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Home » Career Resource Articles » Clarification Interviews

Clarification Interviews

Expert Suggestions on Preparation for Computer Based CAT-09

Clarification Interviews

The types of questions you are most likely to encounter in this style of interviewing include:

"Tell me about yourself."
The perfect opening for your two-minute presentation! Describe your educational and work background, identify your key strengths and provide a couple of illustrations, and state your intended career direction. Usually, this is the first question asked. If it isn't, you can usually defer answering a different question by saying "It may help if I start by providing a bit of background" and following with your presentation. Then you can return to the interviewer's question.

"Why would you like to work here?"
Explain what you have learned about the company, highlighting what you find appealing or admirable. Try to be specific-broad generalities sound trite.

Good answer: "I've researched the leading companies in this industry, and yours seems to be the one that does the best job in terms of customer relations, encouraging risk taking, and setting tough goals while giving people an idea of how they're doing. That appeals to me." (Shows that you've done some research and are basing your decision on specific criteria.)

Bad answer: "I've heard it's a good company, and I have friends here." (You don't appear to have done any serious research, and the interviewer may wonder if you're more interested in socializing than in working.)

"What are your career goals?"
Focus on the idea that you want to grow professionally, but realize that there may be a variety of opportunities in the company as time goes on. Avoid naming titles-you may shoot too high or too low.

Good answer: "I've learned from the experiences I described earlier that I enjoy leadership, communication, and negotiation. I'm interested in learning to manage projects, people, and business situations. My goals are to work for a manager I can learn from, to develop on-the-job experience, and to achieve or surpass the goals that are set." (Ties together the past and future and shows business awareness and achievement orientation.)

Bad answer: "I haven't set any specific goals, but I know I want to work here." (If you don't have any goals, how do you know you want to work here? Are you focused on learning, or have you already completed all the learning you intend to do?)

"Who is your hero?"
Pick someone-don't answer that you don't have a hero or heroine, because the question is about the traits you value. (If you don't want the job, you might say that no one lives up to your standards.) This should be someone you genuinely admire, and you should make sure to name the traits that give rise to your admiration. Also consider whether the values these traits represent will seem positive to the company. If you say, for example, "I've always admired my Uncle Al because he did whatever it took to pile up a fortune," you'll come off as greedy and selfish.

Good answers: "I've always admired a guy I went to high school with named Joe Curates. He was a paraplegic, injured in an accident when he was 12. He could have been bitter, but he decided that wasn't the kind of life he wanted. He became a fine chess player and trumpet player and was very popular. He taught me the value of managing your attitude and using what resources are available to you."

"The person who taught me the most was my graduate school mentor. By working with her, I learned how to research and debate scientific questions, work collaboratively, and share the credit. I admire her for her tactfulness, her trusting management style, and her generous recognition of good work."

"Why should I hire you?"
Be prepared to cite the key strengths that you see as necessary to do the job, relating them to your own demonstrated skills, as illustrated in stories you've already told. Then try to name one desirable extra that you provide, such as your enthusiasm, your ability to work long hours when necessary, or your love of learning.

"What are some of your values?"
You can answer this as you would the hero question, if that question hasn't already been asked. Or just name some things you genuinely admire or desire. Examples: a collegial environment, good teamwork, honesty, fairness, willingness to help, trust.

"Do you set goals for yourself?"
Do not say no. Name a situation where you did and tell what you did to be sure you met them.

Good answer: "I knew I had to earn at least $4,000 during the summer to pay for my final year at college. My work as an interior decorator's assistant was contingent on her having extra work for me to help with-primarily ordering, sending and paying bills, and other clerical work. By the end of June I had only earned about $1,000. So I got busy and put together a brochure for her that she was able to use at her booth during the begonia festival. So much business came in that soon she was sending me out to make sketches and sign up new customers, for which I was paid a bonus. I surpassed my goal on August 10, and earned an extra $1,400."

"What characteristics would you look for in a good manager?"
Select the elements that are most important to you from the range of traits considered desirable in a manager: honesty, providing clear goals, encouraging resourcefulness, challenging employees, respect, giving feedback, offering recognition, inspiring, caring, being available. Don't give the whole list, or you'll seem impossible to satisfy.

"What are your limitations on travel?"
If you have limitations, think about these beforehand and come up with ways to work around them as far as possible. And before you jump into telling the interviewer all your limitations (no flying, no trips of more than two days, claustrophobia, vegetarian meals only, and so on), find out what the person has in mind in the way of travel. If you can handle the requirements, say so with enthusiasm.

"Tell me about your greatest challenge and how you dealt with it."
The is the perfect entre for telling another of the accomplishment stories you developed when you were preparing your two-minute presentation.

"Do you have any more questions?"
Never say no! Keep several good questions in reserve for just this request (more than one, because over the course of the interview the manager may address one or more of them).

Some good questions:

  • "Can you give me an example or two of teamwork in action here?"
  • "How can I learn what I need to know about the organization's strategic plan?"
  • "Assuming you hire me, how would you like me to spend my first month here?"
  • "Have I said anything that causes you concern about my fitting in here?"


And to cap it off, make a final presentation of what you feel you have to offer, then inquire about how the decision-making process is expected to proceed. A good closing statement will reiterate the strengths you have that would be most valuable on the job; your enthusiasm for the work; and your desire to become a member of the team. It should go something like this:

"From our discussion, it appears that I could be an excellent sales representative for you. I understand the technology of your product and your competitors' products; I'm good at helping customers find solutions to their systems problems; and people seem to like doing business with me. For my part, I've been impressed with what you've had to say about the organization and your management style. I'd very much like to become a contributing member of your group."

This statement is another thing you should prepare beforehand.

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