How To Respond: Before your interview, try to envision how, in an ideal case scenario, you would be able to enjoy longevity with the company you are applying to. What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten? Think about how best to align your career goals to the opportunities offered by the employer. Then, in your answer, “sell” your candidacy by enthusiastically postulating how you would be able to contribute to their operations and, steadily, assume positions of increasing responsibility.
Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
DON’T say a number. Why? you have the least amount of leverage possible at this point, assuming you’re early in the interview process. You haven’t finished interviewing with them, they don’t know if you’re any good or if they even want to hire you. So you can’t command a high salary right now. If you go too low with your price, they’ll hold you to it later. Go too high? You’ll scare them off before they even know what you’re worth!
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.
Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when interviewers ask this, they aren't necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission—they want to know whether you care about it. Start with one line that shows you understand the company's goals, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two.
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.”
If you’re unsure of where to start, review how to match your qualifications to a job. Don’t forget to think beyond the job description and consider which of your skills and accomplishments make you a better candidate than the competition. For example, maybe you have an additional certification that makes you more knowledgeable about the company’s product than the typical salesperson. When you’re honing your pitch, remember to be positive and to reiterate your interest in the company and the position.
Example: “Earlier in my career I noticed that because I was so enthusiastic about my work, I had a tendency to say ‘yes’ when I should have been saying ‘no.’ At one point I ended up so overwhelmed by my workload, taking on so many projects, that I was working evenings and weekends. It was stressful, and that stress affected my production quality. I realized this was counterproductive, so I started using workload management tools to set better expectations for myself and my teammates.”
The best managers are strong but flexible, and that's exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach...”) Then, share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company's top salesperson.
"Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals," says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world's greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.