how to prepare for 5 questions you’ll be asked at your next interview

If you have a job interview coming up, preparing for the questions you’re most likely to be asked can make a huge difference in how well you do. Of course, you can’t predict with perfect certainty what you’ll be asked, but some questions are so common that you’d be foolish not to prep your answers to them in advance.

Here are five of the questions that you’ll most likely be asked in your next interview, along with some advice on what your interviewer is looking for in your answers.

What interests you about this job? Interviewers who ask this generally intend it to be a softball question, but a surprising number of candidates don’t have a thoughtful answer prepared in response. Since this is probably one of the easiest questions you’ll be asked during the interview, take advantage of that and make sure you nail it by talking about why the work excites you and why you think it plays to your strengths. And of course, keep the focus on the work itself; this isn’t the time to mention the salary or benefits or the short commute you would have.

Why are you thinking about leaving your job? Or, if you’re unemployed, “Why did you leave your last job?” Job seekers are often advised to answer this question by explaining that they’re looking for “a new challenge,” but if you say that, you should be specific about what type of new challenge you want so it doesn’t sound like an evasion. You can also cite things like layoffs at your previous job, management turnover, or whatever else is genuinely true, as long as you don’t badmouth previous employers.

Also, keep in mind that interviewers who ask this question aren’t looking for a detailed account of how you’ve come to be job-searching or a log of everything your last employer did that drove you out. They’re just looking for a high-level overview — a few sentences is generally sufficient.

Tell me about a time when __________. Good interviewers will ask several versions of this question, filling in the blank with a variety of situations relevant to the position. For example: Tell me about a time when you had to take initiative … you had to deal with a difficult client … you had to juggle conflicting deadlines … you had to salvage a failing project … and so forth.

The idea behind these sorts of questions—which are known as behavioral interview questions—is to probe into what you’ve done in the past, not what you say you’d do in the future. The thinking is that it can be pretty easy for a candidate to bluff her way through a hypothetical question (like “how do you think you’d handle an angry client?”) and much harder to bluff her way through an account of how she actually handled a situation in real life.

To prepare for these questions, spend some time before your interview thinking about what skills you’re likely to need in the job and what challenges you’re likely to face. Then, think about what examples from your past you can point to as evidence that you excel in those area. Think through how you’d present those examples in answer to these questions, making sure that you talk about the challenge you faced, how you responded, and the outcome you achieved.

What would your boss say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses? This question can be worded in a variety of different ways, like “What kind of feedback has your manager given you?” or the rather tired “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Whatever form it takes, answering this question well requires honest reflection ahead of time. What are your biggest strengths? What are the things you know you could work on improving in? The idea here is to get a more nuanced view of the good and the less-good elements you would bring to the job. The question isn’t intended as a “gotcha,” although job candidate often worry that it is. It truly is supposed to be about exploring whether your particular combination of strengths and weaknesses are a good match for this particular job. And that’s in your interests too, since you don’t want to end up in a job that you struggle in.

What salary are you looking for? Candidates often dread this question because they worry they’ll accidentally lowball themselves or price themselves so high that they’re taken out of the running. As a result, a lot people don’t prepare for it at all, and instead just hope that it won’t come up. Of course, this means that you’ll be left to wing it if your interviewer does it ask about it – and that makes a skillful answer far less likely. Instead of getting caught off-guard by this question and saying something you might regret later, prepare for it ahead of time by researching the market and practicing your answer until you’re comfortable with it.

I originally published this column at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Amber Rose

    I remember coming here to ask about “why did you leave your last job” because I wasn’t sure if “my boss died and things are tense and miserable” was an appropriate answer. I know bad-mouthing employers is a huge no, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is.

    Similarly, when it comes to weaknesses, I know what I’m bad at but my attempts at working on it have never succeeded and I don’t want to go into a conversation about how I consistently fail to improve.

    Reply
    1. RabbitRabbit

      For weaknesses – come up with something you experienced and fixed in the past, maybe something you fixed during schooling. (You don’t have to disclose exactly when it happened.) It doesn’t need to be a total fix, problem gone forever, just an acknowledgement of and workaround for an issue.

      Reply
    2. AthenaC

      I think you could definitely say something like, “After the sudden death of my boss, things have been difficult. I have nothing but sympathy for everyone involved, but as a workplace the dynamics have changed such that it’s no longer a fit for me.” I would stop there but have some more specific descriptions prepared for any followup questions. I would hope that some phrasing like that would communicate that you’re leaving because of something big and out of our control that could reasonably be expected to make it difficult to continue working at the same place.

