Almost every single one of us has experienced it at some point or another: the dreaded pre-interview nerves and jitters. In fact, 93% of Americans report that interviews are typically a source of stress and anxiety for them. Interviews can feel high-pressure and like “make it or break it” moments that will define the trajectory of our career. And most interviewees report that these nerves are mostly due to the fact that they don’t know *quite* what to expect when it comes to the interview itself. No one ever said job hunting was easy!
If only we could know exactly what questions we’ll get asked in an interview. Then we could simply focus on impressing the hiring manager with all of our charm and expertise, amiright?
Here’s the deal. We actually do know what hiring managers are going to ask you. Sure, every interview will have its own unique flavor and company/job-specific questions, but we can absolutely predict some of the questions that you’re sure to get asked.
By taking the time to prepare your responses to the following questions, you can head into any interview confidently, with minimal stress, and ready to completely SHINE!
Adios, pre-interview jitters! Helloooo, knocking the interview out of the park and landing the job.
Without further ado, here are some of the most common interview questions with strategies on how to answer them like the winner you are.
This one is almost 100% guaranteed to be the very first question that you will be asked by your interviewer right out of the gates. The reason why this question gets asked is twofold:
First, it’s to get you talking, to warm you up, and to allow you to introduce yourself. But here’s the deal. The question is not actually about you as much as it’s about what exactly you have to offer a company (aka what will you be able to do for them). It’s asked so that hiring managers can hear you articulate in your own words why you are, in fact, the absolute best candidate for the job. They want you to essentially answer for them the underlying question that’s really at play here: “why should we hire you?”. We typically refer to the answer to this question as your “elevator pitch.”
Here are the top three goals that we have when it comes to knocking it out of the park with this question:
Connect the dots of your career story and where you’re looking to head.
Demonstrate you’ve done your homework on the company, the company culture, and the role itself.
Communicate your value proposition.
Here’s how we do this:
1. There is always more to our story than can be extrapolated from our resume, our cover letter, and our LinkedIn profile. Yes, you want to talk about your work experience and what motivates you, but you can do it in a way that tells a story. This question is your opportunity to connect those dots for your interviewer and address head-on any clarification they might need about how you ended up where you are now and to provide the much-needed insight when it comes to why you specifically are interested in this specific role at this specific company/organization. Here’s an example of what this might look like:
“Hi, I’m Katelyn. I started my career in the world of higher education and during that time absolutely loved participating in the hiring process for our professional staff members. Because of this, I naturally pivoted into the world of recruiting where I’ve spent the majority of my career and have had a front-row seat to conversations with Hiring Managers and what they are ultimately looking for when it comes to hiring top talent and the factors that went into their decisions for ultimately choosing their final candidates. When it comes to recruiting though, I’m ultimately left working for the companies doing the hiring and I’m now looking to take my insider’s knowledge of the hiring process and pull back the curtain for job seekers so that they can successfully navigate the job search journey and land jobs where they can thrive, which is why I’m incredibly excited for your Career Coaching position.”
2. Clearly articulate that you’ve done your homework on the company and the role and that you really “get” what it is that they are looking for and what their needs are when it comes to this role. Ultimately, we use the job description as the answer key on how to approach this. Here’s how we do it:
“I know that ultimately job searching without direction and guidance can be really hard and that what your organization needs is to bring Career Coaches onto your team who can help your students successfully navigate the realities of the job search journey so that they can quickly land jobs after graduating from your tech boot camp and make sure that no one falls through the cracks.”
3. Demonstrating clear alignment about the value you bring to the table and how you will help the company solve their problems, manage their risks and/or meet their goals by bringing you onto their team.
“As a recruiter, I’ve conducted 1000’s of interviews and done even more resume and LinkedIn profile reviews. I’ve helped 100’s of candidates successfully land jobs and will be able to help your tech boot camp grads be able to do the same thing! I love *company’s name* mission of helping professionals completely pivot careers into the tech industry and believe that I’d be able to contribute to this mission in a meaningful capacity.”
Hiring Managers asks this specific question for a number of reasons. First, they want to get a gauge of your own self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Do you really know yourself and what you have to offer and are you able to clearly articulate it? And secondly, they want to know if what you have to offer really aligns with what they need.
When it comes to crafting the ideal answer to this question, we want to form it by asking ourselves this instead: what is your top superpower as it pertains to the job description for THIS role at THIS company. The goal here is simple: set yourself apart from other candidates.
As you’re preparing, let the job description be your guide when it comes to identifying the top qualities, characteristics, and skills that a company is looking for when it comes to a specific role. *Hint* the further to the top of the bullet points it is the more important it is.
Then, craft a specific story showcasing one of these qualities ahead of time, remembering that we want to show rather than simply tell. What this means is we want to have a specific story crafted ahead of time that demonstrates the way in which we embody and live out the chosen characteristic. Rather than simply stating that you’re an excellent problem-solver, have a story to share about a time that you identified and enacted a solution to a significant problem your previous company was facing. Make sure to include specific measurable achievements as you’re highlighting your story.
“A strong suit for me has always been communication. At my current company, I was personally selected out of 20 potential people to lead a weekly meeting for the entire company of 100+ where I personally lead out on communicating the latest goals and projects that our various teams are working on and also have the opportunity to highlight the achievements of various team members as well.”
