The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Questions | Big Interview

The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Questions

Written by Pamela Skillings, top interview coach named
"a guru in the world of job interviews” by The Wall Street Journal

Intro

Doing well in a job interview is no easy task.

You’ll have to carefully, persuasively answer any number of job interview questions. Some are even designed to trip you up.

It can be tough to figure out exactly how to “sell yourself." And it doesn’t help that your friends and the internet are ready to give you all sorts of misguided interview “advice”.

In this guide, we’re going to help you overcome all those obstacles (and more).

This guide is going to help you crush your next job interview.

CHAPTER 1

Why Your #1 Task Should Be Figuring Out What Questions You’ll Be Asked

There are all sorts of reasons why job interviews might make you feel nervous or anxious. It's a strange situation to be in and you will be in the hot seat.

However, you can overcome your nerves with some good preparation, and it all starts with recognizing what questions you’ll be asked.

Yes, you might still get some curveballs and unexpected questions. But once you start trying to prepare in this way, you’ll realize it’s actually pretty easy to predict the questions you’ll be asked.

Figuring this out beforehand gives you time to prep for industry-specific questions, or questions you may already be dreading, like the annoying “tell me about one of your weaknesses” question interviewers love.

(We’ll cover that question in detail in just a bit, so do not fear!)

Once you have a list of potential questions in front of you, practice and preparation will give you the keys to success.

So how do you go about anticipating the questions you’ll be asked? You may not be able to read minds, but you can read the job description, so you should start there.

Be a Detective

Analyzing the job description can be incredibly helpful to you. The hiring manager has already outlined exactly what they are looking for. Now it’s your job to figure out how to marry your qualifications to what you know they want.

The job you’ll actually be doing every day may have very little to do with the title of the position, so it’s important that you have more than the bare basics in mind when you go in for the interview.

Dissecting the Job Description

Okay, time to get down to the nitty-gritty and dissect this bad boy.
Generally, the job description has four parts:‍

  • 1

    The Overview - This will tell you the title of the position and the basic role you’ll be fulfilling.

    Example:
    Social Media Manager - Reports to the Head of Marketing. Is responsible for creating original content, curating industry relevant content, strategizing with the marketing team, and engaging with the audience across social media platforms.

  • 2

    The Job Role/Responsibilities - you should read this part of the description very carefully. The responsibilities section is where the everyday ins and outs of the job are described.

    This is where you’ll find your biggest clues about what kinds of things the interviewer will be asking.

    For instance, if the responsibilities listed include lots of words like “management,” “leadership,” and “organization,” you should be prepared for behavioral questions about those things, paying special attention to the actions you took to display these competencies in your last role.

  • 3

    The Qualifications - if you’ve been called in for an interview, it probably means you meet all (or at least the most important) of the qualifications necessary for the job.  

    Be prepared to talk about these qualifications and why they uniquely set you apart. For instance, if the role of Social Media Manager specifically requires a Bachelor’s degree in Communications or Journalism, you can prepare by thinking through any special training or certifications you received in Social Media or Digital Content Management from your school’s program.

    If you studied at a particularly prestigious school, this will likely also come up in the interview. Don’t rest on your laurels though. The reputation of your school is helpful, but you are ultimately the one who has to seal the deal.

  • 4

    The “Wish List” or Desired Attributes
    Most job descriptions include a “wish list” or a list of attributes that are not necessarily required, but highly desirable in a candidate.

    If you have any of these skills or attributes, be sure to weave them in to your interview answers. Having that “extra something” will very likely put you head and shoulders above the sea of other candidates, and may very likely be why you were called in to the interview in the first place.

    Be mindful of what you’re bringing to the table and be prepared to talk about the things that set you apart.

Keep Your Industry in Mind

Knowing your industry will also give you an idea of what questions you will be asked. If you are a designer for instance, it is reasonable to anticipate being asked about your proficiency in certain design programs, what designers you admire, and your portfolio.

It’s also a safe bet to assume you will be asked about any anomalies on your resume. For instance, any significant gaps, job hopping, or changing industries or career paths often.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, we have resources on our blog that will help you navigate any tricky questions you might get about them.

