I think the most difficult situation I face as a production manager is when I have to lay off staff, either because they aren’t doing their job properly or, even worse, because sales are down. When I can, I try to work with underperforming personnel to see if we can’t improve their efficiency. If not, then I hand them their pink slip and give them straightforward reasons for why they are being laid off. No one wants to be fired without an explanation. When this happens, I keep my tone polite and avoid using too many “you” statements; I absolutely do not want to cast shame on them.
Everyone disagrees with the boss from time to time, but in asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can do so in a productive, professional way. “You don’t want to tell the story about the time when you disagreed but your boss was being a jerk and you just gave in to keep the peace. And you don’t want to tell the one where you realized you were wrong,” says Peggy McKee of Career Confidential. “Tell the one where your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or a more effective and productive working relationship.”
They fired me because I had a different opinion than the director of the company. Nothing wrong with him—we just had a different philosophy of leadership, and how things should be done. Maybe he was right, maybe I was—only time will tell. But I do not want to live in the past. Now I am here, looking for a new challenge, and an opportunity to help your company to prosper.
Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews generally because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There's no wrong answer here, but you'll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say… ”
Start by explaining what you'd need to do to get ramped up. What information would you need? What parts of the company would you need to familiarize yourself with? What other employees would you want to sit down with? Next, choose a couple of areas where you think you can make meaningful contributions right away. (e.g., “I think a great starter project would be diving into your email marketing campaigns and setting up a tracking system for them.”) Sure, if you get the job, you (or your new employer) might decide there’s a better starting place, but having an answer prepared will show the interviewer where you can add immediate impact—and that you’re excited to get started.
Common Job Interview Questions and Answers
First of all, don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. We’re going to start by matching your qualifications to the job requirements, brainstorming how these qualifications play out in real life, and then reviewing what makes you stand out as a candidate. Jot down notes as you go through each step. Then we’ll work to combine them into a concise answer.
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.
You should think hard about how you can differentiate yourself from others -- every step of the way during the interview. Be memorable in a positive way even when answering these "boring questions." And, to be well-prepared to give smart answers to behavioral interview questions, read my article Smart Strategies to Answer to Behavioral Interview Questions
“I’m not particularly strong in social media marketing. For the first few years of my career, I focused entirely on email marketing. That’s still what I specialize in, which is why I applied for your Email Marketing Manager job. But I’ve realized it’s also helpful to understand the principles of social media marketing because some of the strategies that work there also work well in email. So I’ve started spending a couple hours a week of my own time studying and learning this new area, and it’s helped me a lot.”
What They Want to Know: This question gives you an opportunity to show the interviewer what you know about the job and the company, so take time beforehand to thoroughly research the company, its products, services, culture and mission. Be specific about what makes you a good fit for this role, and mention aspects of the company and position that appeal to you most.
“I’ve been actively searching for jobs since graduating with my Nursing degree. I’m interested in intensive care and emergency medicine and I’ve seen your hospital mentioned as having one of the best ER’s in the region. I thought the job description matched up well with my background, and saw some of my personal strengths mentioned, like multitasking and being able to thrive in a fast paced environment, so I’d love to begin my career here.”
However, after I landed my first job as a content writer, it became clear that while this process worked for me (I’ve never missed a deadline), it made my editor extremely nervous. And so I’ve learned to set “early” deadlines for myself, at least 24 hours before the actual deadline, so that my projects now always arrive with plenty of time to spare.
Example: “In my last role, I managed all social media content. I noticed other brands were experimenting with videos and seeing great engagement from their customers, so I asked my boss if we could do a low-budget test. She agreed, so I produced a video cheaply in-house that drove double the engagement we normally saw on our social channels. It also drove conversions, with 30% of viewers visiting to our website within a week of seeing the video.”
“I’ve heard great things about the work environment here from a few colleagues. And when I saw this job posting, it seemed to match my skills very closely. For example, I saw on the job description that you need somebody who’s an expert in Java programming. This is what I focused on in both of my previous positions, and was even the focus of my academic work before graduating university. I consider myself an expert in Java and it’s a skill I hope to continue specializing in.”
Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).
Interview Questions What Are You Passionate About?
Based on what you’ve said and from the research I’ve done, your company is looking for an administrative assistant who is both strong in interpersonal skills and in tech skills. I believe my experience aligns well with that and makes me a great fit. I'm an effective communicator who is skilled in giving oral presentations, speaking on the phone, and communicating via email. I'm also fluent in a number of relevant software programs, including content management systems and spreadsheet suites. I’d really love to bring my diverse skill set to your company.
I am Mario, 25 years old, and I have just finished my Masters in Economy. I enjoy team work, and I am looking for my first job, ideally in a big company. I want to learn, and meet like-minded people in work. In my free time I like to run, read, and meet with friends. I try to have positive outlook of life, and take everything that comes my way as an opportunity to become a better person.
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.