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
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.
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 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.”
“In my most recent position, I had recently been promoted to Supervisor, and was managing the department on my own right before the department closed. An employee was acting out and I confronted him in front of everybody. It made the situation worse and caused a lot of distraction for every employee on the floor. I failed to lead properly in this situation, and spoke to my manager the next day to discuss what I could have done differently. We both agreed that I should have handled this in-private with the employee, by asking them to step inside my office with me. If I had done this instead of reacting the way I did, the situation would have turned out much better. From that point onward, I am always conscious of whether a discussion with a team member should occur in public or behind closed doors, and it made me a better leader.”
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.
If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you've set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn't the first time you're considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.
Construction design is in my blood—both my dad and my grandad were home builders who owned their own construction firm. From the time I entered college, I knew that I wanted my architecture career to be focused on sustainable, green design practices, so I earned my certification as a LEED Accredited Professional. Greenways Construction is the most respected sustainable design firm in Texas. I’ve been following reports of your LEED Certified projects in Journal of Green Engineering, and I wrote my capstone project on the energy modeling you pioneered for the ACME Business Park and the ABC Tech campus. Working here really would be my dream job, since your mission aligns perfectly with my goals as a sustainability specialist.
This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you'll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you're eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.
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.
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.)”
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.