CHAPTER 2

Mastering a Great First Impression With “Tell Me About Yourself”

The awkwardly open-ended “tell me about yourself” question is often the first thing you’ll be asked (after exchanging niceties).

You’ve already made an impression up to this point with your body language, physical appearance, and eye contact, but this first question is really your opportunity to cement in their minds who you are and what you’re about.

As with all the common interview questions, we’ve seen way too many job seekers take some pretty bungled approaches to this.

The temptation to ramble or jump in to your life story without addressing the job at hand (or your career at all) is a trap that’s all too real for some candidates.

In fact, you’ll probably need to focus on being more concise with this answer than you think.
Luckily for you, we have a handy formula for answering this question.

Let’s break it down:

From the Interviewer’s Perspective

Why are they burdening you with such an elusive question in the first place?

Well first of all, it’s an easy way to start the conversation.

As a potential employee, your focus has been on your side of the interview (and rightly so), but there is a real human being at the table opposite you and this interview may not be easy for them either.

Maybe they are new to hiring or very introverted and have a hard time facilitating conversation.

Opening the conversation with “tell me about yourself,” is a way to get you talking and begin a conversation that will largely center around you and what you’re bringing to the table.
Remember, the hiring manager wants to like you.

If you’re the best candidate, her job is over and you can both happily move on to the next steps of the onboarding process.

However, if you are a bad hire, it will reflect poorly on her and her judgement, so she will want to vet you as  thoroughly as she can during the 40 minutes or so your interview is likely to last.

    Nailing the Question

    Think about your answer as your elevator pitch.

    A good elevator pitch answers the question, “Why should I invest in you?” in a short, succinct summary that can be delivered in the time it takes to make a short elevator ride, (ideally less than a minute).

    For interviewing purposes, you can allot yourself about 2 minutes for your answer.
    Obviously you can’t fit all of your qualifications and resume points in to 2 minutes. You’ll have to spend some time thinking through how to condense the information and begin the interview on a high note.

    An awesome answer will address:

    • Your Primary Selling Points.
      Focus on the qualifications specifically mentioned in the job description here. This could be any special training, technical skills, or years of experience in your industry.

    • Why You’re Interested in the Position.
      One you have briefly laid out your qualifications, wrap up with indicating that you are looking for a new challenge and why you feel this position is the ideal next step for you.

    • The Formula.
      The winning formula for “tell me about yourself” has three components:

      • Who You Are
        Your first sentence should be a brief introduction of your professional self. Something like:

        I’m an innovative HR manager with 8 years of experience managing all aspects of the HR function — from recruiting to training to benefits — for Fortune 500 companies.”

        Avoid going on about where you are from, what your interests were as a child, or anything else that isn’t directly related to who you are as a professional now.

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      • Your Expertise
        Ideally you’re hiring manager will have read your resume and know your qualifications, but don’t assume this is true.

        They may have been given your materials right before the interview and have only had time to scan it, or they may be seeing it for the first time when they sit down with you.

        Now’s the time to bring your elevator pitch in to play, briefly summarizing 2-4 of your best qualifications.

        Example:

        I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a customer service manager for Megacompany Inc., where I have won several performance awards and been promoted twice. I love managing teams and solving customer problems.

        This example is relevant, enthusiastic, and demonstrates proof of performance and experience.

        There’s no need to talk about your first job years ago, or an internship in college. You don’t want to draw focus to the least impressive parts of your career. Give ‘em the good stuff right away.

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      • Why You Want the Position
        We’ll go in to this topic in depth in the next session, but as a part of your “tell me about yourself” answer, you should wrap up with a sentence or two about why you’re interested in the job.

        The idea is to highlight that you are ready for the next step in your career and eager to take on new challenges, which is why this role excites you so much.

        Be concise, enthusiastic and positive.


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    CHAPTER 3

    What In The World Do You Say When Asked “Why Do You Want to Work Here?

    This question can feel jarring and useless since the answer may seem obvious.

