Describe a situation where you personally or professionally failed.

Watch out for this trap. Be ready for this question and answer it with a "safe" story. Something like not making a high school or college basketball team, getting a B in a very difficult class when you felt like you performed on an

A level, not getting a promotion that you felt you deserved will all be good answers only if you explain how you learned from the experience. Again, stay away from divorces, personal bankruptcies, etc. Although you might think that these kinds of personal "failures" were the best lessons that you experienced, you never know how an interviewing or hiring authority is going to respond.

If you describe a professional failure, make sure you don't blame other people. Take responsibility in the right way. "We misjudged the market" or "We didn't see the recession coming" will work. Never blame others for your mistakes, even if they were part of it. You don't want to be perceived as a blamer.

How do you rank yourself personally and professionally among your peers?

You neither want to be too boastful nor to humble in answering this question. If you have concrete examples, like superior sales performance or accolades that been bestowed upon you by your company or your supervisors, you would mention them. If nothing concrete is available like this, then an answer something like, "I've been fortunate to work with a very successful, hard-driving organization where the performance 'bar' is set pretty high. It is a great challenge to work with such a high-caliber group. Sometimes I outperform most everyone, and sometimes I am outperformed. The neat thing is that regardless of my 'rank,' I am impressed to perform my best every time. Whether I come in first, second, or third isn't as important as the fact that I grow personally every day."

Do you have personal and professional goals?

Answer: "I have spiritual, personal, and professional goals. I write them at the beginning of every year, review them daily, and assess them quarterly. I believe everyone has to have goals."

Who is your greatest personal mentor?

One has to be careful here. You need to be careful. Saying something like, "Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior," might be the truth, but it is really risky to say. Many employers get concerned that an answer like this would only come from someone that is going to try to "sell" religious values to other people. You might be better off to answer this with a very "safe" answer like, "My mother, my father, my older brother or sister," and then give a short story about how this person has been your mentor.

What is the biggest personal mistake you have ever made?

This is a loaded question. If you say something like, "I married the wrong person, and it turned out to be a disaster," you run a real risk. It is simply too emotionally charged, and you never know how the hiring or interviewing authority is going to interpret the answer. So, it is best to play it safe and come up with maybe a personal investment that went badly, maybe not finishing a degree, or taking a job that turned out to be a poor decision by not doing enough due diligence. Make sure that no matter what you say, you make it clear that you learned a lot from the mistake. Tell a story with a beneficial lesson.

How did you get your last job?

The answer to this should be fairly simple. If it appears on your resume, though, that you have always worked for family or followed the same supervisor from place to place, you might want to make it clear that you competed for your last job, there were a number of people running for the position, and you got it. Tell a story of how you got it.

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