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As you prepare for your interview, you may be considering which questions the employer is going to ask you. While there’s no way to know for sure what topics will be covered, there are several popular interview questions you can expect to be asked.
Here are 16 questions commonly asked in interviews:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How would you describe yourself?
- What makes you unique?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What interests you about this role?
- What motivates you?
- What are you passionate about?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- What are your goals for the future?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
- What is your salary range expectation?
- Why should we hire you?
- Do you have any questions?
Every interviewer is different and their questions may vary. By preparing answers for these common interview questions, you can develop compelling talking points to make a great impression during your next job interview.
Common interview questions (with example answers)
1. Tell me about yourself.
Your interviewers will likely start out with a question about yourself and your background to get to know you. Start out by giving them an overview about your current position or activities, then provide the most important and relevant highlights from your background that make you most qualified for the role. If you’d like, it is generally acceptable to include some light personal details about things like your pets, hobbies or family. Doing so can help you be more memorable and personable to the interviewer.
Example: “Currently, I serve as the assistant to three of the company’s five executive team members, including the CEO. During my time at the organization, I have been recognized for my time management skills, writing abilities and commitment to excellence.
From my 12 years of experience as an executive assistant, I’ve developed the ability to anticipate roadblocks and create effective alternative plans. My greatest value to any executive is my ability to work independently, freeing up their time to focus on the needs of the business.
It’s clear that you’re looking for someone who understands the nuances of managing a CEO’s busy day and can proactively tackle issues. As someone with a sharp eye for detail and a drive to organize, I thrive on making sure every day has a clear plan and every plan is clearly communicated.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Tell Me About Yourself.”
2. How would you describe yourself?
When an interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, they’re looking for information about how your qualities and characteristics align with the skills they believe are required to succeed in the role. If possible, include quantifiable results to demonstrate how you use your best attributes to drive success.
Example: “I am a vigilant and proactive Security Officer working to ensure safe, secure, and orderly environments. I’m also a lifelong learner, always seeking out the latest security equipment and techniques to patrol buildings. Lastly, I am thorough, documenting all incidents and actively making suggestions to management about security improvements and changes.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “How Would You Describe Yourself?”
3. What makes you unique?
Employers often ask this question to identify why you might be more qualified than other candidates they’re interviewing. To answer, focus on why hiring you would benefit the employer. Since you don’t know the other applicants, it can be challenging to think about your answer in relation to them. Addressing why your background makes you a good fit will let employers know why your traits and qualifications make you well prepared.
Example: “What makes me unique is my experience of four years in retail. Because I’ve had first-hand experience fielding shoppers’ questions, feedback and complaints, I know what customers want. I know what it takes to create a positive consumer experience through marketing.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What Makes You Unique?”
4. Why do you want to work here?
Interviewers often ask this question as a way to determine whether or not you took time to research the company and to learn why you see yourself as a good fit. The best way to prepare for this question is to do your homework and learn about the products, services, mission, history and culture of this workplace. In your answer, mention the aspects of the company that appeal to you and align with your career goals. Explain why you’re looking for these things in an employer.
Example: “The company’s mission to help college grads pay off their student loan debt speaks to me. I’ve been in that situation, and I’d love the opportunity to work with a company that’s making a difference. Finding a company with a positive work environment and values that align with my own has remained a priority throughout my job search, and this company ranks at the top of the list.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”
5. What interests you about this role?
Like the previous question, hiring managers often include this question to make sure you understand the role, and to give you the opportunity to highlight your relevant skills. In addition to thoroughly reading the job description, it can be helpful to compare the role requirements against your skills and experience. Choose a few things you particularly enjoy or excel at, and focus on those in your answer.
Example: “I’ve been passionate about user experience design for most of my professional career. I was excited to see this company uses Adobe products because I’m well-versed in the entire suite. Also, I’m a huge advocate for applying agile workflows to design. I think it’s the most effective way to tackle large projects. I was able to successfully build and launch an agile process in my previous role as UX manager, and we saw considerable improvements in project speed.”
6. What motivates you?
Employers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness and ensure your sources of motivation align with the role. To answer, be as specific as possible, provide real-life examples and tie your answer back to the job role.
