organization that has a strong commitment to

mentoring and developing their employees, where there is a strong sense of loyalty on both

sides and a culture that fosters career development and growth. I realize that there are some

companies that are in highly intense growth mode, or have over-arching financial or business

pressures and problems that can’t possibly foster this type of culture. While this is all well and

good for some, I don’t want to work for the latter. It just does not feel like a good fit for me.”

And…..What did you not like about your last employer?

Okay, so the interviewer has asked you to say something negative about your ex-employer. You

need to turn this around so that it makes it sound like the negative is in fact a positive!

Remember, you will not get any credit for complaining or describing a negative situation without

adding a positive ending. Here are some examples of what you should say if you are faced with this

Start with, “Actually there are a lot of good things to say about my ex-employer, however, if I need to

“I used to get a bit annoyed when I noticed inefficiencies in the processing workflows and controls. A

number of times I made suggestions as to improvements that could be made which would have

saved money, but the ideas were effectively ignored.”

“I always tried my utmost to make sure that all customers were treated fairly and honestly, but I

noticed a malaise creeping in which meant that some staff didn’t always try their best to meet the

exacting standards required. I feel this reflected badly on everyone.”

How long would it take for you to start making a real contribution to the organization?

There is no point in blurting out an answer here because the contribution could be anywhere and

you could go off in the wrong direction. Instead, bat the question back to yourself to get a more

precise idea and allow yourself some time to think.

“In what particular area of my responsibilities did you have in mind?”

“Of course there will be a short learning curve while I get up to speed, but in the past I have prided

myself on being a quick learner who can make an effective contribution in a short space of time. I

see this opportunity as no different although I accept it will be a challenge.”

Prepare an example of how you had a similar situation where you had to learn a new skill quickly.

What have you learned from your mistakes on the job?

Here some common career mistakes:

 Accepting a job without conducting due diligence.

 Not saving at least 3-6 months of living expenses in case of an unexpected change in

 Not asking enough clarifying questions (assuming rather than communicating).

 Not investing time in your own career growth, taking care of everything else except your career.

 Using the “hoping and wishing” strategy that someone will give you another job.

 Not having a clear goal where you can visualize your next career move.

 Resting on past successes rather than continuously learning new skills.

Mistakes will inevitably happen at some point in your career, the key is learning from them instead of

repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Career mishaps will make you stronger by

acknowledging areas of growth and trusting your instincts.

What would your job references/co-workers say about you?

Try to make sure that any job references have been sought and written before you go to the job

interview. This is not always possible, but it would allow you to repeat their positive comments.

Where you do have job references, you can say you have references and that they are very

complimentary around a number of aspects of your work.

It is not a problem if you don’t have references, however, this question implies that you would

probably have to imagine what they would say.

Effectively, the interviewer is therefore asking you to list your strengths. Take the time to list your job

strengths and behavioral qualities. Start the sentence in the third party with…”My references would

Any time you are able to reply in the third party, it sounds like someone else is endorsing your

candidacy which in effect references do. Everyone will say they will receive good references, but if

you say this using a third party endorsement, then you add greater credibility to your statement.

What are your expectations of the Company?

There are lots of different things which could motivate you. You’ve got to be careful to pick factors:

 Which will reflect positively on you as an individual

 Which are not inconsistent with the job for which you are applying

 Which are equally of benefit to your prospective employer

 Which will not impose any kind of a burden on the employer

I’m very results-driven. Doing a good job and achieving the desired end result is my primary

motivation. While I enjoy working on a project on my own, I’m particularly motivated by the buzz of

working in a team. It’s very rewarding working closely with others who share the same common goal.

I like to take on a challenge; I like to rise to that challenge as part of a concerted team effort – and I

naturally appreciate it when my boss compliments me for a job well done.

How would you describe yourself as a manager? What is your management style?

How do you manage people?

The interviewer wants to know what your perception of leadership is and how you go about the day-

to-day responsibility of management.

There are two main aspects to a management role: Getting the job done AND Handling the people

who will help you to get the job done

Your answer needs to cover both these bases.

