Interview Answer Database

“Tell me about yourself”

Interviewer’s objective: The interviewer usually asks this question as a way to gain basic familiarity with the job candidate. Some interviewers also ask this question to test a candidate’s work ethic. Their reasoning is that if a job candidate didn’t put in the work to prepare for this very likely interview question, then that person likely won’t work hard on the job, either.

How to answer this question:

This is not an opportunity to tell your life story or to recount your entire resume.  Rather, your answer should be like an elevator pitch. Use it to spark the interest of your interviewer.

To grab his interest, start with a powerful opening sentence. This sentence could explain your passion for the work you do, or it can be your thesis statement for why you would be a great hire.

Next, describe the top reasons why you are such a strong fit for this position.  In just a couple of sentences, describe your top strengths, skills and motivations, as well as the experiences that underscore these characteristics. Exclude any traits that are not important for the work you would do in this job.

Then connect these traits to your specific objectives and to what you can do for the hiring organization. Your answer should not be that long. Around 60 seconds is great.

If you do this right, your interviewer will be intrigued by how much you have to offer. He will lean forward in his seat, and you will create so much curiosity that the interviewer will quickly ask you a follow-up question.

Take a look at the Interview Cribsheet™ Report for more personalized insights on this question.

Here’s the response of a recent grad who landed a job at ESPN:

“I love sports, in the game, in the stands, watching Sports Center in the morning or debating the Knicks' roster with my friends at a bar at night. And as the captain of my soccer team, I enjoyed how my words could impact the outcome of a game or a season.  I have also learned how to influence others with my writing  having had 2 professors use my work as their class examples. So, I want to apply my communication skills and my love for influencing others to energize fans of professional sports. More specifically, I hope to write provocative articles that cause fans to think about sports instead of anything else. From what I know so far, your firm looks like a great opportunity to pursue this path, and I hope to learn more today.”


“Walk me through your resume”

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer uses this question to see whether the job seeker has the skills to do the work. Some interviewers also use this question to test the job seeker’s ability to present effectively. If job candidates can explain their personal story clearly and simply, then they can probably deliver other information clearly and simply, as well.

How to answer this question:

With this answer, you should paint a picture of how your career path leads directly to this potential job. 

Don’t get caught up telling every detail. Instead, before your interview, invest the time to match the skills in your resume to the needs of this job.

Then, answer this question like those short five-paragraph essays you were taught in school. Include an introduction and conclusion to reinforce your arguments.

Make each position a separate body paragraph. Use these body paragraphs to explain the top abilities you developed with each experience. (Note: Do your best to mention each key skill or ability only once, unless it is very important to the job.)

There is one critical piece of this answer that is different from that five-paragraph essay. That piece is the career transition. You must explain why you went from one job to the next. 

There is a right way and a wrong way to explain these transitions. Don’t become negative by explaining why you left every job. Instead, focus on why you chose the next position. “I decided to move to _______ in order to take on the challenges of/improve my ability to…”

If you answer this question correctly, your interviewer will think: “Experience A + Job B + Job C = Perfect fit for this position.”

Caution: Make sure that you know the details of your resume inside and out. If you seem confused about its content or if you say something that sounds inconsistent with what’s written on your resume, your interviewer will think you are a phony. Your chances of landing that job will drop to near zero.
“What makes you better than other candidates?”

Interviewer’s objective:

Though this question is asking whether or not a job candidate has the skills to do the job, an interviewer can also ask such a blunt question to assess passion. The argument is that if a job candidate cannot muster some fire for why he or she is the right person to hire for the job, then that candidate may not be very hungry for the position.

How to answer this question:

Yes, this question has many variations, such as “Why should we hire you?” Still, no matter how it is asked, this question can be quite intimidating.

Fortunately, the strategy for answering is straightforward. You don’t want to say, “’cause I’m the best darn programmer.” Even if you are the best programmer on the planet, the interviewer wouldn’t believe you. Instead, you must distinguish yourself by the package of talents and passion that you bring to the job.

You can actually start your answer with almost these exact words: “I bring a unique combination of strengths, experiences, and knowledge that can address your challenges better than anyone else.”

From there, you must name the problem(s) you see the organization now facing and how you can help to solve these problems from your position. Here’s a sample outline of what to say:

“I know that you are facing a shortage of critical care nurses who can… Because of my experiences with… I have the ability to… Furthermore, I go to work every day with the single goal of making sure, my patients….”

