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.
Tip: Much like the previous question about motivation, employers might ask what you are passionate about to better understand what drives you and what you care most deeply about. This can both help them understand whether you are a good fit for the role and if it fits into your larger goals. To answer, select something you are genuinely passionate about, explain why you’re passionate about it, give examples of how you’ve pursued this passion and relate it back to the job.
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.
You should think hard about how you can differentiate yourself from others -- every step of the way during the interview. Be memorable in a positive way even when answering these "boring questions." And, to be well-prepared to give smart answers to behavioral interview questions, read my article Smart Strategies to Answer to Behavioral Interview Questions
“In my last job, we were facing a tough deadline and my boss was out for the day. Our client was expecting a project to be delivered by 5PM, but we were far behind schedule. I took the lead on the project, delegated tasks to the four other team members in a way that I thought would utilize everyone’s strengths best. And then I re-organized my own personal tasks so I could dedicate my entire day to contributing to this project as well. The project was a success and we delivered the work on-time. I went on to lead more projects after that, and used what I learned to be a better project manager.”
Remember that employers hire workers to solve a problem, whether it’s boosting sales or streamlining processes or building a brand. Your goal when making your pitch is to show that you’re the best person to solve that problem. Interviewers ask questions about why you should be hired to measure how you qualify for the job and fit in with the company.
Depending on what's more important for the the role, you'll want to choose an example that showcases your project management skills (spearheading a project from end to end, juggling multiple moving parts) or one that shows your ability to confidently and effectively rally a team. And remember: “The best stories include enough detail to be believable and memorable,” says Skillings. “Show how you were a leader in this situation and how it represents your overall leadership experience and potential.”
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.
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.
Common Job Interview Questions
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.”
Example: “I’m able to stay calm when I focus on the bigger picture and break down my projects into smaller tasks. What is the ultimate goal I’m trying to achieve? From there, I make a list of action items with reasonable deadlines. Even if the big project is due tomorrow, I ask myself, ‘What’s something I can tackle in the next 30 minutes?’ Before I know it, I’ve made significant progress and that impossible project doesn’t seem so impossible.”
“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.”
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.
Tip: Often hiring managers ask about your future goals to determine whether or not you’re looking to stay with the company long-term. Additionally, this question is used to gauge your ambition, expectations for your career and your ability to plan ahead. The best way to handle this question is to determine your current career trajectory and how this role plays into helping you reach your ultimate goals.
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.
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."
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?