Example: “Making a true a difference in the lives of my patients and their families motivates me to strive for excellence in everything I do. I look forward to seeing my patient’s reaction when we get a positive outcome that will change their lives forever. That’s why I became a nurse, and why I’m pursuing a position in pediatrics.”
Fore more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What Motivates You?” (With Examples) .
7. What are you passionate about?
Much like the previous question about motivation, employers might ask what you are passionate about to better understand what drives you and what you care most deeply about. This can both help them understand whether you are a good fit for the role and if it fits into your larger goals. To answer, select something you are genuinely passionate about, explain why you’re passionate about it, give examples of how you’ve pursued this passion and relate it back to the job.
Example: “As an experienced, service-oriented professional with more than a decade of experience working in boutique salons, I thrive on creating a welcoming environment for all clients and providing the highest quality skincare services. My specialized training, along with my interpersonal skills, has helped me become adept at developing long-term, trusted relationships that help to build a loyal client base. These relationships are the reason I’m excited to go to work every day.”
Fore more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What are you passionate about?”
8. Why are you leaving your current job?
There are many reasons for leaving a job . Prepare a thoughtful answer that will give your interviewer confidence that you’re being deliberate about this job change. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your current or previous role, focus on the future and what you hope to gain in your next position.
Example: “I’m looking for an opportunity that gives me the ability to build closer, long-term relationships with clients. In my current role, the sales cycle is so short that I don’t spend as much time building a rapport with my customers as I’d like. Relationship-building is one of the reasons I chose a career in sales, and I look forward to working with a company where that’s a top priority.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Why Are You Looking for a Job?”
9. What are your greatest strengths?
This question gives you an opportunity to talk about both your technical and soft skills. To answer, share qualities and personal attributes and then relate them back to the role for which you’re interviewing.
Example: “I’m a natural problem-solver. I find it rewarding to dig deep and uncover solutions to challenges—it’s like solving a puzzle. It’s something I’ve always excelled at, and something I enjoy. Much of product development is about finding innovative solutions to challenging issues, which is what drew me to this career path in the first place.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
10. What are your greatest weaknesses?
It can feel awkward to discuss your weaknesses in an environment where you’re expected to focus on your accomplishments. However, when answered correctly, sharing your weaknesses can show that you are self-aware and want to continuously get better at your job—traits that are extremely attractive to many employers. Remember to start with the weakness and then discuss the measures you’ve taken to improve. This way, you’re finishing your answer on a positive note.
Example: “I sometimes have trouble saying ‘no’ and end up overwhelmed by my workload. Earlier in my career, I would take on so many projects that I’d work evenings and weekends. It was stressful. I realized this was counterproductive, so I started using workload management tools and setting better expectations for myself and my teammates.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?”
11. What are your goals for the future?
Often hiring managers ask about your future goals to determine whether or not you’re looking to stay with the company long-term. Additionally, this question is used to gauge your ambition, expectations for your career and your ability to plan ahead. The best way to handle this question is to determine your current career trajectory and how this role plays into helping you reach your ultimate goals.
Example: “I would like to continue developing my marketing expertise as well as my leadership skills over the next several years. One of the reasons I’m interested in working for a fast-growing startup company is that I’ll have the ability to wear many hats and collaborate with many different departments. I believe this experience will serve me well in achieving my ultimate goal of someday leading a marketing department.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “What Are Your Future Goals?”
12. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Understanding how you imagine your life in the future can help employers understand whether the trajectory of the role and company fits in with your personal development goals. To answer, provide general ideas about the skills you want to develop, the types of roles you would like to be in and things you would like to have accomplished.
Example: “In five years, I’d like to be an industry expert in my field, able to train and mentor students and entry-level designers alike. I would also like to gain specialized experience in user experience to be a well-rounded contributor working with design and marketing teams on large-scale projects that make a difference both in the company and the global community.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
13. Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
This question is often used to assess how well you perform under pressure as well as your problem-solving abilities. Keep in mind stories are more memorable than facts and figures, so strive to “show” instead of “tell.” This is also an excellent opportunity to show your human side and how you’re willing to go the extra mile without being asked.