    “Because… you’re hiring and I want the job because I need to make money.” (please, please, please don’t say anything like this.)

    To the hiring manager, however, it does serve a purpose.

    They are trying to determine if you:

    - Will fit in with their company culture
    - If you plan to stay in the role awhile
    - How this position fits in to your career plan
    - Understand your priorities
    - Find out what you know about the company and if you’ve done your research.


    As you can imagine, these are all very useful things for a potential employer to know.

    So this question- even though so many Big Interview readers call it “annoying”- is an excellent opportunity for you to show yourself off a bit and put yourself above the competition.

    The First Step

    The very first thing you’re going to want to do when thinking through your answer is to research the company.

    The obvious first step in this process is to look up the company website.

    A good website will include everything from the product to the mission statement, and links to social media outlets, press coverage, and team members.

    Read the “About Us” page carefully and spend some time on the company blog if they have one.

    Some companies also have in-depth posts about their hiring process, so it would be to your advantage to read that too.

    Getting comfortable with the company’s voice, brand, and product will set you up to ace this question and get to the heart of what the interviewer actually wants to know.

      Avoid Generalities

      Be specific.

      The worst thing you can do is not know anything about who the company is or what they do.

      But if you’ve done your homework in step one, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.

      Lastly, you must demonstrate your genuine enthusiasm for the position.

      Having all the facts about the company won’t help you if you have no interest in doing the actual job.

      Take your career history and enthusiasm for the position and weave it into your answer.

      For example, if asked, “Why do you want to work here,” or “Why are you interested in this job?” you could say something like the following:

      “I feel that my proven track record leading multi-functional teams makes me an excellent match for the job requirements. Also, the role excites me because I love the idea of helping to develop cutting-edge software products in such an innovative company.”

      This answer works because it shows how the candidate’s past work experience ties in to the job role, demonstrates enthusiasm, and compliments the company and the work they do.

      Use this as a guiding principle when building your own answers.

      Remember this question comes up in almost every interview, so be prepared!

      CHAPTER 4

      How Discovering Your Key Selling Points Will Help You Answer “What Are Your Strengths?”

      Talking about your strengths can feel very uncomfortable for a lot of people.

      In general, we are taught not to speak about ourselves in ways that can appear self-aggrandizing or arrogant.

      A job interview is unlike most situations you find yourself in. The whole point of being interviewed is to show off how much value you have to offer.

      This will inevitably mean having to talk about the things you are good at and the impressive things you’ve accomplished.

      Getting Comfortable Selling Yourself

      If you find yourself very uncomfortable talking about your strengths, it can be helpful to re-frame the situation.

      Look at it as a marketing challenge.

      Any good marketer knows it’s important to know your audience.

      In this scenario, your audience is the interviewer and the company they work for. If you’ve done your research before the interview, you will know what their needs are.

      Now all you have to do is demonstrate that you have the skills they need to get that need met.

      Boom. Marketing 101.

      Sticking to the facts can also be helpful.

      Instead of stating an opinion about yourself (which can feel awkward and “braggy”) let the facts speak for themselves.

      For instance instead of saying, “I am a very strong writer.”

      You could say:

      “I’ve been published by Publication X and Z and was very excited to be selected for Writing Prize ABC during my senior year.”

      Lastly, practice out loud.

      This is essential for all of your interview prep, but especially for the questions you feel most awkward about.

      The more you hear yourself talking about your strengths and accomplishments the more natural it will feel.

        Talking About Your Strengths

        Ultimately the hiring manager wants to know if you have the required skills and can be a rockstar at the job.

        If you have skills or experiences that make you stand out, so much the better.

        You want to leave them feeling that you are the best candidate by far, and there is no need to hold out for someone better.


        A common mistake is to think this is an easy question and not put much thought into it.

        You don’t want to throw out something lame like your ability to show up on time. That isn’t going to make you stand out at all. At least, not in the way you want.

        Instead, take some time to brainstorm and honestly evaluate your most impressive areas.

        These can include:

        • Experience - expertise with a certain software, proven experience doing similar work in the past, or demonstratable accomplishments in the industry.