I’m a very hands-on manager. While I am clearly in charge of my team, we are nonetheless a team –

and I am very much a member of that team. When the circumstances require it, I will assert my

authority and lead my staff in the direction I have determined we should go. However, I’m always

open to input, ideas and suggestions and consider myself to be very approachable in that respect. I

realize the importance of motivating my staff to deliver their best and I’m tactful and diplomatic when

dealing with potential problems; I believe a lot more can be achieved through communication than

through conflict. I am nevertheless very results-driven and expect every member of my team to pull

their weight and help us to achieve our common goals.

What qualities do you look for in a boss/employer?

I’d most like to work for someone who has the same approach as I do to getting things done –

planning, organization and action. Also, I’m always keen to take on new duties and responsibilities

so I’d welcome a manager who was prepared to give me the chance to continue my professional

development. Besides this, a good manager is of course always approachable, supportive and

sensitive to the needs of their team; while I’m good at working on my own initiative, every team

needs a leader to give it direction.

 A degree of latitude to get on with my job

 Assistance with any unusual or difficult situations to lend me the benefit of her experience.

 Close supervision of her team to steer us in the right direction and helping us to achieve the

 A level of appreciation for the work that I do to help motivate me to strive to achieve my very

results that are expected of us.

My ideal employer would be a large yet growing company with a strong reputation within its sector, a

company which offers plenty of scope for progression within the hierarchy. While my preference is

for a larger organization, I want to work for a company which nevertheless has a dynamic and

progressive approach. Your organization certainly more than meets those requirements.

How quickly can you adapt to a new work environment? How long does it generally take you to settle

into a new environment? How long do you feel it will take you to make an impact in your new job?

“I believe I’m very good at adapting to changes in my circumstances. While every organization is

different and no two jobs I’ve had have ever been the same, the core requirements of my role don’t

change. I appreciate that there will inevitably be new procedures that I need to absorb and adhere to

– and it also takes time to forge positive working relationships with new colleagues. However, I don’t

anticipate it taking very long at all before I’m fully up to speed and making a major contribution.

When I took up my current role, I’d been with my previous employers for more than five years. It was

clearly a major change for me. I nevertheless settled in very quickly, got to know my colleagues and

to understand the way the organization worked – and I already felt quite at home before the end of

What is your work Philosophy?

The 12 best work philosophies that one can think of are:

 Teamwork: The love to work with others. The advantage of working in a team – Two heads are

better than one. ‘Teamwork Makes a Dream works’ – The benefit of accessing more ideas, working

in harmony and helping each other for achieving mutual goals.

 Helping/Serving: The Power in Serving Others. Helping people or serving customers to get back

 Motivation: Commitment, dedication and loyalty towards work – Commitment will bring in dedication,

hard work and best results.

 Resourceful: The creative use of resources. Being resourceful – Making the best use of own

resource and external resources to get the results you want.

 Balancing: The “Work hard – Play hard” approach is a new philosophy towards work. Better Work-

Life balance or a good life/work management skills brings success. Means – Balancing your day

work with interesting fulfilling personal life, for example – Pleasure after work, sport, hobbies, playing

with your kids, rich family life and special interests. I suggest seeing this video – How to make work-

life balance work. Don’t miss it – It is one of the greatest I have seen lately.

 Unique: The ‘Making a difference at work’ approach – Adding value and uniqueness to the job.

Being a talent. It is not the CEO that makes the difference but the company talents.

 100% Effort: The “do your best” philosophy – Contribute your best skills, experience and effort for

the optimal productivity. Two good quotes: “Much good work is lost for the lack of a little more” and

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”.

 Focused: Focus of Being Focused to find success – being determined. Get the work/job done on

time and no matter the circumstances.

 Leadership: Taking responsibilities – Leading by example.

 Creativity: Initiation, creative planning, active listening and critical thinking approach. Intuition and

imagination brings creativity and the ability to explore new thinking – If you don’t exercise creative

ways you get to nowhere sooner or later.

 Learn from mistakes: “Learn from mistake and accepting them to improve next time” philosophy. An

error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.