      My condolences.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        I basically got as far as “my boss died” and the people interviewing me started nodding, haha. It turns out you really don’t need more of an explanation than that, normally people understand death as being kind of a big deal. Was a few years ago already.

        Reply
    3. Odyssea

      For the first question, I would think you could stick close to the objective truth – your boss died – and then give an oblique, non-blaming statement – which caused a lot of changes to the business. As a manager, I would consider that a pretty clear answer that wouldn’t reflect badly on you or your former employer.

      For the second, what I am looking for as a manager is that you are capable of identifying a problem and coming up with a plan to rectify it. An example that fits that model, even if it isn’t something you consider a major problem, will work better than bringing up a weakness you haven’t improved.

      Reply
    4. Akcipitrokulo

      I once said for weaknesses that I tend to get caught up in things or miss things – so I use outlook reminders. A lot. Which has fixed it.

      Reply
  2. Snorlax

    I struggle with knowing how to determine the market rate for jobs for which I’m applying. I worked at the same place for 20 years so I don’t have any insight into what other places or positions pay, other than reports on Glassdoor. What are good resources for learning this?

    Reply
  3. HR Manager

    I would like to add that ‘Tell me about yourself’ is just an ice breaker I use to get the conversation started. Especially since I preface that ‘I have your resume in front of me and just to get us started, please give me a snapshot of your work’, does NOT mean you go into a 30 minute diatribe and tell me your age, marital status or number of children. Basic stuff people.

    And no, these are not entry-level jobs.

    Reply
    1. Frozen Ginger

      If they’re not entry-level, it’s quite possible this is there first time in a long time job hunting.

      Reply
          1. Jen A.

            I think Frozen Ginger may have meant that if it has been 10 years since you’ve been on an interview, it isn’t basic to them. Entry level people have maybe been going through some mock interviews through a university career center or somesuch.

            I started looking for a job in fall 2015 for the first time since late winter 2006. In the interim I had done a lot of hiring, but let me tell you, I bombed my first interview for a job that I was infinitely qualified for. I was just hella awkward.

            Reply
      1. hbc

        Yes, but no matter how long it’s been since you job-hunted, it was never a good idea to dominate a conversation or ignore instructions. I ask a similar question but specifically say, “Give me the 2 minute overview of your career and what brought you here,” and the number of people who try to give a 10+ minute detailed chronology is remarkable.

        They must be the same people who turned in 15 page reports when the teacher specifically asked for 2-3 pages.

        Reply
    2. KC

      I find the responses can be cultural. Newly-arrived Indian candidates often go overboard with the details, so I will tell them that they have 2 minutes to give me the highlights of their career. I learned that lesson late, though.

      Reply
      1. HR Manager

        Not sure about international candidates but I have been dealing with American folks. What excuse do they have?

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          The “excuse” they have is that they can’t read your mind so they don’t know that you mean something other than “tell me about yourself” when you say “tell me about yourself.” There are as many different interviewing conventions as their are interviewers, so you can’t assume that what is in your head is the One True Way and that everyone should just know that that’s how it’s done.

          If you want a 2-minute summary of their career, then say that. For example, I had an interviewer specifically ask me to briefly tell them about the experience on my resume to “give a little color to what’s on the page.”

          Reply
          1. HR Manager

            Please read my comment before responding. I don’t ask ‘tell me about yourself’. I ask, ‘I have your resume in front of me and just to get us started, please give me a snapshot of your work’.

            Reply
          2. Amber Rose

            The last interview I was in, I was asked to tell them about myself and I went into my usual quick work-related spiel, but what they actually wanted to know about were my hobbies and personal interests.

            So yes, it’s true you can never be sure. Although it’s good to default to keeping it work related.

            Reply
    3. Jaguar

      On the other hand, if you ask a vague and open-ended question, you share part of the blame when the candidate doesn’t answer it exactly how you want.

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        I agree; if you say “tell me about yourself” when you have my resume in front of you, it seems as though you want me to tell you something that is NOT on my resume. It’s not much of an “ice breaker” from the interviewee’s perspective if they have to guess and are apparently getting wrong.

        The example hbc gave above (“Give me the 2 minute overview of your career and what brought you here”) is much clearer.