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        • Talent - this can be a real knack you have for something, be it writing, programming, making sales, crunching numbers, or what have you. Own your abilities!

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        • Soft Skills - soft skills are increasingly coming in to high demand as it’s being recognized that competencies like conflict resolution, listening skills, and communication make for excellent leadership potential.

          3

        • Education/Training - degrees, certifications, training seminars, internships, or any other training that’s given you knowledge and skills that adds to your professional value.

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        As you can see, it’s possible to have many strengths, even if at first you’re worried there’s nothing particularly special about you.

        We assure you, there is.

        You just have to take some time to think about it.

        And once you’ve identified what your strengths are, you can set about preparing one (or more!) examples of that strength in action.

        A great way to build your answer is to use the STAR format.

        We talk about the STAR format in depth in Chapter 7: How to Write Your Irresistible Stories Using the STAR Method, so feel free to skip ahead if you want to dive in.

        We also offer an Answer Builder as part of our Big Interview curriculum.
        Click here to find out more about how to get started.

        CHAPTER 5

        The Dreaded “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” - How to Avoid Tricky Pitfalls and REALLY Answer This Question

        This is perhaps the most hated of all interview questions.

        Not only does it seem impossible to answer, but why in the world would you want to display your flaws in front of someone you’re trying to impress?

        The whole things feels aggravating and counter intuitive.

        We can help you out with this question, so read on.

        We should warn you though- this question is the #1 magnet for all sorts of awful advice on random websites (or YouTube/blog commenters).

        So be careful about who you’re taking advice from. (Hint: take advice from us! We have decades of experience helping hundreds of thousands of job seekers nail their interviews!)

        Most Common Errors

        Here are some of the most common errors we’ve seen job seekers make when trying to answer this question:


        • Turning a Positive into a Weakness
          This is probably the most common piece of advice you’ll get on how to deal with this question.

          Saying something like, “Well, I’m too much of a perfectionist,” or “I work too hard sometimes” is an old trick that interviewers see right though.

          They’ve seen many people doing the same song and dance before, and this answer may even make them wonder if you’re hiding something.


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        • Not Answering the Question
          Rambling about something unrelated, or saying that you can’t think of any weaknesses is a very understandable reaction if you haven’t prepared for the question and your brain freezes up in the moment.

          However, this is obviously not a good situation to be in, so please do think through this question before your interview.

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        • Raising Red Flags
          For the sake of transparency you may feel the need to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, warts and all.

          If, for instance, one of your greatest struggles is getting to work on time, it’s not great to mention that to your interviewer. Your (ironic) real weakness in this scenario is being too honest.

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        • Giving a Joke Answer
          Just don’t do it. Yes, we’ve heard just about all of them.

          Even if saying your greatest weakness is “mortality” gets a genuine laugh, it doesn’t mean you’re making the right impression.

          (Even if you thought that example was funny - please don’t use it.)

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          Why Ask in the First Place

          If they know most people won’t tell the whole truth and they can see through positive-to-negative answers, why do practically 100% of interviewers still ask this question?

          Because how you answer the question reveals a lot about you.

          If, for instance, you dodge the question or fake your way through, the interviewer may be wondering if:

          You have a secret weakness you won’t discuss
          You have no self-awareness and therefore think you’re perfect
          You have very low standards for perfection and personal accountability
          You’re a con artist

          They’re trying to get past the social niceties and get a grasp on who you really are and what you’ll be like to work with day in and day out.

          A job interview is stressful anyway, and you have a thousand anxieties running through your mind as it is, so this question can make even the strongest of candidates bungle.

          Okay, So How Do I Answer This Impossible Question?

          A good answer to the weakness question has two parts:

          (1) What your weakness is.
          (2) How you’re already working on it.

          Notice that second part of the answer especially. That’s the key most people miss.

          This is a huge opportunity to stand out above the competition.

          Even if the other candidates have a great answer that shows self-awareness, very few will go the extra mile and show how they’re proactive.

          As we’ve mentioned before, don’t raise red flags or be overly candid when sharing what your weakness is.

          This includes choosing one that is appropriate for the job at hand.