Example: “It was the first day of my boss’s two-week vacation and our agency’s highest-paying client threatened to leave because he didn’t feel he was getting the personalized service he was promised. I spent my lunch hour on the phone with him, talking through his concerns. We even brainstormed ideas for his next campaign. He was so grateful for the personal attention that he signed another six-month contract before my boss even returned from her trip.”
For more on answering this question, visit the following resources:
- Interview Question: “How Do You Handle Stress?”
- Behavioral Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)
- How to Use the STAR Interview Response Technique
14. What is your salary range expectation?
Interviewers ask this question to make sure your expectations are in line with the amount they’ve budgeted for the role. If you give a salary range exceedingly lower or higher than the market value of the position, it gives the impression that you don’t know your worth. Research the typical compensation range for the role on Indeed Salaries , and tend toward the higher side of your range. Be sure to let the hiring manager know if you’re flexible with your rate.
Example: “My salary expectation is between $XX,XXX and $XX,XXX, which is the average salary for a candidate with my level of experience in this city. However, I am flexible.”
For more on answering this question, visit the following resources:
- How to Talk About Salary in a Job Interview
- Interview Question: “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”
15. Why should we hire you?
While this question may seem like an intimidation tactic, interviewers generally bring this up to offer you another opportunity to explain why you’re the best candidate. Your answer should address the skills and experience you offer and why you’re a good culture fit.
Example: “I have a passion for application development that’s grown stronger over the course of my five-year career. The company’s mission aligns with my personal values and, from my limited time in the office, I can already tell this is the sort of positive culture in which I would thrive. I want to work for a company that has the potential to reshape the industry, and I believe you’re doing just that.”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Why Should We Hire You?”
16. Do you have any questions?
This might be one of the most important questions asked during the interview process because it allows you to explore any subject that hasn’t been addressed and shows the interviewer you’re excited about the role. By this point, you’ll likely have already covered most of the basics about the position and the company, so take time to ask the interviewer questions about their own experiences with the company and gain tips on how you can succeed if hired.
Example: “What do you love about working for this company?” “What would success look like in this role?” “What are some of the challenges people typically face in this position?”
For more on answering this question, visit Interview Question: “Do You Have Any Questions?”
Much like preparing for a test in school, the best way to succeed in your interview is to study and practice. Do research on the company and the job, and practice your talking points until you feel confident about your answers. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to leave a lasting impression and outperform fellow candidates.
- Guide: How to Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview
- How to Introduce Yourself in an Interview
- Everything You Need to Know About Job Interview Etiquette
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Top 50 Job Interview Questions
There are many steps you can take to make sure your interview goes smoothly . One of the easiest ways to get ready for your next job interview is to familiarize yourself with the questions that are frequently asked in interviews and to practice your answers.
You can start by reviewing the top 50 interview questions asked by employers, as well as the sample answers for each question on the list. Click through to the Best Answers links to get tips on what information you should include in your response – as well as what details to leave out. You can expect to hear at least one – and likely more – of these questions during your next job interview.