Finally, I recommend concluding with a promise. This promise says, “By hiring me, you will get…”

Listen, if you consider yourself a modest or shy person, this question may feel especially challenging. Regardless, to land the job you want, you must deliver a compelling answer that wows your interviewer.  You even want to show a bit of emotion here  your passion or hunger for the job.

The key is to uncover the right words that feel authentic to who you are. Once you uncover language that feels good, that feels real to you, your confidence will follow.
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer is trying to assess the job seeker’s level of commitment to this job and career. Hiring and training an employee is expensive, so the interviewer wants to avoid hiring someone who has one foot out the door on the first day. The interviewer also wants to make sure that the candidate will be motivated to work hard for future rewards, even if some current tasks aren’t fun.

How to answer this question:

First, you should know how not to answer this question. You shouldn’t say that you plan on leaving in the near future.  For example, if you were a recent college graduate applying to be a financial analyst at a bank, you should never answer with: “I plan to be in my second year of law school in five years.” Unless the position is explicitly temporary, suggest that you will stay with this company for the next five years.

Now, the best way to answer this question is to tell the interviewer about your clearly defined life plan. From that plan, explain where you expect to be in five years. Yet, if you are like most of us, you don’t have such a master plan for your life. Fortunately, there is another option.

Instead of saying where you want to be in five years, describe what you want to be doing.

Think about the kinds of problems you enjoy solving right now and the kind of work that you enjoy doing.  Chances are, you will enjoy those challenges in the future.

Then, think about the impact that you want to produce through this job, whether it is making money, helping others, creating a community, growing an organization, or anything else. You can guess that these goals won’t change much in the next five years.

Your answer can then be: “I want to be doing work I enjoy, which is…” and “I want to be creating an impact that I value, which is…” (You can uncover these core motivations and desired impacts by either taking a time-out to do some soul searching or by taking a psychology assessment that can identify these traits for you.) 

For example, you might say something like: 

“In 5 years, I hope to do the same type of work I enjoy every day, but from a position of greater responsibility and with new challenges. On a daily basis, I enjoy taking on work that allows me to analyze complex problems and combine pieces together to create the big picture.  I also value having autonomy and flexibility in my approach to delivering results and producing work that is financially rewarding for both me and my company. From what I have learned about your company and this opportunity, I believe your organization is a strong fit for me, both now and 5 years from now.”

Take a look at the Interview Cribsheet™ Report for more personalized insights on this question.

Remember: This question gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you are motivated and ambitious. Take advantage of that. Just be sure to avoid telling the interviewer that you plan on taking her job.


“Why are you leaving your current job?”

“Why did you leave your last job?”

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer is trying to uncover reasons not to hire you.  The interviewer wants to avoid job seekers who will be especially negative and pessimistic, be quick to quit, or simply don’t perform.

How to answer this question:

Do not fall on your sword with this question by being negative. Do not speak poorly of your old boss or of your co-workers or even of the work itself.  Instead, focus on what you gain by moving to a new job. Also, recognize that you could not get such opportunities in your previous position.

If it’s a voluntary departure, you might say something like:

“I very much enjoyed the people I worked with, and generally liked the work that I did. But I am hungry to take on more responsibility and to be in a position that leverages my abilities more fully.  I am excited about this position because I know that working for your organization, I will have the opportunity to…”

There are also other acceptable answers to this question. If you were in a contract position and the contract expired, say that. If you moved because your spouse found a new job, you can say that, as well.

If you were fired from your last job, find out what your past employer would say about your departure when asked. You may not need to say that you were let go. If you do need to admit to being fired, there are a number of effective approaches that you can consider. One of the easiest is to say that you were part of a group layoff due to financial difficulty at the organization. For example, this could be like:

“I very much enjoyed the people I worked with, and generally liked the work that I did.  Unfortunately, I was part of a group of people who were let go due to the recent economic downturn. But I believe that this may ultimately be to my advantage due to the opportunity I see with your company. I know that working for your organization, I will have the opportunity to…”

Notice how short this answer is—just a few sentences. Keep this answer short.

Other simple reasons to have left a job could be:

  • The organization changed. The job changed.
  • My team left/division wasn’t being supported in the same way.
  • We needed to move for a spouse’s job.
  • Change in family circumstance (like a divorce) required a change in job profile.
  • Career trajectory was not in the direction that you wanted. Small organization, so you hit a professional ceiling.
  • Large organization, so work responsibilities were too narrow.
  • Family medical issue to take care of that has now been fully resolved.


