You can anticipate most of the questions you are likely to be asked during a job interview, including those about any red flags in your background. The list of different categories of questions below will help jumpstart your thinking process and give you a chance to consider your responses.

If you can anticipate what you may be asked, you can formulate in your mind before the interview the essence of your response - the gist of your response.

Consider your strategy. What can you say that is honest, yet puts you in the most positive light? In the quiet of your home, when you are relaxed, think about what answers you might give. Never try to memorize an answer.

Questions About Your Personal Life
Because many personal questions are illegal to ask in an employment interview, you may be asked questions that are indirect. For example, rather than ask your age, which is illegal, an employer can ask you when you graduated from college, which is legal.

From your answer, he/she can estimate your age. While it is illegal to ask if you have ever committed a crime, it is legal to ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony.

Questions About Your Education
If your grades were not so hot, be prepared to talk about that. What were the reasons for your poor grades? For employers, questions relating to education are good indicators of a candidate's intelligence, goals, decision-making style, and tenacity.

Questions About Your Work Experience
Do you have any work experience? Any experience, whether in a paid position or as a volunteer, that relates to the job for which you are applying? If you do, you should mention that and explain the similarities to the interviewer.

Even if your past jobs do not directly relate, you can still make positive connections, such as a good record of attendance and punctuality. Good recommendations from your former employers or supervisors will help establish that you are likely to be a good worker for another employer.

Questions About Your Accomplishments and Work Style
What are your greatest strengths? What do you do well and enjoy doing? What is your greatest weakness? What work conditions do you prefer? Don't be shy talking about your strengths.

Stress the things you have accomplished. Can you relate those strengths to aspects of the job you are applying for now?

If asked about your weaknesses, try to mention something the interviewer already knows, something that does not relate to the job you are interviewing for, or something you have changed for the better.

Questions About Your Goals and Motivation
Employers want self-motivated individuals who have employer-centered goals rather than self-centered goals. Asking questions about your motivations gives them clues as to what will motivate you to succeed in their company or organization.

For example, do you need to be constantly supervised, or are you a self-starter who is motivated to do a good job with minimum supervision and on-the-job incentives?

Be prepared to answer the question, "Why should I hire you?"

Questions About Your Future Goals/Plans
Do you have any plans for future education? Plans to change the kind of work you do? How long do you plan to stay in this job if you are hired? What do you see yourself doing five or ten years from now?

Respond to your interviewer's questions as fully and in as positive a manner as you truthfully can, then know when to stop talking and let the interviewer ask a follow-up question or move on. In your answers, be honest, but don't be "stupid." In other words, don't lie.

But at the same time don't "confess" about everything negative you have ever done in your life. There are many ways to tell the truth. Make sure your truth puts the best light on you.

SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.Ds, Job Interview Tips for People With Not-So-Hot Backgrounds (Impact Publications, Manassas Park, VA), pp. 50-54. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.