Top 50 Interview Questions With Answers
- Are you the best person for this job? Why? – Best Answers
- Are you overqualified for this job? – Best Answers
- Describe a difficult experience at work and how you handled it. – Best Answers
- Describe yourself. – Best Answers
- Describe your best boss and your worst boss. – Best Answers
- Describe your career goals. – Best Answers
- Describe your work style. – Best Answers
- Do you prefer to work alone or on a team? – Best Answers
- Do you take work home with you? – Best Answers
- Give some examples of teamwork. – Best Answers
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager? – Best Answers
- Have you gotten angry at work? What happened? – Best Answers
- How do you handle stress and pressure? – Best Answers
- How do you measure success? – Best Answers
- How long do you expect to work for this company? – Best Answers
- How much do you expect to get paid? – Best Answers
- How would you describe the pace at which you work? – Best Answers
- How would you describe yourself? – Best Answers
- How would you handle it if your boss was wrong? – Best Answers
- If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? Best Answers
- Is there a type of work environment you prefer? – Best Answers
- Tell me about yourself. – Best Answers
- Tell me why you want to work here. – Best Answers
- What are you looking for in your next position? – Best Answers
- What are you passionate about? – Best Answers
- What are your goals for the future? – Best Answers
- What are your salary requirements ? – Best Answers
- What can you do for this company? – Best Answers
- What can you contribute to this company? – Best Answers
- What challenges are you looking for in your next job? – Best Answers
- What did you like or dislike about your previous job? – Best Answers
- What do you expect from a supervisor? – Best Answers
- What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? – Best Answers
- What have you learned from your mistakes? – Best Answers
- What interests you about this job? – Best Answers
- What is your greatest strength? – Best Answers
- What is your greatest weakness? – Best Answers
- What major challenges have you handled? – Best Answers
- What problems have you encountered at work? – Best Answers
- What was your biggest accomplishment (failure) in this position? – Best Answers
- What was most (least) rewarding about your job? – Best Answers
- What relevant experience do you have? – Best Answers
- What will you do if you don’t get a job offer? – Best Answers
- Why are you leaving your job? – Best Answers
- Why do you want this job? – Best Answers
- Why did you resign? – Best Answers
- Why did you quit your job? – Best Answers
- Why were you fired? – Best Answers
- Why should we hire you? – Best Answers
- What do you know about this company? – Best Answers
In Addition to Answering Interview Questions
An interview is more than just being asked questions by an interviewer and responding correctly. It’s your opportunity to make a great impression, and showcase what an asset you will be to the company. Make sure you dress for success and arrive prepared to get offered the job .
Be aware that there are questions you shouldn’t be asked during a job interview as well, such as personal questions about age, race, family status, etc.
During an interview, the questions asked should all address only your ability to perform the job. You are not obliged to discuss or disclose anything else.
It’s important to have some questions to ask the interviewer prepared for when you are given the chance. Doing some research about the company and its policies and culture will ensure that your questions are relevant, and will show the hiring manager how interested you are in the position.
Be sure to follow up with a thank you note after your interview.
This gives you the opportunity to reiterate both your interest in the job and some of your most pertinent qualifications. By expressing your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and consideration in a timely manner (you should get an email out within 24 hours), you will reinforce the excellent impression you made during your interview.
The Best Way to Answer Interview Questions About You
Common College Job Interview Questions and Answers
Typical Questions Asked During Entry Level Job Interviews
Here Is a Look at the Best Answers for Personal Interview Questions
Phone Interview Questions and the Best Answers
Tips for Answering Interview Questions About Leadership
Job Interview Questions to Expect About Your Skills and Experience
Best Answers for the Most Common Job Interview Questions
How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Qualifications for the Job
Answering Job Interview Questions About Strengths and Weaknesses
How to Answer the Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions
Administrative Job Interview Questions and Best Answers
Here’s How to Answer Job Interview Questions About Communication
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Best Sales Interview Questions and Answers
Best Answers for Job Interview Questions About Experience
While some job interviewers take a fairly unusual approach to interview questions , most job interviews involve an exchange of common interview questions and answers. (Including some of the most often-asked behavioral interview questions .) Here are some of the most common interview questions , along with the best way to answer them:
1. “Tell me a little about yourself.”
If you’re the interviewer, there’s a lot you should already know: The candidate’s resume and cover letter should tell you plenty, and LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and Google can tell you more.
The goal of an interview is to determine whether the candidate will be outstanding in the job, and that means evaluating the skills and attitude required for that job. Does she need to be an empathetic leader? Ask about that. Does she need to take your company public? Ask about that.
If you’re the candidate, talk about why you took certain jobs. Explain why you left. Explain why you chose a certain school. Share why you decided to go to grad school. Discuss why you took a year off to backpack through Europe, and what you got out of the experience.
When you answer this question, connect the dots on your resume so the interviewer understands not just what you’ve done, but also why.
2. “What are your biggest weaknesses?”
Every candidate knows how to answer this question: Just pick a theoretical weakness and magically transform that flaw into a strength in disguise!
For example: “My biggest weakness is getting so absorbed in my work that I lose all track of time. Every day I look up and realize everyone has gone home! I know I should be more aware of the clock, but when I love what I’m doing I just can’t think of anything else.”