“What is your biggest weakness?”

Interviewer’s objective: 

By asking this question, the interviewer may just be hoping that you will describe a massive flaw that can cause them to eliminate you from consideration.  The interviewer can also use this question to get a small window into how you handle challenging situations.

How to answer this question:

You are welcome to try an answer like “Flourless chocolate cake. Every time it’s on the menu, I have to order it.” This answer may help you build rapport with the interviewer, but there is still a fair chance that after this response, they will want a more serious answer.  

For this answer, you will want to use what I call “The Sandwich Technique.” The first step is to uncover a trait that can be considered one of your strengths. Often a strong personality trait will do the job. Then identify how this strength can also be considered a weakness.  Finally, conclude with how you’ve learned to adapt to and overcome this weakness. 

For example:

  • Strength: “Well, I am a strong writer and found that other people really respond well to my writing.”

  • Weakness: “But, I’ve discovered in the past that for people who are auditory learners, I tend to use writing too much.”

  • Adaptation for this weakness: “So I’ve learned that whenever I work with a new co-worker or client to ask them about their preferred balance of communication mediums, and I do my best to communicate with each person as he or she prefers.”

Take a look at the Interview Cribsheet™ Report for more personalized insights on this question.

“What do you do during your free time?”

Interviewer’s objective: 

This is an informal question designed to assess the job candidate’s fit with the culture of the organization. If the interviewer is going to work directly with this new hire, then he also wants to get to know the job candidate and to find out whether this is someone with whom he would enjoy spending 40+ hours per week.  

How to answer this question:

The key is to give an answer with specific details and to describe experiences in a way that shows you are proactive.  Be ready to include two to three different types of activities. If you are lucky, the interviewer will be excited by one of your responses and ask follow-up questions.  

Everyone can create a good answer to this question. Even if you are a busy parent who just has time to get home, play with your children, cook dinner, and watch a bit of TV before bed, you could answer:

“Well, I have two children. Kaylie is 5, and Alex is 7. I really enjoy getting to know them better and taking them for bike rides in the park.”

“I’ve also been honing the art of kid-friendly healthy cooking, learning tricks like blending cauliflower into mashed potatoes, or adding carrot juice into orange juice.”

“Finally, I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a fanatic for the TV show Dancing with the Stars (smile).  When I can, I do my best to fit in an episode.” 


“What makes you the right person for this job?”

“Why don’t you give me your understanding of the position, and explain how your experience lines up?”

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer wants to make sure that the job seeker understands what he is signing up for.  In addition, this question also helps the interviewer to see whether or not the job seeker has done his homework on the firm. Finally, this question measures the job seeker’s skills.

How to answer this question:

You may not always hear it asked in this way. Yet even the question “What are your biggest strengths?” is basically getting at the same idea: “Show me that your top strengths make you a great fit for this job.”

Don’t try answering this question until you feel you really understand the job. If there are specific aspects that you aren’t sure about, begin with “Before I can answer that question, I was hoping that you could clarify what X entails. What would my responsibilities be in this regard?” 

Once you feel you understand the job, describe it to the interviewer briefly, and then ask, “Did I leave out anything important?” If you did leave something out, thank the interviewer for pointing out the omission.

With this context set, you want to mention a couple of your key strengths, the context in which you have used these strengths, and how these strengths can help you succeed. 

As an example (with many specifics omitted):

“So correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding of the work is that I will be asked to… In short, I will combine rigorous quantitative analysis and qualitative feedback to help devise new web marketing strategies. My quantitative analysis skills are pretty deep, due to my experiences in… I’ve also learned about interpreting qualitative customer feedback through… and I’ve helped devise a number of marketing strategies as… Looking at these past experiences, I can help your company (group) be successful by…”


“Why this job, at this company?”

Interviewer’s objective: 

The interviewer wants to find out what motivates the job seeker.   The interviewer wants to learn whether this is “just a job” or “the job.”

How to answer this question:

To answer this question, you need to do some homework. There is certain information you must collect about the organization and the job itself before the interview. Failing to collect this information has gotten a lot of job seekers in trouble and cost job offers, so don’t skip it.

One piece of this critical information is identifying the company’s values. You must understand what the organization believes in.

You must also understand the job in detail. You can’t make a strong argument for why you want it without understanding exactly what it is.

Your response to the question should then include three things: the people, the mission (or the product), and the work.