 Visionary: An inspired person (a dreamer) who tries to follow a vision as much as s/he can. Which

means they might change careers suddenly, begin learning new skills or start their own business,

and generally prefer less lucrative jobs, if that’s where their dream takes them.

Your career philosophy – Who You Are and what is your Career Path

 How you plan your career and how you choose a job is part of your job & career philosophy.

Whatever category you belong to, it is important to be detail-oriented and thorough when

researching and choosing a job. Mention this as part of your work philosophy and you will come

across not just as a man who knows what he wants, but as an employee who knows what he is

Things to learn include the goals and means of the company, its market niche, risk, demand,

competition, and even how content the current employees are, etc.

You have the job. Now it’s a question of how you react and adapt. To make a positive impression on

the interviewer, your work philosophy should include reasonable willingness to adapt and fit into the

If any problems arise, an employee with an effective work philosophy tries to analyze them actively

and deals with it. This healthy philosophy towards work requires direct and effective communication

with others, including even asking people for advice on how you could do your job in the best

possible way given the situation.

Make these elements part of your work philosophy and you will increase your chances of success.

Are you willing to put the organizations interests ahead of your own?

Interviewers often ask candidates about willingness to consider the interests of the company ahead

of personal agendas. Respond with a simple answer, taking time to consider that unlikely scenarios

where the employer would force workers to violate personal principles most often does not occur.

Long-winded and indecisive answers disrupt the flow of the interview and makes respondents seem

unsure about each response. The questioner typically just wants assurance of dedication to hard

work. Loyalty-based questions warrant a quick and definitive answer in the affirmative, in most

What to Do If You Feel Uncomfortable

If the idea of commitment to putting company interests first causes discomfort, some aspirants ask

for specific examples of when the question would become applicable. Employees needing to work

more hours than expected represents a common situation when the interests of the organization

may need to come first. Tight deadlines may arise and force workers to spend extra time at the job.

The company wants to know if the respondent would commit to making sure the business meets

goals, even periodically at the expense of some personal time.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Always answer yes but follow with a brief explanation. You must convey exactly why you consider

yourself to be successful: an example would be because you are goal-oriented–you have reached

certain goals while still pursuing others.

Yes. Because I have proven successful in all that I have ventured. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had

my fair share of struggles or mistakes, but in the end, I retain the skills and life experiences to

overcome distractions and accomplish goals. I know if given the chance, I will prove successful in all

the responsibilities entitled to this position.

Yes, I consider myself successful. I have a proven track record of success throughout my education

and career path. I am a task-oriented person. I had different careers and whatever the task is I make

sure to get the job done successfully. I have the passion for excellence. I am passionately committed

to producing high quality results.

Yes this is a lot of information to browse through but I made it

as condensed as possible and most of it is just highlights of

looking at these questions in a different light and not getting so

overwhelmed and side tracked by what is in front of you to grasp

if we just cut the jargon. Nobody knows you better than you. Or at

least one can hope that this is the case.

I used to get crazy scared of the term “sell yourself” and I

used to think that I didn’t have to say anything because my work

spoke for itself…and it does. Of course that is me tooting my own

horn, but for those who have never had the pleasure of seeing my

work in progress, me taking initiative and action, declaring a

stand in my position…well they need something a little more

concrete. And while I am working on it right along with you

because I have not succeeded in invisibly selling myself just yet,

I plan to master it.

I want my approach in an interview to come off as if these people

are wondering why I am fighting for a spot I clearly already have.

It brings new meaning to me when I hear people tell me “you got

this” or “claim it” because that is exactly what needs to be

done. Own it…own everything you do from the minute you wake up to

the minute you walk into that office door because who knows what

opportunities we’ve all missed second guessing our true


We must also keep in mind, like I said earlier, those who

interview were once you…if not in this company then in some other

company at the very bottom of their resume. For all we know they

may be just as nervous or clueless…tomorrow isn’t promised, so

if you have nothing else sitting there in that lobby, stomach

growling, sweat threatening to drip down your face and expose you;

have confidence in what you can bring to the table because for all

you or they know that person may be interviewing you for his/her

position without even knowing it! Be the change you want to see in

your world…once you’ve got it down pat the rest of the world can



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