So your “biggest weakness” is that you’ll put in more hours than everyone else? Great…
A better approach is to choose an actual weakness, but one you’re working to improve. Share what you’re doing to overcome that weakness. No one is perfect, but showing you’re willing to honestly self-assess and then seek ways to improve comes pretty darned close.
3. “What are your biggest strengths?”
I’m not sure why interviewers ask this question; your resume and experience should make your strengths readily apparent.
Even so, if you’re asked, provide a sharp, on-point answer. Be clear and precise. If you’re a great problem solver, don’t just say that: Provide a few examples, pertinent to the opening, that prove you’re a great problem solver. If you’re an emotionally intelligent leader, don’t just say that: Provide a few examples that prove you know how to answer the unasked question .
In short, don’t just claim to have certain attributes — prove you have those attributes.
4. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Answers to this question go one of two basic ways. Candidates try to show their incredible ambition (because that’s what they think you want) by providing an extremely optimistic answer: “I want your job!” Or they try to show their humility (because that’s what they think you want) by providing a meek, self-deprecating answer: “There are so many talented people here. I just want to do a great job and see where my talents take me.”
In either case you learn nothing, other than possibly how well candidates can sell themselves.
For interviewers, here’s a better question: “What business would you love to start?”
That question applies to any organization, because every employee at every company should have an entrepreneurial mind-set.
The business a candidate would love to start tells you about her hopes and dreams , her interests and passions, the work she likes to do, the people she likes to work with … so just sit back and listen.
5. “Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?”
Since a candidate cannot compare himself with people he doesn’t know, all he can do is describe his incredible passion and desire and commitment and … well, basically beg for the job. (Way too many interviewers ask the question and then sit back, arms folded, as if to say, “Go ahead. I’m listening. Try to convince me.”)
And you learn nothing of substance.
Here’s a better question: “What do you feel I need to know that we haven’t discussed?” Or even “If you could get a do-over on one of my questions, how would you answer it now?”
Rarely do candidates come to the end of an interview feeling they’ve done their best. Maybe the conversation went in an unexpected direction. Maybe the interviewer focused on one aspect of their skills and totally ignored other key attributes. Or maybe candidates started the interview nervous and hesitant, and now wish they could go back and better describe their qualifications and experience.
Plus, think of it this way: Your goal as an interviewer is to learn as much as you possibly can about every candidate, so don’t you want to give them the chance to ensure you do?
Just make sure to turn this part of the interview into a conversation, not a soliloquy. Don’t just passively listen and then say, “Thanks. We’ll be in touch.” Ask follow-up questions. Ask for examples.
And of course if you’re asked this question … use it as a chance to highlight things you haven’t been able to touch on.
6. “How did you learn about the opening?”
Job boards, general postings, online listings, job fairs … most people find their first few jobs that way, so that’s certainly not a red flag.
But a candidate who continues to find each successive job from general postings probably hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do — and where he or she would like to do it.
He or she is just looking for a job; often, any job.
So don’t just explain how you heard about the opening. Show that you heard about the job through a colleague, a current employer, by following the company … show that you know about the job because you want to work there.
Employers don’t want to hire people who just want a job; they want to hire people who want a job with their company.
7. “Why do you want this job?”
Now go deeper. Don’t just talk about why the company would be great to work for; talk about how the position is a perfect fit for what you hope to accomplish, both short-term and long-term.
And if you don’t know why the position is a perfect fit … look somewhere else. Life is too short.
8. “What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?”
Here’s an interview question that definitely requires an answer relevant to the job. If you say your biggest achievement was improving throughput by 18 percent in six months but you’re interviewing for a leadership role in human resources … that answer is interesting but ultimately irrelevant.
Instead, talk about an underperforming employee you “rescued,” or how you overcame infighting between departments, or how so many of your direct reports have been promoted….
The goal is to share achievements that let the interviewer imagine you in the position — and see you succeeding.
9. “Tell me about the last time a co-worker or customer got angry with you. What happened?”
Conflict is inevitable when a company works hard to get things done. Mistakes happen. Sure, strengths come to the fore, but weaknesses also rear their heads. And that’s OK. No one is perfect.
