This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it's crucial. Here's the deal: Don't give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.
Answers to this question go one of two basic ways. Candidates try to show their incredible ambition (because that's what they think you want) by providing an extremely optimistic answer: "I want your job!" Or they try to show their humility (because that's what they think you want) by providing a meek, self-deprecating answer: "There are so many talented people here. I just want to do a great job and see where my talents take me."
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.”
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
Reliable salary calculators, like the one used by Glassdoor.com, say that experienced sous chefs here in Portland average around $50,964 a year, 5 percent below the national average. I brought home around $49,700 last year. While I would definitely welcome a salary over $50K, particularly given the cost of living here, I’m open to negotiation if a lower salary was accompanied by greater flexibility in scheduling and additional vacation time.
Keep it positive. Always try to put a positive slant on your responses to questions. It’s better to give the impression that you’re more motivated by the possibility of new opportunities than by trying to escape a bad situation. In addition, it’s important to avoid bashing your current organization, colleagues or supervisor. An employer is not likely to want to bring on someone who talks negatively about a company.
Example: “In my experience, good customer service involves taking responsibility when something goes wrong and doing what you can to make it right. For example, on a recent flight, I had pre-ordered my meal only to discover they didn’t stock enough of my dish. Instead of simply stating the facts, the flight attendant apologized sincerely and offered me a free drink or premium snack. To me, this apology went a long way in smoothing things over. The freebie was an added bonus that made me feel valued as a customer and choose the same airline for my next flight.”
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.
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… ”
Employees who love their jobs naturally recommend their company to their friends and peers. The same is true for people in leadership positions -- people naturally try to bring on board talented people they previously worked with. They've built relationships, developed trust, and shown a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to follow them to a new organization.
You don't need to memorize an answer, but do take the time to consider how you'll respond. The more you prepare, the more confident you'll feel during a job interview. When you're not sure what to expect during an interview, also take time to review this refresher on how job interviews work, and these tips on how to prepare to ace your job interview.