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.
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.”
What Interview Questions Should You Ask?
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.
Keep it positive. Always try to put a positive slant on your responses to questions. It’s better to give the impression that you’re more motivated by the possibility of new opportunities than by trying to escape a bad situation. In addition, it’s important to avoid bashing your current organization, colleagues or supervisor. An employer is not likely to want to bring on someone who talks negatively about a company.
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.”
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 experience, good customer service involves taking responsibility when something goes wrong and doing what you can to make it right. For example, on a recent flight, I had pre-ordered my meal only to discover they didn’t stock enough of my dish. Instead of simply stating the facts, the flight attendant apologized sincerely and offered me a free drink or premium snack. To me, this apology went a long way in smoothing things over. The freebie was an added bonus that made me feel valued as a customer and choose the same airline for my next flight.”
Even so, don't be tempted to fib and claim to enjoy hobbies you don't. Focus on activities that indicate some sort of growth: skills you're trying to learn, goals you're trying to accomplish. Weave those in with personal details. For example, "I'm raising a family, so a lot of my time is focused on that, but I'm using my commute time to learn Spanish."
Keep your response short and focused. You want your answer to be brief. Select one or two specific qualities from the list you created to emphasize in your “sales pitch.” If you aren’t sure how to decide which to include, take another look at the job description and use your analytical skills to determine which qualifications would add the greatest business value.
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.