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.
What They Want to Know: What do you do when things don’t go smoothly at work? How do you deal with difficult situations? The employer wants to know how you handle workplace stress. Avoid claiming that you never, or rarely, experience stress. Rather, formulate your answer in a way that acknowledges workplace stress and explains how you’ve overcome it, or even used it to your advantage.
I was very fortunate to be hired by ABC Company right out of college. They taught me a lot about digital marketing, and it’s been stimulating to work as a contributor to their creative teams. However, I’m ready for the next step. I’ve always been a leader—I was captain of the crew team in college, student body vice president, and I’ve served as team lead for most of our projects in FY 2019. I think I’m ready to move into management, but ABC Company already has very talented managers in place, and they won’t be leaving such a great employer anytime soon. I’ve completed supplemental management training courses during my time there, and I know I can hit the ground running as your next digital marketing manager.
Example: “What makes me unique is my experience of having spent four years in retail. Because I’ve had first-hand experience fielding shoppers’ questions, feedback and complaints, I know what customers want. I know what it takes to create a positive consumer experience because I’ve had that direct interaction, working directly with consumers in person.”
Questions to Prepare for a Job Interview
Show how you will add value. For each qualification or strength that you’ve identified, think of a specific time where you used that trait to achieve something. Think about any other skills you may have that would add extra value, or any previous professional, personal or volunteer experiences that provide you with a unique perspective. Ultimately, this is your chance to tell the interviewer why you would be an invaluable employee.
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.
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.
This is a tough question to answer without dipping into platitudes. Try sharing leadership examples instead. Say, "The best way for me to answer that is to give you a few examples of leadership challenges I've faced," and then share situations where you dealt with a problem, motivated a team, worked through a crisis. Explain what you did and that will give the interviewer a great sense of how you lead.
How Interview Questions and Answers?
What They Want to Know: Another typical question interviewers will ask is about your weaknesses. Do your best to frame your answers around positive aspects of your skills and abilities as an employee, turning seeming “weaknesses” into strengths. You can also share examples of skills you have improved, providing specific instances of how you have recognized a weakness and taken steps to correct it.
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.
Example: “Earlier in my career I noticed that because I was so enthusiastic about my work, I had a tendency to say ‘yes’ when I should have been saying ‘no.’ At one point I ended up so overwhelmed by my workload, taking on so many projects, that I was working evenings and weekends. It was stressful, and that stress affected my production quality. I realized this was counterproductive, so I started using workload management tools to set better expectations for myself and my teammates.”
Focus on them: In five years, you should have made a significant impact to the company’s bottom line. Think about how you can achieve this in the role you are interviewing for. In technology careers, advancing your skills is important, too. You should be able to share what areas you want to strengthen in the near term (but be careful that they are not areas of expertise that the company needs now).
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.
If you are currently employed, you should be honest about the start date and show professionalism. You should tell them you would have to discuss a transition with your current company to see if they require a two-week notice (or some other timing). If you currently have a critical role, your potential new employer would expect a transition period.