        However, for questions in general, I have found that even when I phrase them for yes/no answers, some people will take ten minutes to answer.

        Reply
    4. all aboard the anon train

      To be fair, I’ve had this question asked and when I start to talk about my job history, I get interrupted and told they meant they wanted to know about me, not my work history. It’s happened enough that I always ask for clarification when I’m asked to tell someone about myself.

      It’s an opened ended question. If you want to know about the job history, ask “tell me about your work history”. A lot of people are going to hear “tell me about yourself” and assume it means them personally and not their work history.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        On the flip side, I’ve had interviewers say that when they wanted me to walk through my resume in great detail, mostly repeating the stuff that’s on the paper in front of them. So you never know!

        In short: it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong clarifying the question before you launch into an answer.

        Reply
      2. HR Manager

        I don’t ask ‘tell me about yourself’. I ask, ‘I have your resume in front of me and just to get us started, please give me a snapshot of your work’.

        Reply
    5. Gina

      Oh my gosh. My husband was laid off a couple of months ago and had an interview for a position he really wanted so I helped him prep for it. Thank god I did because when I opened with, “So tell me about yourself…” he started with, “Well, I live in the area and I have a young son…” STOP. No. Omg. He’s not an entry level guy either. He just hadn’t interviewed in about 10 years.

      Reply
    6. Audiophile

      If I was sitting across from you and you asked me this question, I’ll admit that I would struggle to answer. Yes, you have my resume and you’ve presumably read it, but I’m still going to summarize what’s on it based on the way you’ve worded the question. If that’s not what you’re looking for and you’re instead interested in what’s not there, there may be a better way to phrase.

      Side note: I summarized my resume once on a phone interview and the interviewer started arguing with me that information I’d just provided wasn’t on my resume and wasn’t in the portal that was part of their ATS system. I knew it was definitely in the version I’d attached, but that the portal had likely changed the order of my jobs. She eventually discovered that I was correct and apologized. I did get invited in for an interview, I think largely to right that wrong.

      Reply
  4. SaraV

    The timing on this is magnificent…

    I have a 15 minute phone interview tomorrow, and my educated guess is that I’ll get “Why this job/company?” and “Why are you leaving?” Are there any other questions not mentioned I should be prepared for? (It’s been awhile since my last phone interview)

    Reply
  5. Eloise

    What do you do when you genuinely haven’t encountered an experience relevant to “tell me about a time when…” question?

    This has happened to me a number of times. One particular time was “Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker.” and then she followed up (before I could even answer) with, “and don’t say you’ve never had a conflict. Everyone has had a conflict.”

    I honestly did not know how to answer. Sure, there have been people I haven’t liked much in the workplace, but nothing ever rose to the level of “conflict.”

    Another time was “tell me about a time when you were unable to finish a project.” None of the jobs I’d had previously were project-based, so there weren’t that many projects I’d ever done, let alone assigned and left undone.

    Is there an OK way to say “That’s not happened to me before,” without sound like either it’s not true or like you don’t have any experiences?

    Reply
    1. RabbitRabbit

      You might be nitpicking a bit about the wording, or interpreting it in a different way. If you disagree with the usage, you can say something like “I’m not sure if it’d be a *conflict*, but I did disagree with how a coworker handled X, and we then…”

      Reply
      1. Frozen Ginger

        This.

        “Unable to finish a project” could be answered with a time you were unable to complete part of a project, or a time you were unable to finish a project on time or on target.

        Reply
        1. Nosy Nelly

          Or “unable to finish an assigned task on time”. PM-speak has made “project” into a word that people interpret in many ways but here I think you could answer describing ANY deadline issue.

          Reply
    2. Blue

      If you really can’t think of an example related to their question, I find it useful to say how you would (theoretically) approach that kind of situation. In my line of work, things like problem solving are really important, and sometimes hearing someone’s instinctive response to handling an unfamiliar problem can still provide some useful insight, whereas just saying, “I don’t know; I don’t have experience with that,” gives me nothing to work with.

      Reply
    3. AthenaC

      I had a couple situations where I really didn’t have any experience to directly answer the question, so I thought about what skill they are looking for and told a story related to that skill. It’s been over a year now, but as I recall, I was asked about a conflict with a coworker (similar to you), and I mentioned that I hadn’t really had any conflicts with coworkers, but I did have a situation where I made the wrong choice, received a dressing-down for it, and learned what to do next time. I also had a situation where I had to speak directly and sternly to a poor performer (and it worked!). I ended each story by asking, “Is that what you’re looking for?” which gave them the opportunity to either say “yes” or “no” and follow up.

