Learn what hiring managers look for in interview answers below:
1. Tell me about yourself.
A lot of jobs require someone who can think on their feet or present ideas with crispness and clarity. This question provides employers with an early preview of your core skills, your personality and your ability to respond to an unstructured question.
- Prepare for this question in advance and have a compelling story about your past experiences.
- Pull prominent skills from the job description.
- Be “SHE” (succinct, honest and engaging).
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2. What is your greatest strength?
Employers want to see if you can strike the right balance between confidence and humility. Hiring managers also want to get a sense for how self-aware and honest you are and align your strengths to the role at hand.
- Be authentic – don’t make up strengths that you think the employer wants to hear.
- Tell a story about a work experience.
- Be sure the strengths you share are aligned to the role you want.
The interviewer is assessing whether your weaknesses will get in the way of doing the job. Employers are looking for humility and whether you’re committed to learning and growing. This is a place you can showcase what you’re doing to improve.
- Employers are looking for self-awareness and personal accountability.
- It’s good to be honest about what you’re not great at.
- Share what you are doing to actively improve on this weakness.
This question tests how persuasive you are. Interviewers want to see if you can make a calm, confident case for yourself, even if they’re acting skeptical. They’re looking for factual and compelling answers.
- Start with the three or four best reasons you’ve got.
- Cite results, credentials, and other people’s praise so you don’t seem self-absorbed.
- Be concise, and invite follow-up questions at the end.
Interviewers want to understand what prompted you to apply for this job. They don’t want candidates who are indifferent to where they work. Instead, they want someone who offers very specific reasons for why they want this job.
- Make it about them first.
- Show you’ve done your research.
- Use this as a key opportunity to outshine the competition.
- Speak from the heart.
Employers want to understand your capacity to step up and handle tough situations that undoubtedly arise in the workplace. They want to know when you’ve seen an opening to lean in and lead with good judgment.
- Describe a situation where there was a lack of leadership.
- Use the word “lead” to help describe the actions you took.
- Give credit to your ‘leadership skills’ when explaining the positive results.
If you can show that you’ve helped a team move through a challenge, you probably have strong communication and interpersonal skills. These kinds of “soft” skills are in high demand and make people successful in their jobs.
- Describe a problem that arose with a team.
- Outline your key actions with the team.
- Explain the positive result based on the work you did.
- Give credit to your teamwork skills.
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Interviewers want to know if you’ll fit in with the team. This question can also help you highlight your strengths without feeling like you’re bragging.
- Share something that relates to the job description and back it with an example.
- Look to your recommendations and reviews for ideas.
- Be confident and succinct. It’s OK to shine!.
Employers say they want to hire people who are running “to” a role as opposed to running “away.” However, they are also interested in your honesty when things haven’t worked out and will give people second chances when they demonstrate hunger.
- Don’t talk negatively about past roles or former bosses – employers don’t want to work with people who complain.
- Be gracious when things haven’t worked out in the past.
- Share some of the ways you’re working on improving.
Employers want to get a sense of what ‘challenging’ means to you. They also want to know how you handled the situation in a calm way. They’re looking for a storyline to prove that you can turn a bad story into a good story.
- Have a clear story with a specific challenge.
- Describe the negative impact if you hadn’t resolved the issue.
- Discuss action steps you took and talk about the positive impact.
This question assesses how you define a professional success. If the story resonates, the employer will want you to do similar things at his or her company. You should focus on the impact and outcomes.
- Describe the problem that existed before you took action.
- Talk about how you took initiative to solve the problem.
- Explain why you are proud of the outcome and what would have happened if you hadn’t stepped in.
This question isn’t designed to rule you out – it’s a good sign if you get the interview. Interviewers want to get more context about the gap and whether you’re still going to be a great fit for the role, despite the gap.
- Expect that they will ask about the gap – prepare for it.
- Answer honestly and strategically.
- Be confident and succinct.
- Shine a light on the good that came out of that time.
If this question arises early, odds are that the interviewer is really asking: “Can we afford you?” If it arises much later, the interviewer may be hoping that your salary requirements are aligned to what they have budgeted for this role.
- Know the industry norms for similar jobs.
- Talk about ranges, rather than exact numbers.
- Make the case that you offer premium value.
Interviewers want to know you’re going to be enjoyable to have around and not just that you have the hard skills for the job. Use this question to set yourself up as interesting, fun, curious, or a go-getter.
- Share something that paints a favorable picture.
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Don’t bore them with long stories.
- Steer clear of the inappropriate zone.
Employers want to see how you handle competing priorities, understand the implications of missing deadlines, and can stay cool under pressure.
- Talk about the most important priority and then share additional priorities and how they conflicted.
- Describe the steps you took to get the top priority done.
- Discuss the impact this had on the company or team.
Employers want to determine how serious you are about your career and whether your goals match the goals for this job. Employers don’t expect you to offer up a specific title you want. Instead, they want to know what you hope to accomplish.
- Break the answer down in two to three year chunks.
- Focus on what you can give, rather than what you can get.
- Don’t bring up a specific job title that you want to move into one day.
- Make it specific to this particular company and position.