          For instance, talking about how difficult and frustrating you find math in an interview for an accounting or bookkeeping position is not a good idea.

          Be sure to articulate your weakness in a way that is “fixable” as well.

          This might mean saying, “I have trouble talking in front of large groups of people,” instead of, “I am painfully shy and usually don’t speak up or share my ideas.”

          While there is nothing wrong with being shy, the first example can be “fixed” with practice and repeated exposure, while the other is perceived as a personality trait that can’t be changed and may cause difficulty with team collaboration or clear communication.

          You are describing the same weakness, it’s just the trick of the language. One way of expressing it may cause concern, while the other does not.

          Lastly, be concise. There’s no need to go in to great detail about your weakness. And most importantly, do not sound negative or defensive when bringing it up.

          Alright, you’ve described your weakness.

          Now demonstrate how you’re working on it.

          This will do two things:

          (i) Show that you are always looking for ways to learn and grow

          (ii) You take initiative on self-improvement, rather than making excuses or becoming self-deprecating because of your weakness.

          Here is an example of how to answer the question that both honestly addresses your weakness and demonstrates that you’re working on it:

          “I think one area I could work on is my delegation skills. I am always so concerned about everything being done right and on time that I can get stuck in that mentality of “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Unfortunately, that’s not always possible and I’ve realized that I can slow things down if I am too controlling.

          I learned this recently when given the opportunity to manage the department’s summer interns. I had never managed direct reports before, so this was a hugely educational experience in many different ways.

          It definitely taught me how to delegate and my manager noticed the difference in my management style at the end of the summer. I know that I can benefit from additional development in this area, so I signed up for a management skills training course and am always looking for opportunities to manage projects for our group.”

          In this example, a junior-level employee discusses a role in which delegation abilities are not critical.

          Notice the last sentence in the first paragraph. It is important because it acknowledges how the weakness can be a problem and why it’s worth working on.

          The candidate’s weakness is acknowledged and described in this example, but the emphasis is more on how the candidate has sought out ways to improve, rather than the weakness itself.

          Remember our discussion about red flags and keep in mind that this is not such a terrific answer if you’re applying for a job that requires you to manage people.

          CHAPTER 6

          One Foolproof Formula to Answer ANY Behavioral Interview Question

          You’ve probably heard the term “behavioral question” thrown around before, but what does it actually mean?

          Simply put, behavioral questions are the type that start with “tell me about a time when…” or “give me an example of…”

          The idea is to get some insight in to how you have behaved in different scenarios in the past, as a way to give the hiring manager a sense of how you will behave in the future.

          Behavioral questions are used in just about every interview and cover a multitude of “competencies”.

          In fact, behavioral questions are so common that getting good at answering them will make you a rock star at answering at least half of all the interview questions you’ll receive.

          They’re so important that we’ve spent a ton of time developing resources around how to answer these kinds of questions.

          Our video curriculum goes through each of the most common behavioral questions, complete with breakdowns and examples of how to knock it out of the park with a great answer.

          On our blog, we’ve also written in detail about how to handle these questions.
          Most usually behavioral questions will surround themes like:

          1. Teamwork
          2. Problem Solving
          3. Leadership
          4. Failure
          5. Conflict
          6. Accomplishments
          7. Intercultural Fluency

          Don’t Bench Yourself

          Many job candidates make the mistake of being far too general and vague when tackling these kinds of questions.

          A lot of behavioral questions feel uncomfortable to answer, so the (understandable) impulse is to blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind that is remotely related to the questions and try to get to the next thing.

          This is a disastrous thing to do for two reasons:

          • You’re not actually answering the question.
            If a hiring manager asks you something like, “Tell me about a time you handled a conflict” and you reply with something weak like, “Well, I’ve always had a level head and have been told I handle conflict well,” you aren’t telling them anything.

            What they want to know are behavioral details about a specific situation where you demonstrated through your actions what your skill set is in this particular competency.

            This will require telling a story. We like to refer to these as your “greatest hits” stories. You are the star of the show and your interviewer wants to hear all about it.
            Which brings us to the next reason why flubbing behavioral questions is such a big no, no.

