Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

So you've seized an opportunity: you spotted a job you want, and you've taken the initiative. You wrote a killer cover letter, brushed up your resume and captured the attention of a potential employer. Congratulations, you proactive person, you!

Now comes the real test: the interview. In some respects, the interview process is a mutual feeling-out process. It's an opportunity for both the candidate and the interviewer to decide if the job is a good fit. But it's also a chance to showcase your real, on-the-job assets from your communication and research skills to your ability to think on your feet.

"The interview is an elimination process," Dr. Thomas J. Denham, a career counselor at Careers in Transition LLC, tells Monster.com. "The employer is trying to weed out those who are not the most worthy of the position."

In a way, the interview is an oral test—if you ace it, you will set yourself apart from the other candidates, but if you don't do your homework, you could find your resume in the rejection pile. Of course, there's no bulletproof way to know precisely which questions a potential employer will throw at you in the interview, but there are some ubiquitous (and tricky) ones you should prepare for. Arming yourself with some sharp answers ahead of time will give you the confidence to conquer any other questions that come your way. To help, we rounded up five eternal interview questions, along with expert advice on how to answer them. Study up, then go forth and land that job.

Tell me about yourself

This may seem like a softball question, but its vagueness can trip you up. Where do you start? What do they want to know beyond your resume? How do you sum up your experience without rambling on and on? Okay, deep breath.

Career coach Hallie Crawford suggests this question is merely an opportunity for potential employers to get to know a little more about you beyond your CV. "Keep in mind that they may have looked you up online and have your cover letter, so do your best not to just repeat something they have already read about you," she tells Fast Company. "Instead, is there a background story about how you got into your industry? Can you explain your unique selling proposition—why you are unique in your industry? Or, you could explain your top three values and why they are important to you."

It's important to anticipate the kind of information your interviewer is looking for, specifically, how your past experience and current interests relate to the position he or she is looking to fill.

"Think about the context from which the interviewer is asking the question, which is to say, you should tailor your answer to the particular role you want," AJ Aronstein, associate dean at Barnard College's Beyond Barnard tells Refinery29. "Tell them what you've done up to this point that makes you a good fit for the position and that should take no more than about 45 seconds to a minute." Short, sweet and to the point, got it?

Why Should We Hire You?

To prep for this question, you need to go back to the original job posting and reread the list of requirements. Find which ones reflect your skill set and prepare to elaborate with concrete examples from your past experiences.

The experts at job hub Indeed.com suggest throwing out some numbers whenever possible to support your case. "For example, if you're applying for a job as an accountant at a company that is looking for someone to streamline processes, you might explain that at your previous company, you implemented a new process for expense accounts that reduced time-to-reimbursement by 25%."

Once you've quantified your abilities, finish off by qualifying them. Is there a personal or professional asset you can bring to this role that others might not? Maybe it's your travels abroad, your volunteer experience, or your managerial success in your last job. Whatever it is, find something in your past that speaks to the job's primary requirements, and use it to suggest you're more than a qualified candidate, but a person who can bring added value to the company.

If you're stuck on what career aspect to highlight, job coach Thomas J. Denham suggests picking three to five notable successes listed on your resume and using them as bullet points in your response. "The notion is that past performance is always the best predictor of future performance," Denham tells Monster.com.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

Oh, the trickiest of trick questions. If you're too honest, you'll incriminate yourself. If you're inauthentic, you'll lose your audience. It's all about finding that sweet spot between vulnerability and strength. Nobody's perfect, we all make mistakes and interviewers know that. What they really want to see is your ability to assess your own performance, and turn potential weaknesses into strengths on the job.

In her book, 301 Answers to Tough Interview Questions, author Vicky Oliver provides one example of how to respond.

"I am extremely impatient. I expect my employees to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they fail, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing everything myself. To compensate for my own weakness, however, I have started to really prep my people on exactly what will be expected of them."

If you're still at a loss for what to say, Indeed.com has created a formula for answering this question that turns any stated negative into a positive. "First, state your weakness. Second, add additional context and a specific example or story of how this trait has emerged in your professional life. That context will give potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth."

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Maybe you had a bad experience at your last job, maybe you were laid off, or maybe you're still stuck in the worst job ever. Whatever the reason, you can be honest without being negative. "Remember that you want to avoid bashing your current or past employer and the company," Crawford tells Fast Company. "This question is designed to find out why you are looking for a new job. Instead of focusing on them, focus on you. Are you looking for more career growth than what is offered where you currently work? Or a more challenging position?"

Focus on the positive aspects of your last job, or how your role or the company inspired you to pursue greater opportunities like this one. (Flattery will get you everywhere.)

What are your salary requirements?

This question is a doozy. On the one hand, it's a sign the interview is going well—you're being taken seriously as a candidate and your interviewer is ready to talk rates. On the other hand, the stakes just got higher. If you haven't done your salary research, you could low-ball yourself or price yourself out of a position you really want. Moreover, you don't even know what range they're offering. So what do you do when an interviewer tosses you the salary question? Toss it back.

"The first person who mentions a number loses when it comes to negotiations," career coach Bianca J. Jackson tells the Washington Post. "So I would try to get a number from them first. Every position is budgeted, so I would flip the question back onto them: 'What have you budgeted for the role?'"

Even if you don't get a concrete response, you've proven yourself a shrewd negotiator who is intrigued by what the company can offer but in no way desperate. Of course, if you're pressed to provide a salary range, don't undersell yourself. Lean towards the higher end of your salary requirements, while still ensuring your potential employer that you're flexible because the job itself is so enticing.

The bottom line when prepping for a job interview is to do your homework. Study the job posting, tailor your experiences and assets to their hiring needs and sell yourself with confidence. If you can do all that, you'll be ready for any question that comes your way.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.