      Reply
    4. Amber Rose

      Conflict sounds like it should mean there was a fight, but actually even a minor disagreement is a conflict.

      Reply
        1. DDJ

          Yes! This is something I noticed in my latest round of interviews (as the interviewer). Thankfully I’ve been given some good coaching so I knew to clarify the question a bit. A lot of people think conflict=yelling or huge blowouts, but that’s not the case. Conflicts are often the kinds of things that are handled in brainstorming sessions (I think it should be done one way, coworker thinks it should be done another way, let’s flesh it out). Conflicts can be totally amicable!

          Reply
    5. Evan Þ

      Alternatively, what if you have a circumstance that’d answer the question, but it was a very long time ago and you’re embarrassed about how you handled it? When I was interviewing for my current job, I was asked “Tell us about a time when you disagreed with your manager’s approach to handling a situation” – and mercifully, I completely forgot my most applicable example. (Boss said X; I was convinced Y would be better and started to do Y; then I got sick and when I got back, he’d given it to someone else who’d completed X.) But, if I’d remembered, how could I have handled that?

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Not all situations lend themselves well to being good examples.
        This example here might be too difficult to convey in a brief summary.

        If it were me, I would try to find an example that is a better fit for the question because the example clearly shows how you resolved a disagreement. In this example you are using, you were told to do one thing, then you started another thing instead. I would not use that example because it does not show a successful ending. You got sick and missed time at work. Not your fault your were sick but you want to use an example where you have a successful ending.

        Reply
      2. DDJ

        One thing you could say is that “After being in the workplace longer, what I wish I’d done is Z.” And then explain why.

        Ideally, you should have been able to either get justification from your boss that X really would be better (maybe they understood something very specific about the circumstances that they failed to communicate properly), or make a business case to your boss on why Y would be better.

        It could be that someone before you had tried Y, and it ended up not working, but rather than explaining that to you, the boss just directed you to do X. I know that I’ve had employees approach me with ideas for how to do something, because they think it will work better, but it’s actually something that’s been tried and has failed already. But in my case, I always explain that to them, so they know it’s not just “my way or the highway.”

        Reply
  6. Odyssea

    I find the feedback/strengths and weaknesses question to be a really good way to determine fit, as long as the candidate is honest. Telling me that you have only ever received positive feedback or that you have a “perfectionist” or “work too hard” weakness is not what I’m looking for – no one is perfect. I want to know if you can take feedback and implement it, because that is very important in my profession. It seems ridiculous that some people get offended by being told, “This looks good, but it needs to be formatted this way” or “Please use this logo on these documents”, but I’ve had it happen.

    Plus, it can help me (kindly) weed out people who won’t be a good fit in the position. I had a great candidate who told me her previous boss had identified her weakness as avoiding communication with her coworkers and being antisocial. As the position I was looking to fill was a front-line, client facing role with no alone time, this helped me to avoid putting both of us in an untenable position.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      I think there is a tendency to view the feedback question is taken from a big picture perspective, and people tend to forget how many smaller feedback situations there are in one day.

      It took me a few years of working to realize that not everyone says, “Oh, okay, will do.” when asked to fix formatting or insert a logo, etc. Because I did that as a matter of course it never would have occurred to me that an interviewer would find that of value.
      As the years went by, I could not figure out why people had meltdowns over such simple things. Then the dots started to connect.

      One day the boss told me to go drown the baby rats. I looked at him in horror. It was a joke. It took me a minute to realize because I was trying to figure out how I would not drown the baby rats and keep my job. I did not have a lot of experience telling a boss NO.

      Reply
  7. Liet-Kynes

    “I find the feedback/strengths and weaknesses question to be a really good way to determine fit, as long as the candidate is honest.”

    And occasionally they are, but 90% of the time I’ve asked this question, it was answered as if I’d said, “So, I’d like you to freestyle bullshit at me for 30 or 40 seconds. And….go!”

    It’s overly open-ended and it’s asking a candidate to speak to their failings, neither of which results in a good interview question, IMO. Reframing this question in a much more specific and constrained way is vastly preferable.