But for many of us, talking positively about ourselves can actually give us the heebie-jeebies. So what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with bragging about yourself? Simple. You speak in testimonials by putting the words in someone else’s mouth. Here’s how:
“My past three managers have all noted that one of my top strengths is being able to anticipate the needs of teammates before they even name it. For example, I once had a co-worker who clearly had a lot on her plate and I could tell she was overwhelmed by our team’s looming deadline. Rather than waiting for her to ask, I initiated reaching out to her and offering to take some things off her plate so that the team came in under deadline on a specific project. My manager at the time specifically named this situation in my yearly review as an example of how I excel at teamwork and collaboration and I would love to bring this same cooperative spirit to the team here at *company name*”
Uh oh. For as many people who struggle to brag on themselves sharing about their greatest strengths, this question can be even more difficult- how the heck do I share about things I struggle with without coming across in a bad light?!
But here’s the deal, this question is nothing to sweat. Hiring managers ask this question once again to gauge self-awareness and to learn more about how you personally respond to areas of yours that need some extra attention or work.
How not to answer this question: “I’m such a perfectionist” or “I just work too hard and too long.” Any hiring manager will see right through this and it doesn’t come across as authentic. So stay far away from trying to put a “positive spin” on a weakness.
So what do you say instead? Pick a genuine area of weakness that isn’t crucial or central to your job responsibilities. Once again, let the job description be your guide and intentionally pick a growth area ahead of time that is directly correlated to your most important roles and responsibilities. Then, describe how you identified this weakness, what you’ve done to directly address it, and what you’ve learned from it. For example:
“Something I’ve always personally struggled with is public speaking. I tend to get nervous and anxious being up in front of a group of people and it’s never been an arena I’m naturally comfortable in. So something I’ve done is I joined a local Toastmasters group to help myself gain more practice and confidence in this area. While it’s still not my favorite activity and I still battle some nerves, I’ve grown so much from learning how to confront my fears head-on and am able to step up as needed when it comes to giving presentations to large groups of people.”
In today’s day and age, job-hopping is incredibly normal. In fact, most professionals have on average 12 different jobs throughout a 30+ year career. Most employers readily recognize that people are always open to new opportunities, so there’s no need to feel pressured to say that you see yourself working at this specific company for the rest of your career (PHEW). That being said, the ideal way to answer this question is to tie in your future career plans to a specific long-term goal position that could possibly be achieved at this company. This a great way to keep the interviewer/s picturing you working for them long term, but also allows you the opportunity to feel out what potential there is for upward mobility within the company or organization. A response like this also ties your (ideal) next job and short-term goals into your long-term vision. *Cue the job offer!*
What this also does, is demonstrate ambition, drive, and a desire for professional growth in addition to giving your interviewer insight into your personal interests and passions as they apply to your experience.
Here’s an example of what you could say:
“In 5-10 years I envision myself in a leadership role, potentially working in a position like Creative Director. I’m incredibly passionate about overarching strategy and a role like that will allow me to fully lean into those strengths. By that point in my career, I will have had over 10 years of experience in the marketing industry and I know I’ll be ready to move into a more strategic position where I can use my experience to guide a team when it comes to that long term strategy and vision.”
Uh-oh, the money talk has begun. This question can feel like stepping into a minefield and not knowing exactly where to step to ensure that you don’t “blow it” when it comes to getting the salary you want (and deserve!). Say something too high and your application might be tossed out. Say something too low and you back yourself into a corner when it comes time to negotiate your offer.
So what’s a job seeker to do and what is a good answer? Answer: it depends on who you’re talking to.
Below we’ve given two different scenarios for how to answer this question during the interview process. But for both scenarios, one thing remains the same: always, always, always do your homework ahead of time. Research the salary range for the job title and be fully informed when it comes to what this role typically pays based on your experience and location. You can use free online salary calculators to do some of the work for you, or even use informational interviews with connections you’ve made on LinkedIn as an opportunity to gain some insight into the typical range for roles at specific companies.
How to answer this question when you’re talking to recruiters:
“That’s a great question! I’d love to hear a little bit more about what X company has budgeted for this role and any insight you have to offer around the range.”
When it comes to this question with recruiters, they are ultimately asking it to determine if there is the potential for a long-term match. If your desired salary range doesn’t align with the range that the company has to offer, then it’s deemed as not a good match and they might move forward with other candidates. Putting the ball in the recruiter’s court allows you the opportunity to learn first hand the budgeted range and determine whether or not it’s a good fit for YOU first and foremost, and gives you the ability to move forward in the process without compromising the potential for negotiations later on.
Once a range is given, if it’s agreeable to you, the best thing you can say is:
“Thanks for letting me know! I definitely would be open to future conversations about that range, based on the total compensation package.”
How to answer this question when you’re speaking with hiring managers:
“Glad you asked! Based on my research for this specific role, my years of experience, and the location, I’m comfortable with discussing a salary within the range of $X-$Y, depending on the full offer and total compensation package. Does that align with what you have budgeted for the role?”
When it comes to interviewing in general, prepare, prepare, prepare, and then practice, practice, practice! Preparing answers ahead of time to these questions (and more!) and then practicing those answers out loud in front of the mirror, with family and friends, or even doing a mock interview with a trained Career Coach will have you headed into the interview confident and ready to absolutely knock it out of the park! This is how you turn your career goals into your career reality, and eventually your new job into your career path!