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          • Being vague with your answers is taking yourself out of the game.When the ball is tossed to you and you let it hit the ground, you are essentially benching yourself. You want to hit it out of the park, not watch the game from the sidelines.

            Behavioral questions are a solid gold opportunity to sell yourself right in to a new job. Don’t let that moment pass you by.

            We’re going to make sure you are equipped with your strongest greatest hits stories before you walk in that interview, so read on.


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          CHAPTER 7

          How to Write Your Irresistible Stories Using the STAR Method

          We’re about to go Henry Ford on your behavioral interview answers.

          This is the assembly line approach to crafting awesome “greatest hits” stories.

          It’s important to use frameworks like this one- job interviews are overwhelming enough as they are. We get it.

          They are a lot to process.

          And when someone throws a question at you like, “tell me about your greatest strength,” it isn’t any wonder the typical impulse is to go slack-jawed and start “ummming’ like a Buddhist monk.

          So here it is…

          The one outline you need to organize your greatest hits stories.

          The STAR Format

          One of the best techniques we know to build stellar answers is to use the STAR format.

          STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Approach, and Results.

          Your Situation and Task should be a brief yet concise overview. You are setting the stage here.

          You want to give enough information to provide context and explain why this story is relevant, but be careful not to include any unnecessary details.

          This should be the shortest part of your answer. The meat is in the details, not the context. Be concise, but thorough.

          The Approach part of your answers is where you really shine. This is where you demonstrate the actionable steps you took to solve the problem.

          Emphasis on Action. You really want to show and not tell here. Be specific. Vague details will not help anyone.

          Lastly, you’ll wrap up with your Results. This is where you’ll show off your happy ever after.
          Concrete results are always especially impressive, such as increasing sales by 32% or earning a promotion, but anecdotal results can be just as powerful.

          Either way, wrap up on a strong, positive note that brings your story full circle with a solid, happy end point.

          Don’t Write a Script

          While the STAR format is incredibly helpful it is not intended to be used as a script.

          The STAR format is simply an organizational tool that will keep you focused and on track in your answers. It cuts down on the likelihood of getting lost on rabbit trails, rambling, or including a bunch of irrelevant gibberish.


          What you’ll want to do is write down bullet points for each of the STAR areas and use them as notes during your practice.

          Notice we said use them as notes, not memorize them.

          You don’t want to train yourself with canned, robotic answers. Your bullet points written with the STAR format are guide posts along your path, but the words will be yours.

          Your story will come out a little different each time, but that’s okay. You want be natural and yourself in your interview.

          Practicing with your notes will put the relevant information in your brain while also keeping you free to articulate your story as it feels right in the moment.

          Choosing Your STAR Format Stories

          Now you know how to use the STAR format, you need to take some time to think through what stories you want to tell.

          As we mentioned above, we like to refer to these as your “greatest hits” stories. They are moments in your career where you really rose above, grew, took initiative, or learned something significant.

          Storytelling is such a powerful tool in job interviewing that we recommend that you have at least 3-5 greatest hits stories prepared across the most commonly asked about competencies.

          One of the things that makes a good greatest hits story is that it’s adaptable.

          For instance, a story about a successful project could be adapted and used to describe skills in problem solving, leadership, or conflict management.

          If you’ve worked out 3-5 stories, you should have enough material to adapt your answers for different opportunities and lead with the one that is the most relevant to the job description.

          Be sure to choose stories where you’re the hero. You don’t want to tell stories where you solved a problem that you caused in the first place.

          CHAPTER 8

          Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

          This question is usually posed as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

          You may be tempted to respond, “Hold on, let me consult my magic 8 ball.”

          The truth is none of us can predict where we’ll be in that much time. Our lives could be knocked off course tomorrow.

          But just as with the previous questions, there are actual reasons they’re asking, and many of them are what we discussed above; they’re trying to get a feel for your long term career goals and how invested you are in growing with their company.

          Recruiting, hiring and training new people is a tiresome process, and (unfair though it may sometimes be), hiring managers are looking for ways to narrow down the pile of qualified candidates.