You would likely get a passing mark if you basically said:

“When I look at this organization, from what I have learned about the people who work here, culturally I see this company as a strong fit. Furthermore, I have always been strongly connected to the products this company produces. Finally, from what I understand of this job, it aligns with what I enjoy doing on a daily basis and with where I want my career to be headed.” 

Do your best to mention the specific cultural attributes that are a good fit for you and why they fit. Identify one or two key products, services, or social contributions that feel important to you. Finally, explain what specifically about the work you would find energizing.


“Do you have any questions for us?”

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer may ask this question as a courtesy to the job seeker. Yet, the interviewer may also evaluate the quality of the questions asked. These asked questions show to what degree a job seeker will be dedicated to the job (or not).

How to answer this question:

You should always have a couple of questions ready. This is an opportunity to demonstrate how excited you are about the work.  There are both questions that can help you and questions that you should avoid.

The first type of question focuses on the interviewer. By asking about the interviewer and her work experiences, you start to build a professional relationship with that person. For example, you can ask, “What has been the best experience you have had working for this company?”

The next type of question focuses on the organization and on its future. People who work for a company often wonder what’s coming next. You should, too. For example, you can ask the question, “So what big projects are coming up for this group?”

The next category of questions is where job seekers can get themselves in trouble. These are questions about the job itself. There are both good questions to ask about the job and bad ones. 

A good question focuses on how you would add value to the team. One such question is: “What challenges are you currently facing that you hope this position can help you with?”

A bad question focuses on how you cost money and time.  Don’t ask about salary, benefits, schedules, or vacations during the interview. Instead, you can ask those questions after you receive a job offer and before you accept the position. 

Interview Tip: Don’t wait until the very end of the interview to ask questions. Instead, ask relevant questions as they come up in the conversation. This will transform the interview from one person evaluating another to two people talking.

How would you define teamwork?

What does cooperation mean to you?
An employer asking this question wants to know whether you are completely selfish or actually like working in teams. They are trying to ask you, “Are you good at working in teams? Do you play nice with others and take instructions well?” So your response should demonstrate that you do play nice and respect your boss.

“Teamwork is leveraging the different talents of a group of people to efficiently get the job done. Teamwork also means taking time to support other members of the team to make sure everyone and the project are successful.”

Why do you want to leave your current job?

Why did you leave your last job?
Remember to never speak negatively about a past employer. Instead, focus on the positives of what you would like to gain in a new job: "While I really enjoyed my work in many ways, I am ready to take on new challenges. In this position, I had accomplished A and B and C. With your organization, I believe I can do more (if you can list what you hope to accomplish in the new position). And this makes me really excited about working for your firm.”

Note:  If you were let go (not asked to resign) and wish to disclose it in your response to this question, include it in your answer without skipping a beat.

"While I was part of a (large) group of people who were downsized in the economic downturn, I was feeling ready to take on new challenges. In this position, I had accomplished A and B and C. With your organization, I am excited to do more. (Then list what you hope to accomplish in the new position.)"

Why do you want to work here?
This is one question where your company research can pay off. What did you find most interesting about the company when you read about it? How do its goals and mission connect with your personal goals and values? How does the work at this company connect with "What motivates you?" or "Your ideal career" as described in your Interview Cribsheet™ Report or as you would describe them? Three reasons are sufficient.

How are your time management skills?
“I am a self-starter who conscientiously manages my time to get the job done. If I am concerned that a project will take longer than expected, I try to communicate this to my boss as soon as I can.” This is like being asked, “Are you smart?” Just check the box yes, and move on.Do you feel comfortable going wherever the company sends you?
This question might be about relocation or it might be about business trips. You should clarify before you respond. By saying yes now, keep in mind that you reserve the option to say no after they have offered you the job. But if travel is a deal-breaker from the beginning, you may as well say no and save everyone time.When do you expect a promotion?
While you want to look hungry for success, you also don’t want to make the hiring manager think you are after his or her job, and you want to assure him that you will support the team:
“I’m not sure I have a definitive answer for you. Within any position, I expect to be given new and sometimes greater responsibilities as I successfully complete the projects that are given to me. At some point, my past track record of performance will suggest that I am ready for greater responsibility than my current title allows. I hope at that point, when an opportunity for promotion arises, that my manager will support my candidacy for the position.”How long do you plan to stay in your next job?
Where do you plan to be in five years?

Giving a longer time frame is generally better, since hiring and training new employees is expensive for a company.

