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New Year, New Career: Mastering Five Tough Interview Questions

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- For many Americans, the start of a new year kicks off the search for a new job or career. Whether you're a seasoned professional or recent college graduate, the interview process can be nerve wracking. How can you beat the competition and nail the interview for your dream job in 2015?

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"The keys to calm nerves and a successful interview are preparation and practice," says Ramona Acuna, career services specialist for Ashford University. She offers strategic approaches to master five tricky interview questions:

Tell me about yourself. This seemingly innocent request is generally the first question asked and sets the tone for the duration of the interview. Remember that interviewers don't want to know your whole life story. They are interested in who you are as it relates to the position. For example, a candidate interviewing for a marketing assistant position at a nature conservatory might share that they just graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing and that their passion for the outdoors motivated them to spend summers volunteering for the U.S. Forest Service. All of which led them to apply for that position.

Why should I hire you? The answer is obvious, because you are the best person for the job! Don't be afraid to say so. Provide detailed, enthusiastic examples of your qualifications. Discuss specific skills and experience you bring to the position and qualities you possess that make you the ideal candidate. For example, "You should hire me because I will bring a unique set of skills to your department. I have a strong work ethic and I…" Applying for a sales position? Speak about how you exceeded sales goals for the quarter in your previous position and your excellent communication skills.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? This question can be difficult to answer without sounding like you're vying for a higher position. You want to show drive without seeming so ambitious that you'll outgrow the position in a year. Think about specific skills necessary – what are the objectives and how you can reach them? Discuss how this job will prepare you to take on additional responsibilities within the organization. For example, "In five years, I would like to be in a leadership role with a leading marketing company, hopefully this one, if I am the right fit." Identify what you are doing now to improve your skills. Always relate your efforts back to the position.

What is your greatest weakness? An interviewer wants to know how self-aware you are, and how you are working on overcoming your weakness. For example, "I've had trouble in the past with organization and prioritization. But lately I've been taking steps to correct this issue. I now keep a calendar and every day I begin by making a to-do list." Demonstrate how you've overcome your weakness and turned it into a positive situation.

Tell me what you disliked about your last job? Do not say "nothing." Everyone has something they disliked about their job. Be honest without speaking negatively about your previous employer. Did you learn anything? Discuss something you disliked and the productive steps you took to rectify the situation. For example, "In the middle of the year, my budget was cut by 20 percent. My team and I brainstormed and came up with creative ways to save money and increase revenue. It was a great team building experience."

Once you've prepared for the tough questions, practice your answers out loud in front of a mirror. Then practice with someone who you trust to give honest feedback. While you still may have jitters, preparation and practice will go a long way toward making a great first impression during the interview.

About Ashford University
Where heritage meets innovation – that's Ashford University. At Ashford, students discover relevant degree programs, innovative technology, and cherished tradition. Ashford offers associates, bachelor's, and master's online degree programs, while the Clinton, Iowa campus offers bachelor's programs. Whether on campus or online, Ashford students enjoy the same supportive community. For more information, please visit,,, or call Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.

Contact: Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations
858.668.2580 ·

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SOURCE Ashford University