But a person who tends to push the blame — and the responsibility for rectifying the situation — onto someone else is a candidate to avoid. Hiring managers would much rather choose candidates who focus not on blame but on addressing and fixing the problem.
Every business needs employees who willingly admit when they are wrong, step up to take ownership for fixing the problem, and, most important, learn from the experience.
10. “Describe your dream job.”
Three words describe how you should answer this question: relevance, relevance, relevance.
But that doesn’t mean you have to make up an answer. You can learn something from every job. You can develop skills in every job. Work backward: Identify things about the job you’re interviewing for that will help you if you do land your dream job someday, and then describe how those things apply to what you hope to someday do.
And don’t be afraid to admit that you might someday move on, whether to join another company or — better — to start your own business . Employers no longer expect “forever” employees.
11. “Why do you want to leave your current job?”
Let’s start with what you shouldn’t say (or, if you’re the interviewer, what are definite red flags).
Don’t talk about how your boss is difficult. Don’t talk about how you can’t get along with other employees. Don’t bad-mouth your company.
Instead, focus on the positives a move will bring. Talk about what you want to achieve. Talk about what you want to learn. Talk about ways you want to grow, about things you want to accomplish; explain how a move will be great for you and for your new company.
Complaining about your current employer is a little like people who gossip: If you’re willing to speak badly of someone else, you’ll probably do the same to me.
12. “What kind of work environment do you like best?”
Maybe you love working alone … but if the job you’re interviewing for is in a call center, that answer will do you no good.
So take a step back and think about the job you’re applying for and the company’s culture ( because every company has one, whether intentional or unintentional ). If a flexible schedule is important to you, but the company doesn’t offer one, focus on something else. If you like constant direction and support and the company expects employees to self-manage, focus on something else.
Find ways to highlight how the company’s environment will work well for you — and if you can’t find ways, don’t take the job, because you’ll be miserable.
13. “Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.”
The goal of this question is to evaluate the candidate’s reasoning ability, problem-solving skills, judgment, and possibly even willingness to take intelligent risks.
Having no answer is a definite warning sign. Everyone makes tough decisions, regardless of their position. My daughter worked part-time as a server at a local restaurant and made difficult decisions all the time — like the best way to deal with a regular customer whose behavior constituted borderline harassment.
A good answer proves you can make a difficult analytical or reasoning-based decision — for example, wading through reams of data to determine the best solution to a problem.
A great answer proves you can make a difficult interpersonal decision, or better yet a difficult data-driven decision that includes interpersonal considerations and ramifications.
Making decisions based on data is important, but almost every decision has an impact on people as well. The best candidates naturally weigh all sides of an issue, not just the business or human side exclusively.
14. “What is your leadership style?”
This is a tough question to answer without dipping into platitudes. Try sharing leadership examples instead. Say, “The best way for me to answer that is to give you a few examples of leadership challenges I’ve faced,” and then share situations where you dealt with a problem, motivated a team, worked through a crisis. Explain what you did and that will give the interviewer a great sense of how you lead.
And, of course, it lets you highlight a few of your successes.
15. “Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision. What did you do?”
No one agrees with every decision. Disagreements are fine; it’s what you do when you disagree that matters. (We all know people who love to have the “meeting after the meeting,” where they’ve supported a decision in the meeting but they then go out and undermine it.)
Show that you were professional. Show that you raised your concerns in a productive way. If you have an example that proves you can effect change, great — and if you don’t, show that you can support a decision even though you think it’s wrong (as long as it’s not unethical, immoral, etc.).
Every company wants employees willing to be honest and forthright, to share concerns and issues … but to also get behind a decision and support it as if they agreed, even if they didn’t.
16. “Tell me how you think other people would describe you.”
I hate this question. It’s a total throwaway. But I did ask it once, and got an answer I really liked.
“I think people would say that what you see is what you get,” the candidate said. “If I say I will do something, I do it. If I say I will help, I help. I’m not sure that everyone likes me, but they all know they can count on what I say and how hard I work.”
Can’t beat that.
17. “What can we expect from you in your first three months?”
Ideally the answer to this should come from the employer: They should have plans and expectations for you.