          If your dream is to be a photojournalist, it’s going to be a hard sell to convince your interviewer you are over-the-moon excited about taking an entry level job in IT.

          It’s of course understandable that you want to keep all of your career options open, and to your mind, the job you’re applying for may very well be a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things.

          However, it’s not imperative that you broadcast this in your interview.

          Let’s be clear here, you should never lie in an interview. But it’s also possible to be honest while not being overly candid about all of the career options you are exploring.

          So What Do I Say?

          Well.

          This is perhaps the only area of your interview where it’s better to be more general.

          Don’t be so vague that you seem to be dodging the question or growing visibly uncomfortable. Be broad enough in your answer that it doesn’t raise a red flag and take you out of the race.

          Really stress you interest in a long term-career at the company. This is especially important if the experience on your resume shows that you’ve not been at any one company very long.

          Of course anything can happen. The company could go out of business, you could unexpectedly get laid off, a dream-job opportunity could materialize out of nowhere, but what the interviewer is looking for is some assurance that you are a good investment as a stable long-term hire.

          What Not to Say

          We’ve already touched on a couple of these, but we’ll detail some more just to be on the safe side.

          When the pressure is on in the actual interview, it can be far too easy to slip in to some of these things.

          Avoid:

          • Being Too Specific
            Absolutely show enthusiasm, but don’t give an encyclopedic definition of your 5 year dream scenario.
            Absolutely show enthusiasm but don’t give an encyclopedic definition of your 5 year dream scenario.

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          • Appear Scattered and Unfocused
            If you’re exploring different career paths and aren’t sure where you’ll land, don’t give a trailing answer that includes your desire to work on an organic farm in Nepal and the hope that your Ramones tribute band will take off.

            It’s wonderful to have these interests and to explore the things that make you happy, but hearing these thoughts will shake the hiring managers confidence in you as an employee.

            You don’t want to appear flakey, unfocused, and scattered.

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          • Red Flags
            Red flags in the workplace are things that signal you might have plans to not stick around for long.

            These can include talking about a hope to go back to school, or take extended time off, or branch off into entrepreneurship and start your own business.


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            Again, these are wonderful pursuits! We are in no way trying to discourage the betterment of yourself or crafting the career that you want.

            But what we are saying is not to give the interviewer any reason to send you packing before you’ve gotten your foot in the door.

            Be selective in the information you share, keeping the company’s needs in mind.

            CHAPTER 9

            Don’t Get Tripped Up! Answering “Tricky” Interview Questions

            Your main aim when answering this tricky question is to assure your interviewer that you are stable and reliable.

            They are trying to suss out why exactly you left your left position.

            Were you fired?
            Did you leave on good terms?
            Are you a job-hopper?
            What are your work values?


            This question can be particularly difficult if you are in fact leaving a nightmare job with a nightmare boss and you’re feeling a tad desperate.

            You should not be candid about this in your interview.

            Negativity is generally interpreted as unprofessional.

            You should find a neutral or positive way to express your reasons for leaving, even if it means not telling the whole story.

            Again, we are not advocating dishonesty.

            But it is in your best interest to be professional and selective with the information you share.

            On the flip side, you don’t want to err too far on the side of caution and be overly vague, possibly raising a red flag.


            ‍Emphasize the things you learned, the growth you made (I increased sales by 30%, I increased social media engagement across all platforms, etc.), and how you are grateful for those things, but ultimately you felt you could not grow any more in your previous environment.

            If you were let go through no fault of your own, it’s perfectly okay to mention that.

            Organizations restructure themselves all of the time for many different reasons, so it’s not necessarily a mark against you if you were laid off.

            You always want to emphasize the positive.

            Professionally and tactfully summarize the reason you left, but don’t give in to bitterness, display negativity, or talk smack about a previous employer, manager or company.

              CHAPTER 10

              Don’t Leave Money on the Table - Answering the “Salary Expectations” Question

              Sometimes the only thing worse than not getting a job offer is getting an offer that isn’t enough to support yourself or your family.

