6 Most Common Interview Questions and the REAL Underlying Questions


What is asked- What would your former employers say about you?

What is really being asked – Are you a bulldog, a team player, a leader, and/or a follower?

This question most often provides the character of the person in the interview.  While it can be answered a number of ways, use this question to discuss the type of person you are rather than the type of worker you are.  While nobody wants to hear a life story of show and tell, this is an opportunity to build rapport with the interviewers and to discover similarities.  Remember, people like to work with people that they like.

What is asked- Why are you interested in our company?

What is really being asked – Have you done your research?

Thankfully research has become easier and easier which means neglecting to do so prior to an interview is just lazy.  Spending 5-10 minutes on the company website, LinkedIn, researching industry related articles can go a very long way showing the candidate has a vested interested in the opportunity.  Don’t let 5-10 minutes cost you, your dream job.

What is asked- What makes you the best candidate for the role?

What is really being asked – Do you want this job?

I recently had two candidates get asked this question, one answered as such,” I believe I could help the organization move forward because…” (this is the part where the hiring manager probably fell asleep.  Another candidate was asked the same question and her answer, “I truly believe I am in the best in the industry at what I do and if there is something I am not the best at, I want feedback on what it is so I can work to better serve my employer.”  Needless to say, she was the candidate who got the job.

What is asked- What are your weaknesses?

What is really being asked – Where can we best support you?

Be open, granted it can be risky, but use this as an opportunity to accentuate where you are great.  While risk is certainly there, remember you don’t want a job, just because it is a job, it needs to be the right fit and the best fit for you.  For example, “Frankly, I can get bored doing the same thing every day, I need a fast paced challenging environment.  I want to be and need to be on the front lines tackling items and taking on issues first so my team members can be more successful faster.  While I enjoy being a part of a team, I can find myself gravitating to leading teams almost everywhere I go.”

What is the last book you’ve read?

What is really being asked – What are you doing to improve your craft?

“I prefer to play video games and watch movies, I LOVE movies!”  As a hiring manager, I would be less inclined to feel this person is going to improve their craft over time.  Whereas, “The Last Lecture, it was awe-inspiring and helped me realize that….”  Even better, reading the most popular books and newsletters in your industry show you are vested in your career and at improving your craft.

What is asked- How do you handle conflict?

What is really being asked – How do you handle criticism?

This is fantastic opportunity to reiterate your willingness to get better.  Conflict can certainly be a great thing as much as it can certainly be terrible for a working environment.  However, positive reactions to conflict and criticism that end in a win-win resolution can often to the best case scenario for a company.

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