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From your wardrobe to your resume, you want everything to be flawless when you go to interview for your dream job. Boost your chances of nailing the job interview by answering 3 of the most important interview questions without using canned responses.

Tell me about yourself.

Avoid regurgitating your resume. Take it a step further and explain who you are, what you do and what you have to offer. If it’s a marketing opportunity, the company may be struggling to define its target audience and generate revenue. The key is not to get personal. How many kids you have and what you like doing on the weekends, probably won’t help you get the job. Your goal is to show how you solve the employer’s business problems. Focus on what makes you unique and far better than anyone else in consideration. Without being overly rehearsed and robotic, give a brief, attention-grabbing statement about yourself to make the interviewer want to hear you out. Tell him/her about the top strengths you’ll be able to showcase in your new position. Express how you can put these strengths to work for this employer. Once you get clear about your career goals and value, you’ll gain the confidence to speak with intention and purpose to land a job you love.

What’s your desired salary?

If you’ve made it to the interview process, chances are you’ve already been vetted based on your response to an online application question about salary. If you’re still in the application phase, you have a few options. You can give an exact amount, a range or leave it blank. Each choice comes with a risk. Go too low, and you’re potentially setting yourself up to be low-balled at the offer stage. Go too high and risk being ruled out of consideration. Refuse to list a number and your application is deemed incomplete. If at all possible, give a range. This sets the stage for negotiation later in the process. The salary question is tricky if you don’t know your worth. Your worth depends on several factors. You must first understand what you bring to the table. Do some research about your industry using online salary surveys like those on salary.com or the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. You’ll get a better idea of the going rate for someone with your education, skills and credentials. If you’re uncomfortable giving a number or range, instead try asking the company to reveal the range they have in mind. You can make it clear that you’re willing to negotiate within that range once an offer is extended. Most employers enter the process expecting to negotiate. Don’t be intimidated and think an employer will snatch an offer because you asked for more. No matter what, confidence and knowledge are your best assets in a salary offer.

Do you have any questions?

Never reply “No.” when asked if you have questions. This is by far the most important interview question of all. You get to flip the script and interview your interviewer. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions from your predetermined list, but accepting a job offer is a life-changing decision—and you’d better dig a little deeper. Most candidates are going to go for the run-of-the-mill questions about benefits, work hours, etc. Other details to inquire about would be performance goals, leadership style and stability within the department. You already know what went wrong to put you back on the job market and finding out if these same issues exist with the potential company is crucial.

Pay close attention to the scope and description of the job during the interview. Take a few notes so you can inquire later. If the interviewer mentions software or an acronym you’re not familiar with, request more information. Not only does this show you’re engaged and paying attention, but it also helps you determine if you’re cut out for the opportunity. From your research, you’ve probably already skimmed through the company website content about why it’s the employer of choice. To get the real scoop, ask the interviewer (or another team member) why she likes her job. Carefully observe her body language to gauge honesty and sincerity. If she stumbles and mumbles her way through the response, it may be your cue to run. Find out how long your soon-to-be coworkers have been in their roles. Even throw in a question about employee turnover at the company. Be concerned if the role has been open multiple times within a short period or if there are tons of positions open—especially at a small company.

Standing out in a sea of job seekers can leave the most qualified candidates frustrated and lost. When you fully understand the value you bring to the workplace, your interview responses will make you irresistible and have employers lined up to hire you.

Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Résumé Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, provides high-quality résumé writing, interview preparation, and career coaching services to help job seekers get more interviews and salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via www.WriteStepResumes.com.

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