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.
Example: “As an experienced, service-oriented professional with more than a decade of experience working in boutique salons, I thrive on creating a welcoming environment for all clients and providing the highest quality skincare services. My specialized training and strong interpersonal skills have helped me become adept at developing long-term, trusted relationships that help to build a loyal client base. Some of my clients have been with me since the beginning—more than ten years now. These relationships are the reason I’m excited to go to work every day.”
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.
However, after I landed my first job as a content writer, it became clear that while this process worked for me (I’ve never missed a deadline), it made my editor extremely nervous. And so I’ve learned to set “early” deadlines for myself, at least 24 hours before the actual deadline, so that my projects now always arrive with plenty of time to spare.
Don’t give a memorized response. While it’s important to practice this pitch for a fluid delivery, don’t go crazy trying to memorize it. Rather, have a general idea of what you’re going to say and tailor it based on how the interview is going. For example, if an interviewer indicates that another quality or skill is more valuable to the organization, then you should be sure to work that into your response.
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: “I’m a natural problem-solver. I find it rewarding to dig deep and uncover solutions to challenges—it’s like solving a puzzle. It’s something I’ve always excelled at, and something I enjoy. Much of product development is about finding innovative solutions to challenging issues, which is what drew me to this career path in the first place.”
Example: “In my last role, I managed all social media content. I noticed other brands were experimenting with videos and seeing great engagement from their customers, so I asked my boss if we could do a low-budget test. She agreed, so I produced a video cheaply in-house that drove double the engagement we normally saw on our social channels. It also drove conversions, with 30% of viewers visiting to our website within a week of seeing the video.”
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.
Example: “It was the first day of my boss’s two-week vacation and our agency’s highest-paying client threatened to leave because he didn’t feel he was getting the personalized service he was promised. I spent my lunch hour on the phone with him, talking through his concerns. We even brainstormed ideas for his next campaign. He was so grateful for the personal attention that he signed another six-month contract before my boss even returned from her trip.”
“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.”
Here are the 50 most frequently-asked questions that are posed in interviews. Be prepared to go into some detail about your work history; you may also be asked behavioral or situational questions which require you to provide an anecdote about how you have handled a work challenge in the past or, alternatively, how you would approach a situation in the future.