OK, if you get the admittedly much tougher follow-up question as to why you were let go (and the truth isn't exactly pretty), your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. If you can position the learning experience as an advantage for this next job, even better.
Common Job Interview Questions
"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.
Don't be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you've made the career decisions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferrable to the new role. This doesn't have to be a direct connection; in fact, it's often more impressive when a candidate can make seemingly irrelevant experience seem very relevant to the role.
Tip: This question is often used to assess how well you perform under pressure as well as your problem-solving abilities. Keep in mind stories are more memorable than facts and figures, so strive to “show” instead of “tell.” This is also an excellent opportunity to show your human side and how you’re willing to go the extra mile without being asked.
You have explained that you are looking for a sales executive who is able to effectively manage over a dozen employees. In my 15 years of experience as a sales manager, I have developed strong motivational and team-building skills. I was twice awarded manager-of-the-year for my innovative strategies for motivating employees to meet and surpass quarterly deadlines. If hired, I will apply my leadership abilities and strategies to achieve profit gains in this position.
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.
Example: “In five years, I’d like to be an industry expert in my field, able to train and mentor students and entry-level designers alike. I would also like to gain specialized experience in user experience to be a well-rounded contributor working with design and marketing teams on large-scale projects that make a difference both in the company and the global community.”
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.
Companies ask this for a number of reasons, from wanting to see what the competition is for you to sniffing out whether you're serious about the industry. “Often the best approach is to mention that you are exploring a number of other similar options in the company's industry,” says job search expert Alison Doyle. “It can be helpful to mention that a common characteristic of all the jobs you are applying to is the opportunity to apply some critical abilities and skills that you possess. For example, you might say 'I am applying for several positions with IT consulting firms where I can analyze client needs and translate them to development teams in order to find solutions to technology problems.'”
So take a step back and think about the job you're applying for and the company's culture (because every company has one, whether intentional or unintentional). If a flexible schedule is important to you, but the company doesn't offer one, focus on something else. If you like constant direction and support and the company expects employees to self-manage, focus on something else.
Tip: Employers often ask this question to identify why you might be more qualified than other candidates they’re interviewing. To answer, focus on why hiring you would benefit the employer. Since you don’t know the other applicants, it can be challenging to think about your answer in relation to them. Addressing why your background makes you a good fit will let employers know why your traits and qualifications make you well prepared.
“In my last job, we were facing a tough deadline and my boss was out for the day. Our client was expecting a project to be delivered by 5PM, but we were far behind schedule. I took the lead on the project, delegated tasks to the four other team members in a way that I thought would utilize everyone’s strengths best. And then I re-organized my own personal tasks so I could dedicate my entire day to contributing to this project as well. The project was a success and we delivered the work on-time. I went on to lead more projects after that, and used what I learned to be a better project manager.”
Good Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
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.
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.