              Money is an awkward subject under the best of circumstances. In a job interview, it can turn the conversation from red hot to ice cold in seconds.

              But your interviewer is asking for a couple of different reasons.

              First off, they want to know if they can afford you. The greatest interview skills and job qualifications in the world won’t make any difference if they can’t afford to pay you.

              Secondly, they want to see how you value yourself. Are you going to fight for what you think you’re worth or meekly accept whatever is offered?

              Though the salary question may not arise in every interview (depending on the company, your experience level, and how skilled you are), you should be prepared in case it does.

              The stakes of this question are high and you can’t afford to be caught off guard.

              Answering Tactics

              When you are discussing your salary expectations you don’t want to give a specific number.

              I know this may seem counter-intuitive, especially if they are asking you a direct question, but you don’t want to shoot for the moon or lowball yourself and effectively end the conversation.

              One great way to respond is to say something similar to:

              “I am most interested in finding a good fit for my skill set that will allow me to grow. I’m confident that you’re offering a competitive salary for the current market.”

              This type of answer displays your confidence in your own abilities, while giving them the chance to earn your respect by giving you a fair offer.

              You may of course be pushed to state a number. If this is the case, give a salary range as opposed to a specific figure.

              Don’t pull this figure out of thin air.

              Before your interview, you should do some research on what the market salary range is for your industry, size of the company, your location, and experience level.

              Some great resources for this are:

              Payscale.com
              Glassdoor.com
              Salary.com

              With a little research you’ll be able to determine a fair salary range based on the market value and feel confident stating it, knowing it’s based on data and not just a desire you have for a certain salary.

              How much you want to be making is important to consider, however.

              During your research stage, think through your best-case scenario (an amount that would make you say “yes” on the spot) and your worst-case scenario (an offer that would make you walk away.)

              Being equipped with data, research, and some thoughtful consideration will drastically reduce the awkwardness of answering this question.

                For even more examples and in-depth discussion on how to answer questions about your salary expectations, visit our blog.

                CHAPTER 11

                Questions to ask at the end of your interview

                By this point you’ve hopefully already dazzled your interviewer, but the last part of your interview gives you one last chance to really drive home how amazing you are.

                As your interview is wrapping up, you’ll be asked something like, “Do you have any questions for us?” “Or do you have any comments or questions?”

                Never say “no.”

                You always want to have something to ask to prove that you have been listening, are thoughtful, and are invested in the job and the company.

                In all likelihood, some questions will arise for you during the course of the interview.
                Feel free to ask those if they spring to mind.

                But just in case you draw a blank, have a couple questions prepared beforehand. That way you can pull them out if you need them and be able to end your interview on a strong, high note no matter what they throw at you.

                Some ideas to get you started on what questions to have prepared:

                • Technical Questions
                  These can be about what kind of software that is used in the company, what your computer setup will be, or any other questions that have to do with the technology you’ll be using every day on the job.

                  1

                • Culture Questions
                  If you have any questions about company culture, things from dress code to the policy on taking time off, now is the time to get them out there. Be mindful of how you articulate your question, however, to avoid raising any red flags about your work ethic or reliability.

                  2

                • Throw it Back on Them
                  Ask your interviewer what their favorite part of their job is, why they chose to work for the company, or how they would like to see the company grow and expand in the coming years.

                  3

                • Position Specific
                  If there are any logistics about the position that haven’t been covered yet, such as who you’ll be reporting to, where you’ll be working, your daily responsibilities, etc. feel free to ask for some clarity.


                  4

                  One Last Thing…

                  We like to wrap up nearly everything we write with a reminder to practice.

                  Clearly you already care about being well-prepared for your interview if you’re reading this post (and if you’ve made it this far, you’re a rockstar!)

                  But all of the head knowledge in the world can’t replace the value that genuine practice will bring to your interviewing game.

                  The research has shown (and we’ve seen ourselves hundreds of times) that those who practice for interviews perform far better (and get more job offers) than those who don’t.

                  So gamble on yourself! Do everything you can to give yourself the best possible advantage, and practice!