    Reply
    1. Katelyn

      it’s late in the afternoon, which must explain why my brain skipped straight to your second paragraph, starting after the comma and now I have to explain to my cube-mates why I’m giggling!

      Also, I want to see an interview in a weird sit-com (like the Office?) that uses the line “So, I’d like you to freestyle bullshit at me for 30 or 40 seconds. And….go!”

      Reply
    2. DDJ

      Yes! I think that you have to dig down into what you’re actually looking to get out of an answer, and make sure that the question can get you there. If you have to keep redirecting the candidate or rephrasing the question, it’s probably not a good question! I found myself reframing questions constantly during my most recent round of interviews, so I just started using the reframed questions instead. The recruiter I was working with told me that I’ve gotten really good at making sure that candidates understand the question, but it’s because I KNOW what I want to get out of their answer.

      There’s no sense in trying to trick people into giving you information you want. Just…ask questions so that you can get the information. “Describe your ideal work environment” was a TERRIBLE question and I always hated asking it, so I started being more specific. Do you like a more collaborative or more individualized model? Do you like open concept spaces or offices with doors? Do you prefer email, face-to-face, or phone communication?

      If I need to fill a role in an open cubicle that deals with people face-to-face 90% of the time and we have a very collaborative team environment, it’s probably not a good fit for someone who prefers to communicate by email, likes offices with doors, and prefers individualized tasks that don’t require a whole lot of input from anyone else. Neither of these styles is “correct,” but certain styles are going to work better in particular roles. Someone who loves collaborating in an open environment isn’t going to like being holed up in an office away from everyone, working on data entry that requires little communication with anyone else. Some people love that!

      I’m not trying to judge the candidate, I’m trying to judge whether the candidate will be happy and successful in the role.

      Reply
  8. Akcipitrokulo

    “Why did you leave your last job” … could have been they wanted me to express in a toilet, my pay wasn’t in my account when it should have been because “CEO forgot to go to the back”, they didn’t want to give notice to landlord so the first they knew was when we walked past office block reception carrying our PCs, I had two managers – who were each others’s direct reports depending on which hat one of them was wearing, and they didn’t like each other, we were in temp offices at the new place for almost a year because they kept trying to negotiate out of the 6 months’ deposit for the refit or our permanent offices to start, and in an IT, non-customer facing role, they refused to let me work 0855-1655 instead of 0900-1700 which increased my commute home by almost an hour because of the train times….

    Yeah.

    “Oh, they moved into central London and the commute was too difficult.”

    Accepted everywhere without question!

    Reply
  9. Anna

    The other day I was doing a phone interview and I was asked to provide an example of a time when I took some constructive feedback very badly. I felt super prepared for the interview up until that point. I don’t take constructive feedback badly. I have been in my field for a very long time and receiving feedback is not something that bother’s me. I really didn’t know how to answer that question and I totally fumbled my way through it and then the interviewer said to me (obviously annoyed) “I said that I wanted an example”. I realize that there are some people who don’t take feedback very well and of course Managers who don’t know how to do it in a constructive manner, but honestly I have been lucky enough to have good managers and I don’t take feedback badly… So in those situations, where saying that you don’t have an example is not acceptable, what do you do?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That was a crappy interviewer, but in general try to reframe it to something close. For example, in this case, a time when a piece of feedback wasn’t intuitive to you or you didn’t see it the same way, and how you handled that.

      Reply
  10. Tau

    I have a lot of trouble thinking on my feet when it comes to the “tell me about a time when…” questions and tend to struggle to come up with actual examples. What I try to do to mitigate this is think of around 6-10 occasions which I wouldn’t mind mentioning in this context before the interview. It’s important that the occasions are genuinely different in the situation, the result, how I reacted, etc. in order to cover my bases. It’s also not necessary that each of them demonstrate “success” (as some questions specifically probe into failure), just that I’m either happy with how I dealt with it or feel I can confidently explain how I learned from the experience and how I’d handle it now. Then, when a “tell me about a time when…” question comes, I can flip through my scenarios and see which unused one fits the question best. I find this a lot easier than trying to go through my entire work history on the spot, and it seems to have worked out OK so far.

    Reply
  11. Anxiety Annie

    What interests you about this job?
    I need money.

    Why did you leave your last job?
    Because I f*cked up.