“I would like to be a part of my next organization for the long haul. I am looking for an opportunity where I can provide a really valuable contribution and where I can continue to learn and grow. What kind of career path can I expect when I join this company?”Do you mind if I check your references?
“You are more than welcome to.” Either they really like you or they want to push you to see whether you’re giving honest answers. Either way, show that you have nothing to hide with a clear, open answer. If you have a list of references to share—people you know will be advocates for you—definitely offer that list at this point.Overall, how do you feel about your career progress to date?
Do you feel that your past work reflects the best you can do?
How do you feel about your contributions to XYZ Company?
How would your boss rate your performance?

These questions test you on two fronts: Are you a slacker? Are you all washed up? Show that you have a healthy sense of self-esteem, are proud of the value that you created, and are hungry to add more value in your new job:

“I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. I feel that on a daily basis, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow and make valuable contributions to my organization. (Insert noteworthy achievements that are relevant). And I am excited about taking on new challenges and making even more significant contributions.”

How long would it be until you were able to make a serious contribution to your organization?
“While I intend to start adding value from day one and will do everything I can to get up to speed as quickly as possible, I’d like to give you a more specific answer about a timeline for making a real contribution. Can you tell me what projects you were thinking I would work on?”

(Then follow up to their response and identify specific ways you can create value.)

Alternatively, ask about the specific problems they are facing and start brainstorming solutions during the interview—offer to create value today.What interests you most about this job?
Why do you want to work here?
Why are you interested in working for our organization?

Understand the job before answering this question. Your pre-interview research should cover it, and if this is at the end of the interview, you should be able to verify these characteristics.

If you’re not 100% confident about what the job looks like on a day-to-day basis, say, “Before I jump, I want to confirm that I have a clear understanding of the position. From what I understand so far, the job is like (insert details of the job here). Are there any critical details that I have missed?... I also understand the culture to be like (insert company details here). Are there other strong cultural characteristics that I didn’t include?”Then identify one or two characteristics of the job that you like, and tie your answer into your core values or motivations, described in your Interview Cribsheet, as well as specific experiences that support your argument.

“One piece of the job that I find really exciting is (insert job characteristic), as I am very much motivated by work that allows me to… Furthermore, working for an organization that (insert company characteristic) aligns well with my own aspirations to… (insert one of your top values). Based on my experiences with… I know that this job will enable me to…”

How do you motivate other people to perform?
“It depends a lot on the individual. Some are more responsive to praise than others. Some need more of a push. In general, I create an environment where individuals feel respected for their ability to contribute but are also expected to perform to a high standard. I do my best to support my team and make them feel that they have the tools and freedom to do their best work. But I’m also not afraid to call aside individuals who are underperforming and let them know that I expect more from them.”How is this job different from your current one?
This answer has two purposes: to test whether you were listening and to assess whether you are likely to split for another job as soon as there is a larger paycheck available. So, sound excited while telling the interviewer what interested you most in what he said about the job. If you can’t give a thorough answer based on what the interviewer has already told you, say, “Before I jump, I want to confirm that I have a clear understanding of the position. From what I understand so far, the job is like (insert details of the job here). Are there any critical details that I have missed?” Then give a response based on what the interviewer has highlighted to you during the conversation.

How long have you been looking for a new job?
If you have a job, let them know it, and keep the time frame relatively short. You want to appear decisive and not as a chronic job swapper. “Over the past couple of months, I’ve realized that I was ready for greater challenges and new responsibilities. I have been looking in earnest for a new position only recently.”

If you have been unemployed for several months, you need a more careful answer.

Negative Questions—The Ones Designed to be “Tricky”

An interviewer may try to throw you off by asking about what you didn’t like, whom you didn’t like, where you failed, etc. The key is to brush these questions off and give positive responses.  You want to appear an optimistic and resilient person who speaks well of your old company and your old co-workers. While you occasionally may have made a mistake or hit a bump in the road, you quickly corrected it, learned from it, and made sure it never happened again.  Remember to always stay positive.

What did you dislike about your last job?

If they push you for a more specific response to what you didn’t like, you can say, “Even when I occasionally came across a specific task that wasn’t fun, I knew that doing the job done right meant taking on whatever came up.”

How would you describe your relationship with your old boss?

Tell me about the worst boss you ever had.
No matter what your boss was like, you should give the same response:  “My boss and I had a great professional relationship, and I liked him/her as a person. I also learned a lot from working with him/her and am grateful for having had that opportunity.”