But if you’re asked, use this general framework:
- You’ll work hard to determine how your job creates value — you won’t just stay busy, you’ll stay busy doing the right things.
- You’ll learn how to serve all your constituents — your boss, your employees, your peers, your customers, and your suppliers and vendors.
- You’ll focus on doing what you do best — you’ll be hired because you bring certain skills, and you’ll apply those skills to make things happen.
- You’ll make a difference — with customers, with other employees, to bring enthusiasm and focus and a sense of commitment and teamwork.
Then just layer in specifics that are applicable to you and the job.
18. “What do you like to do outside of work?”
Many companies feel cultural fit is extremely important, and they use outside interests as a way to determine how you will fit into a team.
Even so, don’t be tempted to fib and claim to enjoy hobbies you don’t. Focus on activities that indicate some sort of growth: skills you’re trying to learn, goals you’re trying to accomplish. Weave those in with personal details. For example, “I’m raising a family, so a lot of my time is focused on that, but I’m using my commute time to learn Spanish.”
19. “What was your salary in your last job?”
This is a tough one. You want to be open and honest, but frankly, some companies ask the question as the opening move in salary negotiations.
Try an approach recommended by Liz Ryan. When asked, say, “I’m focusing on jobs in the $50K range. Is this position in that range?” (Frankly, you should already know — but this is a good way to deflect.)
Maybe the interviewer will answer; maybe she won’t. If she presses you for an answer, you’ll have to decide whether you want to share or demur. Ultimately your answer won’t matter too much, because you’ll either accept the salary offered or you won’t, depending on what you think is fair.
20. “A snail is at the bottom of a 30-foot well. Each day he climbs up three feet, but at night he slips back two feet. How many days will it take him to climb out of the well?”
Questions like these have become a lot more popular (thanks, Google) in recent years. The interviewer isn’t necessarily looking for the right answer but instead a little insight into your reasoning abilities.
All you can do is talk through your logic as you try to solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you get it wrong — sometimes the interviewer is merely trying to assess how you deal with failure.
21. “What questions do you have for me?”
Don’t waste this opportunity. Ask smart questions, not just as a way to show you’re a great candidate but also to see if the company is a good fit for you — after all, you’re being interviewed, but you’re also interviewing the company.
22. “What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?”
If you weren’t asked this question, ask it yourself. Why? Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They don’t want to spend huge chunks of time in orientation, in training, or in the futile pursuit of getting their feet wet.
They want to make a difference — and they want to make that difference right now.
23. “If you were to rank them, what are the three traits your top performers have in common?”
Great candidates also want to be great employees. They know every organization is different — and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe your top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe the key is a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.
Great candidates want to know, because (1) they want to know if they will fit in, and (2) if they do fit in, they want to know how they can be a top performer.
24. “What really drives results in this job?”
Employees are investments, and you expect every employee to generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why do you have them on the payroll?)
In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. You need your HR team to fill job openings, but what you really want is for them to find the right candidates, because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity.
You need your service techs to perform effective repairs, but what you really want is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide other benefits — in short, to build customer relationships and even generate additional sales.
Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference and drives results, because they know helping the company succeed means they will succeed as well.
25. “What are the company’s highest-priority goals this year, and how would my role contribute?”
Is the job the candidate will fill important? Does that job matter?
Great candidates want a job with meaning, with a larger purpose — and they want to work with people who approach their jobs the same way.
Otherwise a job is just a job.
26. “What percentage of employees was brought in by current employees?”
Employees who love their jobs naturally recommend their company to their friends and peers. The same is true for people in leadership positions — people naturally try to bring on board talented people they previously worked with. They’ve built relationships, developed trust, and shown a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to follow them to a new organization.
And all of that speaks incredibly well to the quality of the workplace and the culture.
27. “What do you plan to do if…?”
Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends. There’s rarely one of Warren Buffett’s moats protecting a small business.
So while some candidates may see your company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement. If they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms, not because you were forced out of business.
Say I’m interviewing for a position at your ski shop. Another store is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the competition? Or you run a poultry farm (a huge industry in my area): What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?
Great candidates don’t just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do — and how they will fit into those plans.