It’s a new year—thank goodness—and now’s the time for vowing to do things that will change your life. Even if you have impressive experience, a solid portfolio, and stellar recommendations, it often comes down to the interview. Are you the right person for this particular role?
We want you to be ultra prepared to woo your potential employer, so we gathered 7 questions to get you into the interview mindset. They will help you think about framing your past jobs, what you’re looking for in the next one, and how you can bring your whole self to work. You can also check out our video series on the best job tips in quick two-minute snippets.
What made you apply for this job?
Sure it’s obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t think this question through. You want to sound less like you’re running from a dumpster fire at your current job, and more like you’re running toward something. Career Sidekick founder Biron Clark says you’re being asked this or two reasons. 1) How well did you research the company and the role itself? And 2) Have you really thought about your career and where you want to go? Tailor your response to what this particular company does and why it’s appealing to you—maybe it’s what they make or sell, their company values, that you think the culture would be a good fit, etc. Make sure they know that you’re not just applying to jobs like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.
What’s the number one reason you want to leave where you are now?
Remember what we just said above re: dumpster fires? Keep it in mind when you get this question. Hone in on the top impetus for you looking for another gig at this point in time. Is there anywhere to move up at your current job? Are your personal values aligned with the company’s? Is your work style very different from your manager’s, and why? Was the job sold as one thing but really another? Do you feel appreciated? (Our latest Talent Insights Report found that 49% of marketing and creative folks were looking to leave their jobs in the next 3-6 months.) Whatever the reason, make sure it’s clear and concrete.
What inspires you (this can be brands, people, art, etc.)?
Now we’re digging into the crevices of your brain and your heart. This type of question gives interviewers a peek into who you are and what you care about. Maybe it’s a designer you think is particularly amazing or a website that made you jealous you didn’t make it. It could be your kid for giving you a different perspective or a company whose ads you actually don’t skip when watching YouTube. Think about who or what influences your work and why. Bonus points if it’s connected to the place where you’re interviewing.
What three words or phrases would co-workers use to describe you?
This is an oldie but goodie, a quintessential interview question. You want to come across as genuine but also need to toot your own horn a bit too. The Muse shares this bit of advice: paraphrase from a recent performance review. The idea is that it’s easier to say you’re someone who takes the initiative if someone else actually said that about you. Also, be sure to choose things that really highlight your differences and your strengths. Saying that you’re “nice,” for example, doesn’t necessarily set you apart from the herd.
What’s the best thing you ever did?
Here you’re not just tooting your horn—you’re blasting it. Politely, of course. And there are a few ways to think about this question. Since it’s an interview, most people default to a professional accomplishment, which makes sense. Maybe you were the top salesperson that year. Your ad won a Clio. You landed a multi-million dollar client. But our own Aimee Bateman, job seeker champion extraordinaire, says she loves hearing about personal highs too. Her advice if you go that route? Make it relevant for the job. If your answer is running a marathon, talk about perseverance or your ability to train or that you like to take on new challenges, for example.
Can you stand the heat, or do you have to get out of the kitchen?
Feedback is part of every job. Whether it’s from clients, your boss, or coworkers, opinions abound, and everyone has them. What employers are looking for is how you handle them, especially the negative ones. Try to have an anecdote or two ready to explain a time when you got negative feedback and what you did to address it. This could be a creative project you worked on that the client really hated, a company presentation that no one engaged in, or even simply an idea you threw out in a brainstorm that tanked. While formulating your answers, check out these expert tips to deal with less-than-flattering feedback.
Tell me something about yourself that I can’t Google about you.
In our always online era, this one’s about a human connection. What will you choose to share with this virtual stranger? Here you’re thinking beyond work experience to life experience. Overcoming a childhood illness. Participating in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Starting a business that failed. That you host every family party at your house. You’re a former chess champion or all-star athlete. Your personal motto in life. Make it interesting. Make it memorable. And make it uniquely you.
With solid answers to these questions, we feel confident in your ability to ace the interview and make employers fall madly in like with you. (Also, don’t forget to ask your OWN questions! Check out our quick video, “3 Questions to Ask in an Interview.”)