Overall, how do you feel about your past company?
“I feel that it’s an excellent company that I valued being a part of.”

Do you have any pet peeves?

Describe a couple of things that bother you.

What annoyed you / angered you in your previous jobs?
A terrible question, one just designed to be tricky. Use it to demonstrate you have a good work ethic. “I’m someone who is committed to my work, so it bothers me when a co-worker is there just to punch the clock or chooses to play hooky near the deadline of a project.”

Did you ever have difficulty with a supervisor (co-worker)? How did you resolve the conflict?

What do you do when you disagree with a manager?

How would you evaluate your ability to deal with conflict?
“I have always gotten along well with my managers (co-workers). I work hard to create open communication between my manager (team members) and myself. In general, I feel that people are people and that if a disagreement comes up, it’s best to sit down, explain differences, find common ground, and move forward.”

Do you want your boss’s job?
This is like asking, “Do you lack drive, or are you bloodthirsty?” Don’t let yourself get caught in this trap. “I want my manager to be someone who I can learn from and who I can help to become more successful. If I can help my manager get promoted and the opening seems like a good fit for me at the time, then I would obviously be interested.”

What’s the worst thing you heard about our company?
“I heard that you could be pretty tough interviewers.” Feel free to smile.

How do you feel about my performance as an interviewer?
“Overall, I’ve enjoyed our conversation, though I would say that you aren’t afraid to test me with a tough interview question like this one.”

I don’t think you’re the right candidate for this job.
This question could be asked for a couple of reasons. One, the interviewer is trying to stress you out by asking a very abstract, hard-to-answer question. In this case, you want to demonstrate that you can stay calm and, even under pressure, that you can solve problems.  The other (and less likely) reason is that the interviewer is offering you a lifeline before showing you the door. Either way, your response should be the same. Stay calm, learn what his concerns are, and show that you can either speak directly to his concern, or show that you have other skills that are an effective substitute:

“Would you mind telling me what you feel are the key characteristics for this position where I don’t match up?”

List off skills and talents that can help you achieve whatever are your perceived shortcomings, and indicate how your other skills make you distinctly better than other candidates. “Though I don’t have much experience in XYZ, I believe that my experience in ABC will help me get started. I will work extremely hard to get up the curve as quickly as possible, and my skills in QRS will enable me to learn more quickly than most others. Furthermore, my experience in ABC provides me with a distinct skill set that sets me ahead of other candidates.”

How are you able to interview while still employed?
“I took a bit of my vacation time to be here.” You don’t want to suggest that you took advantage of sick days or something else along those lines.

Describe something you did that, looking back on it, seemed a bit reckless/wasn’t completely thought through.
Use innocuous examples from your personal life. As an example, you could answer, “In college, I decided to adopt a cat with my girlfriend at the time. Entering into the workforce, I traveled often for work, and caring for a pet became tricky.”

Looking at your resume, it seems like you have changed jobs quite frequently in the past. How can we be sure that you will stay around here?
Articulate how you now have a clearer career direction compared to the past and are now ready to commit to a longer-term career. If you can, describe what you are looking for by pulling your response from your Interview Cribsheet report. Be sure not to play the game of blaming your past employer.

Looking at your resume, it seems like you have spent a long time with your past company. Will you be able to adapt?
You need to describe how your job evolved and you adapted. Have you held different positions? Worked for different bosses? Worked in different departments? Worked with different people on different projects? You’ve also likely worked with other companies on projects, be they clients, vendors, or partners. You’ve seen and learned from them in action. Reference all of the ways you’ve needed to be flexible, and then close with the following: “Not only am I adaptable, but I am also someone who has a track record of being loyal and supporting my organization.”

Have you ever been fired?

For more a more detailed discussion of having been laid off, please go to the Overcome Interviewer Objections section.

Note that if you were asked to resign, and chose to resign, the answer is no. You left of your own accord. If you were fired and it is reasonable to explain your firing as part of a downsizing, put it in that context.

"My company faced some major setbacks in the market downturn. As a result, they let off a sizable portion of their workforce, particularly for people like me in the position of ______. I was one of xx people to be let go (or in a small company, use percentages or say, "3 people from a 10-person company"). My managers always felt very highly of me and even said they would like to bring me back when the company turns around (or, and will provide a very strong recommendation if you contact them)."

If you were fired with cause due to documented misbehaviors on your part and you believe the termination was merited, you can take the following actions.

