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  • Shelley Maxey, Talent Acquisition Manager

Interview Questions: What You’re Really Being Asked and How To Respond

When you’re on the job hunt, it’s important to be prepared for questions that can make or break your interview. Giving impressive and descriptive answers to questions that address things like leadership will help you on the track to getting hired.

Read between the lines and better understand what your potential employer is really asking.

Here are a number of common and interesting interview questions, what you should take into consideration about what’s being asked, and how you should respond.

1.) “What do you know about us/the company (name)?”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Have you done your research? Are you a good fit for the company?

What to consider and how you should respond:

Hopefully you’ve at least looked at the website of the company that you’re applying for.

If you say that you know nothing about the organization, the hiring manager or recruiter will likely conclude that you don’t necessarily care about who you’re working for as long as you have a job.

Having done your research, talk about what the website portrays that you connect with, the mission statement, or core values of the organization. Additionally, you can mention something that stood out, like employee reviews, the location of the office, education offered, if they give back to the community, or the professionalism demonstrated. Follow up by saying something like, “What else can you tell me? I’d love to hear more!”.

2.) “How do you prioritize your tasks?”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Do you work well under pressure? Are you efficient at getting things done?

What to consider and how you should respond:

This is likely a high-energy, busy environment where being able to multitask and abruptly switch from one thing to the next will be a daily occurrence.

Give an example of a time in your current or previous role where you were given multiple projects to complete at once and how you decided which was most important to start with. You can also relate this to how you operate with frequent, daily prioritization by talking about how you get your day started and ways that you remain organized.

3.) “How do you personally describe leadership.”

What the recruiter is really asking:

What is your management style? Are you someone that might be considered for future promotions?

What to consider and how you should respond:

You don’t need to have been a supervisor in the past to understand or have leadership skills. If you’re being asked this question, this organization cares about the growth potential of the candidates they hire and likely focus on internal promotion.

Common leadership styles are leading by example, making others better and turning them into leaders, and include qualities like communication, teamwork, reliability, patience and active listening. Even if you haven’t led a team, you’ve been a leader in some way, at some point, to someone who’s crossed your path. Such as a mentor or by being an inspiration to another coworker. Offer an example of when you have, and what that looked like.

4.) “What factors do you take into consideration when accepting an offer?”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Are you looking for a career or just a job? What really matters to you?

What to consider and how you should respond:

Most organizations are aiming to hire long-term employees. While you want to reflect honestly, your response to this question will demonstrate your intentions and drastically affect your being considered for the opportunity.

All of us desire a certain rate of pay or salary when seeking and applying for new positions, but this shouldn’t be the first thing that rolls off your tongue. Highlight in your response that because you’ll be spending so much time at work, what matters is your success, personal or professional growth from the experience of the role, who you’ll be working for and with whom. This is a great time to mention how or why you relate to the company’s mission or values.

5.) “When you’ve entered a new work place in the past, how have you gone about gaining the trust of your new coworkers?”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Are you a team player? Do you respect others?

What to consider and how you should respond:

If you’re applying for a position where you will be working closely with coworkers, there is likely already a tightknit team in place. Brining in someone new can alter the dynamic of the environment, for the better or worse.

The last thing that you want to do is enter a new workplace all guns blazing. Let your potential employer know that you’re prepared to establish trust with your coworkers by building relationships through observation and asking questions. Also bring up some ways that you’ve been involved in team building exercises and what you learned about your past teammates through those interactions.

6.) “Tell me about some ways you like to have fun at work.”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Do you have a good attitude? Do you act professionally when things are relaxed?

What to consider and how you should respond:

Interviews can often be a very cut and dry experience, so you might just be very lucky if you’re being asked this! Not only does this mean that the employer enjoys a balance in the workplace, but that their current employees likely have outgoing and personable personalities.

Whether you touch on group outings or lunches, telling a daily joke, high-fiving when you get that hard sale, or celebrating holiday’s and birthday’s with cake and games, it’s perfectly ok to enjoy yourself at work and your answer should reflect that you’re comfortable with fun. However, talking about drinking, engaging with coworkers after hours, or partying with clients when you’re applying for a credible role is an immediate turnoff. Alternatively, ask the question back, “How does the team celebrate together?”.

7.) “Give me an example of your going beyond what was normally expected to enhance your company’s reputation or image.”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Are you the '"bare minimum" type? Will you have the best interest of the organization in mind?

What to consider and how you should respond:

Most organizations are always aiming for improvement and know that the performance of their employees plays a big part in progression. Your interviewer wants to know what you have to bring to the table that will help make them stand out.

Aim to convey that you not only care about your personal reputation, but most certainly that of your employer. Perhaps you touch on a significant idea that gained your past or current employer a lot of attention, such as landing a deal through building tough relationships. Touch on a big accomplishment, but also the little things you do daily that make your company stand out. Such as your personalized follow-up, thoughtful gestures, or consistency in customer care.

8.) “How do you like your eggs prepared?”

What the recruiter is really asking:

Are you easily distracted? Can you think on your feet?

What to consider and how you should respond:

Your interviewer wants to see if you are easily caught off guard and how you react to absurdity. Our days can often be interrupted by unexpected circumstances and it’s important that you’re able to shift gears without a second thought.

Resist the urge to laugh or ask how this question is relevant to your conversation. Instead, answer it as it’s asked and with more than a one-word answer. Anyone can say “scrambled”. If scrambled eggs is your answer, perhaps elaborate that it’s always with grapes and coffee on the side. Think on your feet!

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