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The Interview: Four-Minute Test

Now that you've located a job opportunity on the Internet, the next step is the interview.

Some career counselors say interviewers decide about a candidate within four minutes.

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"I always think one of the trickiest questions an interviewer asks is, 'Good morning. How are you today?'" says Marc Dorio, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting the Job You Want."

"You'd be surprised at what people would say," he says.

Below are some frequently asked questions and some tips on how to answer them.

"Tell me about yourself."

Most people make the mistake of summarizing their rsum or launching a full-scale autobiography. Instead, succinctly describe your education, experience, goals, as well as your personal interests.

"The correct approach is to start with a discussion of your strengths," says Terry Devlin of Career Management International in Houston. He recommends beginning with: "I'm the type of person who ... enjoys a challenge or likes to work with people."

"Why are you leaving your current position?"

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Rule No. 1: Never give a negative answer - even if you're leaving because your boss is a tyrant. Instead, explain why you want to move to this particular company, why you think its needs match your strengths.

"One serious mistake people make is that they wait until the later part of the interview to have the question asked, and they end up answering it at an inopportune time," says Angelo Troisi, vice president of outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison in Boston.

Instead, he says, answer the question at the same time you're telling the interviewer about yourself: "Let me tell you why I'm sitting here."

"What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

Discussing your strengths should be a gimme. But "weaknesses" is one of the toughest questions out there.

Some suggest you make your weaknesses sound like strengths: that you're "too efficient" or that you "take on too much work."

Instead, Mr. Devlin advises clients to identify a weakness and then describe what steps they've taken to correct it. "If you say you don't have any weaknesses," he says, "that shows no self-awareness."

"How much do you expect to make?"

Never quote a specific figure. Instead, ask about the salary range for the position. If the interviewer throws out a few numbers, restate your qualifications and explain why you deserve the higher end.

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