If you can, reach out to the manager at the job from which you were fired. As graciously and respectfully as possible, tell him you are trying to learn from your past experiences. Ask how he would articulate your termination. Find out whether he would tell a prospective employer that you were fired in a future employment screening. If he will say that you resigned, you are in the clear.

If you need to say you were fired, deliver the answer as softly as possible. Make your termination not seem like an exceptional action on the part of the employer. Also, be humble and show that you have matured since then:  “Unfortunately, I need to say I deserved it. I faced some tough family (personal) issues for a short period of time that impacted my work performance. I was also one of a number of people that were let go as the company tried to trim its costs. Obviously, I have grown since then.” If someone at your prior organization will speak well of you, you can add, “You are welcome to speak to so-and-so about my experience there.”

Have you ever been asked to resign?
It is pretty safe to answer this question with a no, even if you were asked to resign. If this employer is contacted, they cannot say that they asked you to resign without putting themselves in legal danger. In essence, the employer would be admitting to firing you. If you were fired, they owe you certain unemployment benefits, and since the organization failed to provide you with these entitlements, they're in trouble. So, you should feel pretty good about answering with a no in whatever case.

Additional questions asked to previous ISF customers:

Your job involves some long-term projects and day-to-day unpredictable events in a fast-paced environment. How would you manage this?

"I keep on top of my long-term projects by setting internal deadlines and benchmarks. So if something urgent comes up, I will address it and then put in the time necessary to make sure that the long-term projects hit these benchmarks and stay on schedule.

If you could be any animal in the world, what would you want to be, and why?

Don't let this question throw you off. Smile. Pick something relatively benign, and then provide a simple reason. For example: "Well, I've always loved dolphins. They just seem to really enjoy life and are very smart, too."

Are you interested in this job?

Either the interviewer wants you to prove your sincerity, or he just doesn't know how to interview. Either way, your answer should be an enthusiastic yes with supporting evidence:

"I am very interested in this position. What I am most excited about is:
1) the job asks me to do ___, and I very much enjoy that kind of work.
2) the people here are like ___, and those are people I work well with.
3) the company values _____, and that's something I really care about.
Overall, I think that I am a great fit for this position."If I check your references, what do you think they will say about you?
Don't let this question trip you up. Think about the positive comments you received from your references. If it was a previous boss, think about any reviews you may have had. Then, instead of repeating all of the comments you received, provide a short and simple summary, something like "Based on the feedback that I received in my previous jobs, they would probably say that I work hard, deliver superior results, and am great to have as a member of their team."

Are you a fast learner?

"Yes. In my previous job I learned to do A..., B..., and C... in a very short time frame."

Why are you proud of your work?

Provide an answer that mentions two pieces—the effort put into the work and the results:"I am proud of my work because I know that through my thorough efforts, I have created as a strong a deliverable as possible, and I am also proud of my work because of how it improves the lives of my customers (or co-workers) by...."

Tell me how you spend your time........

What does a typical week look like for you?

These questions are essentially about time management; the interviewer is trying to assess whether you are organized and a hard worker. But, sometimes your answer to this one can distract your interviewer. Your past job will be different from your next job, including how you spend your time. Interviewers forget this. Sometimes, upon hearing an answer that shows you spend your time on activities different from theirs, they start to think that you aren't a good fit. To avoid this, give the basics in a short answer that uses broad strokes (not too much detail). After your response, ask a question about the new position to both change the subject and get them reconnecting you to the job. 

(On a side note, if you are worried that the number of hours you worked will vary in your next job, don't mention your weekly schedule.)

"Over a 70-hour average work week, I spent 60% of my time in the field improving operations. This meant visiting our restaurants to see them in action, providing feedback, and coaching the individual managers. I then spent 30% of my time evaluating project performance and setting and assessing. This includes working with my team of direct reports and with fellow members of the leadership team. For the remaining 10%, I focused on improving and coaching my team. I know that the schedule in my past job will vary from what I would do for you. From what I understand about this position, it seems that the mix would be more like XX% of A, XX% of B, and XX% of C. Is that right?"

If you notice a supervisor or co-worker doing something that they are not supposed too, what are you going to do about it?

I think this question is a lose-lose. At some point, the answer has to be yes, I would.But if I had to answer, I would probably try something like this:  "I think it would really depend on the behavior and magnitude of the problem. If a co-worker came back from lunch a few minutes later than expected, they may have a good reason for it, yet if a co-worker seems to be doing something serious like drinking on the job and putting the safety of others at risk/proactively undermining a project and putting our team and our client relationship at risk, then I definitely have a responsibility to speak up."

