With unemployment still hovering above 8%, job seekers know that thorough interview preparation is the key to standing out from today's multi-generational competition.

'People who don't do their research, don't study and don't practice for their interview, most often don't get hired,' says Vicki Walch, owner of Newcastle, Washington-based, Impress Them! Resumes. 'Know everything you can so that you can be conversant and armed with the information to answer and ask the tough questions.'

These three interview scenarios can mean the difference between scoring a job offer and coming up short. Here's how to navigate each successfully.

1. 'Do You Have Any Questions For Me?'

Coming up blank on this question is a sure-fire way to blow the interview. It's also the only question that we can practically guarantee they'll ask, so be prepared.

'By all means, come prepared with questions!' said Matthew Rothenberg, editor-in-chief of TheLadders, a job search service for senior level candidates. I've heard many stories from recruiters about candidates who seemed ideal but lost the job because -- after acing the questions asked by the interviewer -- they had none of their own.'

Not sure where to start? Try one of these thoughtful questions:

  • 'How has your career unfolded here?'
  • 'How will you measure success in this position?'
  • 'What are the company's priorities for next year?'

Bad questions can be just as bad as no questions. Avoid the following:

  • 'How much money will I be making?'
  • 'What does this company do?'
  • 'Is the drug test really mandatory?'

2. Problems, Actions, Results -- How Well Do You Handle PAR?

Arguably the most important part of today's job interview is a candidate's ability to successfully talk the PAR walk -- Problems, Actions and Results. How did you determine the problem? What was the action you took? What were the final results? By offering quantifiable statistics for past accomplishments, a candidate shows he is a results-oriented person. 'Most companies will hire someone who can get the job done -- not someone who can just do the job,' says Walch.

Senior level candidates can expect to come under even greater PAR scrutiny because they will be the company's leaders and brand ambassadors. 'Come prepared to describe in a clear, direct way how career achievements reflect your experience maximizing profits, efficiency and other business drivers. At $100K+, your interviewer will expect a solid history of these wins -- and will likely want to hear how you led in challenging times as well,' says Rothenberg.

3. Do You Act Qualified For The Position?

And these days, there are a plethora of interview quicksand traps waiting to snare the rash candidate unwilling to eschew casual behavior for real time manners. 'During an interview a few weeks ago, I had a college student tell me, 'So you're just a recruiter? Wow, it must suck being the middle man with no decision power. When will you be setting me up to talk with someone who matters in the hiring process?'' recalls Yolanda Owens, a Fortune 500 recruiter and author of How to Score a Date with Your Potential Employer.

Ultimately, candidates should remember that experience is just a primary requirement. Indeed, says Owen, who vividly remembers the time she escorted a VP candidate to an interview with her company's Chief Technology Officer. 'Before he went in for his interview, he asked me if I could tell him where the potty was. He then corrected himself and said 'Sorry, I meant the little boys' room.'

The Investing Answer: 'By the time you get in for the interview they are comparing apples to apples,' says Walch. 'Every person they see is a possible hire. It is competitive. Know your competition and practice to win.'

Page 2 -- How to Ace Any Interview