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.
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… ”
Example: “I would say that as a security officer, I’m vigilant, proactive and committed to ensuring safe, secure, and orderly environments. In my last incident response rating, I received a 99% against the team average, which has been at around 97% over the past 3 years. I like to be thorough, documenting all incidents. I’m also a lifelong learner, always seeking out the latest security equipment and techniques to patrol buildings. I frequently make suggestions to management about security improvements and changes as my motivation comes from making a meaningful contribution.”
“I’ve heard great things about the work environment here from a few colleagues. And when I saw this job posting, it seemed to match my skills very closely. For example, I saw on the job description that you need somebody who’s an expert in Java programming. This is what I focused on in both of my previous positions, and was even the focus of my academic work before graduating university. I consider myself an expert in Java and it’s a skill I hope to continue specializing in.”

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.”
My greatest weakness used to be procrastination. Friends who knew my work style would tease me, saying, “Panic precipitates performance.” In college, I was the person who pulled all-nighters to finish their essay right before deadline. This isn’t as irresponsible as it sounds—from the moment I’m assigned a project, I’m thinking about it. Most of my first and second drafts get composed mentally, so it’s only a matter of writing down the final draft. And, since I have an excellent command of grammar, I don’t have to spend much time proofreading or revising.

What Questions to Ask in a Job Interview


Laid off is not fired: If you were part of a layoff, this is different from being fired. It was likely a financial decision by management, and you were part of a group that was targeted as part of budget cuts. Layoffs are typically not personal -- they are just business. Hiring managers know this (and likely have been involved in one at some point in their careers).
I am Mario, 25 years old, and I have just finished my Masters in Economy. I enjoy team work, and I am looking for my first job, ideally in a big company. I want to learn, and meet like-minded people in work. In my free time I like to run, read, and meet with friends. I try to have positive outlook of life, and take everything that comes my way as an opportunity to become a better person.
As an ER nurse, I find that the best way for me to de-stress when I’m not working is to relax outdoors, rain or shine. I’ve always been an avid hiker, nature photographer and trout fisher, and one of my favorite things to do is to volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service and with local salmon habitat restoration groups. I also lead group hikes on some of Mt. Baker’s more challenging trails. This is where the skills I developed during my initial training as a military nurse sometimes come in handy. My current personal goal is to climb Mt. Rainier next summer. Being outdoors never fails to renew my spirit so that I’m able to be the best ER nurse I can be.  
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.

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.

“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.”
I’m not someone who is energized by or thrives in stressful environments. My first step in managing stress is to try to circumvent it by keeping my work processes very organized, and my attitude professional. When customers or associates come to me with issues, I try to look at things from their perspective, and initiate a collaborative problem-solving approach to keep the situation from escalating. I find that maintaining an efficient, congenial office with open lines of communication automatically reduces a lot of workplace stress. Of course, sometimes unanticipated stressors will arise. When this happens, I just take a deep breath, remembering that the person I’m dealing with is frustrated with a situation, not with me. I then actively listen to their concerns and make a plan to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  

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: “I have a passion for application development that’s grown stronger over the course of my career. The company’s mission aligns with my personal values and, from my limited time in the office, I can already tell this is the sort of positive culture in which I would thrive. I want to work for a company that has the potential to reshape the industry, and I believe you’re doing just that.”
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."
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.”
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).
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.

Job Interview Questions


Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).
Even so, if you're asked, provide a sharp, on-point answer. Be clear and precise. If you're a great problem solver, don't just say that: Provide a few examples, pertinent to the opening, that prove you're a great problem solver. If you're an emotionally intelligent leader, don't just say that: Provide a few examples that prove you know how to answer the unasked question.
Example: “What I liked most about my last position the ability contribute in a collaborative way with other teams. Each team member was encouraged to bring new ideas to the project which were respectfully considered by all. For example, we once worked with a client who was relying on us to solve a critical issue. Our team met to discuss the situation. After I recommended a plan to resolve the issue, we took time considering the pros and the cons of the solution, building on how to make the idea better and more comprehensive. When we implemented it, it worked better and faster than everyone expected. The client was very pleased.”
I’m not someone who is energized by or thrives in stressful environments. My first step in managing stress is to try to circumvent it by keeping my work processes very organized, and my attitude professional. When customers or associates come to me with issues, I try to look at things from their perspective, and initiate a collaborative problem-solving approach to keep the situation from escalating. I find that maintaining an efficient, congenial office with open lines of communication automatically reduces a lot of workplace stress. Of course, sometimes unanticipated stressors will arise. When this happens, I just take a deep breath, remembering that the person I’m dealing with is frustrated with a situation, not with me. I then actively listen to their concerns and make a plan to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  
I think the most difficult situation I face as a production manager is when I have to lay off staff, either because they aren’t doing their job properly or, even worse, because sales are down. When I can, I try to work with underperforming personnel to see if we can’t improve their efficiency. If not, then I hand them their pink slip and give them straightforward reasons for why they are being laid off. No one wants to be fired without an explanation. When this happens, I keep my tone polite and avoid using too many “you” statements; I absolutely do not want to cast shame on them. 
Being a good team player is expected, too. But what does this really mean? Getting along with everyone? That’s not hard to do if you’re a nice person. Pulling your weight in the office? Again, expected. What have you done, beyond your job description, that saved the team from a disaster or helped them make an impossible deadline? Have you won an award for this?
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