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.
Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.
“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.”
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.
Tip: This might be one of the most important questions asked during the interview process because it allows you to explore any subject that hasn’t been addressed and shows the interviewer you’re excited about the role. By this point, you’ll likely have already covered most of the basics about the position and the company, so take time to ask the interviewer questions about their own experiences with the company and gain tips on how you can succeed if hired.
What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can't meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I'm perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you've recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
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Whenever possible, you should speak about your achievements from the perspective of an employer (helping them to find new customers, helping them to improve their reputation, building good atmosphere on the workplace, earning more money, etc), rather than achievements from your own perspective (getting promoted, earning a degree or certification, etc).
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.
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.”
Follow up after the interview. After every job interview, take the time to send a thank you note or email message sharing your appreciation for the time the interviewer spent with you, and reiterating your interest in the job. If there was something you wish you had said during the interview, but didn’t get a chance to, this is a good opportunity to mention it
Example: “When it comes to managing people, my teaching philosophy is to start by asking questions that hopefully get the person to come to a new conclusion on their own. This way, they feel ownership over the learning rather than feeling micro-managed. For example, in my last role, I was editing an article written by a copywriter I managed. The story didn’t have a clear focus or hook. In a one-on-one meeting, I asked her what she thought was the main point of the article if she had to sum it up in a sentence. From there, I asked if she thought the focus was clear in the article. She didn’t think it was clear and instead thought she should rework her introduction and conclusion. As a result, the article improved and my direct report learned a valuable writing lesson that she carried into her future work.”
Tip: If you’re applying for a public-facing role, an employer may ask this question to see how you think customers should be treated. A good answer will align with the company’s values, which you can glean through researching their customer service policy, understanding their products and clientele, and reflecting on your own experiences as a customer. Your answer can either come from the perspective of a customer or a customer service provider.
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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: “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.”
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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.
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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.
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.
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).
What They Want to Know: This question gives you an opportunity to show the interviewer what you know about the job and the company, so take time beforehand to thoroughly research the company, its products, services, culture and mission. Be specific about what makes you a good fit for this role, and mention aspects of the company and position that appeal to you most.
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.
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.
You won't be asked a hundred questions at a job interview, but it's completely understandable if you feel overwhelmed looking at this list. Just know this: Nobody expects you to have all the answers—that's what the experts at Monster are for. Still have questions about the hiring process? Join Monster today. As a member, you'll get career advice and useful tips sent directly to your inbox. From resume-writing checklists to lists of companies hiring to how to get promoted, Monster will help you plot an awesome career path, one step at a time.