Interviewers ask personal questions in an interview to “see if candidates will fit in with the culture [and] give them the opportunity to open up and display their personality, too,” says longtime hiring manager Mitch Fortner. “In other words, if someone asks about your hobbies outside of work, it’s totally OK to open up and share what really makes you tick. (Do keep it semi-professional, though: Saying you like to have a few beers at the local hot spot on Saturday night is fine. Telling them that Monday is usually a rough day for you because you’re always hungover is not.)”
If you were unemployed for a period of time, be direct and to the point about what you’ve been up to (and hopefully, that’s a litany of impressive volunteer and other mind-enriching activities, like blogging or taking classes). Then, steer the conversation toward how you will do the job and contribute to the organization: “I decided to take a break at the time, but today I’m ready to contribute to this organization in the following ways.”
As an ER nurse, I find that the best way for me to de-stress when I’m not working is to relax outdoors, rain or shine. I’ve always been an avid hiker, nature photographer and trout fisher, and one of my favorite things to do is to volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service and with local salmon habitat restoration groups. I also lead group hikes on some of Mt. Baker’s more challenging trails. This is where the skills I developed during my initial training as a military nurse sometimes come in handy. My current personal goal is to climb Mt. Rainier next summer. Being outdoors never fails to renew my spirit so that I’m able to be the best ER nurse I can be.
My greatest weakness used to be procrastination. Friends who knew my work style would tease me, saying, “Panic precipitates performance.” In college, I was the person who pulled all-nighters to finish their essay right before deadline. This isn’t as irresponsible as it sounds—from the moment I’m assigned a project, I’m thinking about it. Most of my first and second drafts get composed mentally, so it’s only a matter of writing down the final draft. And, since I have an excellent command of grammar, I don’t have to spend much time proofreading or revising.
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.
Content -- Employers want to know you feel you can fit in at the company quickly. That means not only deliverables in the job description, but also your fit with the company culture. You will likely have to do some homework to answer this one. You need to understand the reasons why others enjoy working there. Is it a great place to advance your skills, have great challenges to add to your resume, or will it allow you to grow as a professional?
What Interview Questions Should I Ask?
Example: “What I liked most about my last position the ability contribute in a collaborative way with other teams. Each team member was encouraged to bring new ideas to the project which were respectfully considered by all. For example, we once worked with a client who was relying on us to solve a critical issue. Our team met to discuss the situation. After I recommended a plan to resolve the issue, we took time considering the pros and the cons of the solution, building on how to make the idea better and more comprehensive. When we implemented it, it worked better and faster than everyone expected. The client was very pleased.”
Job Interview Questions to Prepare for
“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.”
Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age, are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”
Tip: If you’re applying for a public-facing role, an employer may ask this question to see how you think customers should be treated. A good answer will align with the company’s values, which you can glean through researching their customer service policy, understanding their products and clientele, and reflecting on your own experiences as a customer. Your answer can either come from the perspective of a customer or a customer service provider.
What They Want to Know: The interviewer wants to know why you're an excellent fit for the job. Try to answer questions about yourself without giving too much, or too little, personal information. You can start by sharing some of your personal interests and experiences that don't relate directly to work, such as a favorite hobby or a brief account of where you grew up, your education and what motivates you. You can even share some fun facts and showcase your personality to make the interview a little more interesting.
Whenever possible, you should speak about your achievements from the perspective of an employer (helping them to find new customers, helping them to improve their reputation, building good atmosphere on the workplace, earning more money, etc), rather than achievements from your own perspective (getting promoted, earning a degree or certification, etc).
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.
Tip: 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.
When answering this question, interview coach Pamela Skillings recommends being accurate (share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear); relevant (choose your strengths that are most targeted to this particular position); and specific (for example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”). Then, follow up with an example of how you've demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.
The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then, make sure the hiring manager knows that you're flexible. You're communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.
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.
This is a common one at startups (and one of our personal favorites here at The Muse). Hiring managers want to know that you not only have some background on the company, but that you're able to think critically about it and come to the table with new ideas. So, come with new ideas! What new features would you love to see? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but do share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.
Interview Questions to Ask Employer?
In asking this behavioral interview question, “your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and Gladys in Compliance starts getting in your face?” says Skillings. Again, you'll want to use the S-T-A-R method, being sure to focus on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closing with a happy ending, like how you came to a resolution or compromise.
Interview Questions What Are Your Strengths?
Tell a story. Take your qualification and share a brief story that illustrates how you’ve effectively used it in a previous work experience. Begin by discussing what you believe the employer is looking for, and then explain, using your qualification and your anecdote, how you fulfill that need. Your answer should be no more than one to two minutes long.
Of course, if you have an issue that is very important to you that could be a deal-breaker (like company culture), you can mention it. Just be prepared for them to take one extreme or the other. For example, maybe you only want to work for companies that buy from vendors in your home country. The hiring manager will let you know if their company does this. And if they don’t, I guess the interview is over.
This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you're asked it, you're in luck: There's no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, you can deliver great results; that you'll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you'd be a better hire than any of the other candidates.