Good leaders can explain their values and priorities in a few words. This is a test to see if you can explain yourself. It also helps to determine whether your approach meshes with the company’s own culture.
- Start by framing your basic style in a few words.
- Give an example of your leadership style in action.
- Show that you can adapt well to unexpected situations.
Being able to admit to a mistake shows maturity and personal accountability. Employers want to know you’re self-aware and that you learn from past experiences. Errors are inevitable in any job – it’s how you handle them that matters.
- Use an honest example that’s believable.
- Explain why it was a mistake.
- Talk about what you’ve learned and any steps you’ve taken to show that you’re “working on it”.
Employers know that difficult people are everywhere and situations come up frequently. Explaining how you’ve been able to handle a challenging person in a mature way demonstrates your ability to manage difficult moments successfully.
- Describe how the person was ‘difficult’.
- Explain the negative potential impact this could have caused.
- Talk about how you approached the situation.
- Be sure to highlight the positive result your efforts created.
This question is all about sizing up your emotional intelligence. Interviewers are looking for problem solvers, not shouters. Strong answers showcase your listening skills and your ability to guide people to better choices.
- Pick an issue where your agenda is in the broader interest.
- Show how your careful listening helped you reframe the controversy.
- Explain how the other person’s change of heart led to a better outcome for all.
Occasional conflicts are a fact of life. Interviewers want to see if you can work through those tensions in a respectful way. If you helped steer things toward a good compromise, that’s a big plus. Signs of anger or bitterness will count against you.
My team was given a new goal: to sell our product to a new customer segment that we’d not served in the past. The group had strong opinions about the approach we should take. In spite of their voices, I had real concerns about their strategy; I thought it may fail as it didn’t align with the clients’ core needs. But, I was in the minority and, when I spoke up, I wasn’t heard. I needed to find another way to make the case to my teammates. I set up a focus group with a potential client so my team could understand the challenges and priorities of the very people we aimed to serve. The great news was they saw very quickly that our planned product wouldn’t meet these needs but, if we made some slight adjustments to the service, we could deliver something of real value. The team rallied behind this and got on board. We were ultimately successful in bringing this client onboard, and 10 more. And, we surpassed everyone’s expectations!
Why this answer worked well: This candidate shared a succinct example of a time when her opinion was in the minority, yet she succeeded in finding a creative way to change her team’s perspective. She came up with a new strategy and it worked. The outcome led to the best possible scenario – new clients, which always makes for a great punchline.
- Pick an example involving business practices – avoid personal quarrels.
- Calmly explain both sides’ point of view.
- Show how a compromise or a fuller understanding led to a good outcome.
Strong answers reassure interviewers about your ambition and your determination to press ahead. Pick a trivial goal, and you’re at risk of being tagged as a slacker.
- Pick an ambitious goal that’s part of a bigger life journey.
- Highlight obstacles and show how you overcame them.
- Finish with an insight about the way your accomplishment has paid off.
Employers want to know they are hiring high quality people. If you have a story about surpassing an expectation, you’ve probably gone above and beyond the call of duty and that’s a great thing!
- Describe a situation where you thought you weren’t going to be successful.
- Talk about what you did to compensate for a bad situation.
- Talk about the outcomes of your successful efforts.
Some jobs are high-stress and interviewers will test you to see if you can handle the heat. You’ll get partial credit for talking about your heroic efforts to get everything done, but you’ll get more points if you’ve enlisted allies.
- Be clear about the project goal.
- Establish that you’re a strong person who doesn’t get flustered easily.
- Show your ingenious side, too, especially if your path to success involved redefining the task or enlisting colleagues.
Interviewers want more than a one-time success; they’re looking for signs of a well-tested strategy that helps you gather information and put it to use. They also want to know if you feel comfortable with rapid learning.
When I started in my role, I thought I was quite knowledgeable about Excel. I had told my employer that I knew how to calculate complex formulas, but quickly discovered that my experience working with advanced formulas was well behind that of my peers. I didn’t want my boss to know that I was trailing in my capabilities just as I stepped into the new role, so I came up with a plan to teach myself everything I was missing. Every day after work, I watched at least an hour of Khan Academy videos. I also found practice worksheets online that allowed me to test myself and be sure I was mastering the content. Within three weeks, I was nearly as fast and fluent as my colleagues at work, and my boss never knew I came in behind.
Why this answer worked well: This answer is strong for a few reasons. First, this person showed initiative and went above and beyond after work to catch up to her peers. Second, she was specific in what she didn’t know and then told a clear and concise story about what she needed to do to change the situation. Third, she shared the outcome – which is that with some focused and hard work she was able to catch up rather quickly. She demonstrated initiative and owned her learning.
- Pick a vivid example and show why it was challenging.
- Break down your learning and mastery into three or four distinct steps(“First, I . . . .).
- Share a tangible result and speak about it with pride.
This question isn’t just designed to make sure you leave with all of your questions answered; it’s intended to see if you’re prepared and to assess how curious and thoughtful you are.
- Come prepared with 3-5 thoughtful questions.
- Ask questions that show you’re engaged, intelligent and interested.
- Avoid no-brainer questions or ones related to salary / benefits.
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