    Tell me about a time when …
    *chews nails off*

    What would your boss say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
    Nooooooooooooooooooooooo

    What salary are you looking for?
    *is already out the door*

    Reply
  12. Katie the Fed

    You guys, I recently got this as an interview answer to the question “Tell me about a goal you set for yourself, and what steps you’ve taken to achieve it?” :

    “I’ve had to work hard to overcome my perfectionism. I’ve struggled with perfectionism my whole life, and I’ve had to really work to move past that.”

    I almost broke my brain trying not to roll my eyes.

    Reply
    1. David St. Hubbins

      I realise it’s a terrible answer to that question, and I realise why, but to be fair, perfectionism can be a real problem. You feel you must have ALL the information available before you can begin working, otherwise the whole project will be a complete disaster. And if it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough, which means you never finish anything.
      It took me a while to realise there is such a thing as “good enough”.

      Reply
    2. DDJ

      Here’s the thing: if they can give a good example, that can be a great answer to the question. I personally had this issue early in my career, where my perfectionism would lead me to stagnate on projects, because if it wasn’t perfect, then it couldn’t be completed. Learning to move past that can be very difficult, but you’d need to give specifics.

      I’ve actually had to coach someone on this recently, because there are delays caused by the person wanting everything to be perfect, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes you just have to trust that the people before you have done their jobs correctly and that you can count on things to be right even if you don’t have every single piece of backup you might want.

      As David said below, not everyone realizes at the start of their career that “there is such a thing as good enough.”

      Reply
  13. Feli

    I work for the UK civil service, and interviews are basically nothing but “tell me about a time when…” questions. Fortunately, there is a pretty detailed competency framework which has 10 general competencies (stuff like “Seeing the Big Picture”, “Leading and Communicating”, that sort of thing), and lists several specific positive (and negative) behaviours under each. This makes it a bit easier to prepare. Whenever I have an interview I go through each of the positive behaviours in the 3-4 competencies that are meant to be evaluated (these are always helpfully listed on the job advert) and list examples.

    Even if you don’t work for the Civil Service, this framework might be a useful prompt to prepare for this sort of questions. Some of the behaviours are pretty civil service-specific, but most are pretty general. It can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-competency-framework

    Reply
  14. Gary Dumais

    Thanks for emphasizing the need to discuss weaknesses during an interview. I agree, it’s very important to think through a response to that question ahead of time. We all make mistakes or endure difficult times – what’s most important is conveying what you learned or would do differently next time. The ability for a candidate to grow and develop is a good indicator of their potential, and a well-articulated response to the “weakness question” can actually work to a person’s favor in that regard.

    Reply
  15. Jam

    Thanks for this wonderful piece. I must confess that i have become more confident after reading some of your interview posts here. Personally, I do find “why do you wanna work with us” a bit difficult to answer.

    Reply
  16. James

    Thanks for this wonderful piece. I must confess that i have become more confident after reading some of your interview posts here. Personally, I do find “why do you wanna work with us” a bit difficult to answer and would love some readers of this platform to help out on the professional answer to give that will not make me sound beggarly .

    Reply
    1. DDJ

      Have a look at the company’s website before your interview. Figure out what it is they do. Then answer for yourself: if you had other opportunities available, would this job/company still appeal to you? Why or why not?

      Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, something like “I would like to work for a larger company because I want to be able to grow my career and contribute the goals of x and y.” Or “I’d really like to work for a smaller organization because I feel I’ll have more opportunities to get broad experiences, taking on many different types of tasks.” Or “Your organization is very dynamic and I’m excited at the prospect of working for an organization that isn’t afraid of changing and growing.”

      If there’s something genuinely interesting to you about the job and/or the company, focus on that and expand it a bit.

      That being said…I had one candidate say “I really just want to get my foot in the door, because I’ve heard a lot of great things about your organization.” That’s a huge red flag right there. Because that tells me that they don’t care WHAT they do, they just want to work for the company. And those are the kinds of people that start applying for internal positions within the first couple years. Not that it’s not allowed, but it doesn’t make me excited to think that the person I’m interviewing is going to be jumping ship to another department within the next year or two, leaving me to fill my position yet again. I found this a lot more with overqualified candidates, of course. Most were wise enough to say that they were looking for a change or that they wanted to increase their work/life balance so a less strenuous role was appealing…but some were pretty blunt about not caring what the job was, as long as it got them in the door.

      Reply

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