Your salary history is no one's business: Say NO and get a higher offer!

Never, ever, ever disclose your salary history. It will be used to limit a job offer, no matter what the company tells you. No employer has ever given me one good reason why it needs an applicant's salary history. If they say, "It's our policy. We cannot proceed if you don't disclose your salary," consider responding like this: "I appreciate that, but I can't. My last two employers required employees to keep salary information confidential. I'd be happy to help you assess my value to your company; I don't expect you to pay me more than I can show I'm worth." Always be polite but firm. Be ready to demonstrate your value. If you can't, you have no business in the interview.

How do I respond to questions about salary?

Richard Nelson Bolles, the author of What Color is Your Parachute, suggests three potential responses.Your first response could be something like:
“I’d like to wait on answering that question until we’ve decided that I would be a strong fit for your team and for this position. At that point, I am almost positive we can find a number where we would both be comfortable.”If the first response doesn’t work, you can turn to a second response:
“I’m more than happy to provide you with that information, but I’d like to really understand what the job involves first. Would you please provide me with some more background?”If number one and two don’t work and they insist on something more specific, then you need to at least provide a range:
“I’m looking for a salary in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 per year, depending on the benefits package and the specifics of the job.”

Another approach is to turn the question on the interviewer: “How much were you looking to pay for the right person in this position?” If they provide you with a number that is reasonable, you want to give a response that shows comfort without commitment. “Well, I’d like to learn more about the details of this position, but I am sure we can settle on something that would work for both of us.”

(And as a reminder, don’t be the one to ask about salary, benefits, average hours worked per week, or percentage of travel during the interview. You can ask these questions after you get the job offer.)

What's your biggest strength?

In answering this classic interview question, you should focus on what strength you have that is most important for the job you are applying for. If you’re applying for a position in sales, the ability to talk to people and your skill with numbers are what you want to focus on, not an irrelevant skill.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The goal of employers, when asking this question, is always to see your ambition. They want to know if you have goals that you want to achieve that will encourage you to work harder in order to attain those goals.

Your answer should be honest; show that you want to move up while still maintaining a realistic goal.

Why don't you tell me about a time that your time management skills failed you?

This negative question is similar to "Tell me about a time you got in a big fight with your co-worker." Often, the interviewer asks this to see whether you will sell yourself out. You are welcome to respond with "I don't think I've ever experienced that situation before."

Yet, you will also want to prepare for broader negative questions that demonstrate your ability to take on obstacles. An example would be "Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you overcame it." You can prepare for these like you would prepare for other behavioral interview questions.

You should also be ready for the interviewer to interrupt you mid-story and deride your failures, just to see whether you can maintain your composure. You may want to practice these interruptions ahead of time so you aren't surprised on the day of the interview.

What did you dislike about your last job?

Despite the negativity of the question, you should be ready to stay positive. Avoid saying anything nasty. Instead, during your interview preparation, focus on explaining why you want to pursue this new job.

You may encounter an aggressive interviewer who will try to cause you to switch your position. Don't stress it. If they push you for a more specific response to what you didn't like, you can respond with "Even when I occasionally came across a specific task that wasn't fun, I knew that doing the job done right meant taking on whatever came up."

Tell me about your biggest accomplishment.

Tell me about a mistake you made and how you overcame it.

Both of these questions require you to answer with a story that describes a relevant past experience.The purpose of these behavioral questions is to demonstrate that the abilities you described in your resume are real and not just a bunch of fluff.

There’s a pattern that you can use in answering these types of questions: the STAR system (Situation, Task, Actions, Response).

Situation - This is the backstory—the who, what, where, and when. It would start something like this: “When I was working as an intensive care nurse at University Hospital, there was a situation where…”

Task - What was your part to play in this situation, your assigned role, and how were you able to turn this into an opportunity?

It would start something like this: “On this project, I was assigned to be the customer relationship manager… and I saw this as an opportunity to…”

Actions - What were the steps you took to solve this challenge? Did you call on the help of others? Overcome roadblocks? Anything unique about your actions/method worth mentioning?

Response - What were the tangible results of your work? How were things better off because of what you did? What lessons did you learn?

Often, the hardest part of this entire 4-part process is describing the actions you took. Explaining the sequence of actions you took and the thought process for each step can be challenging. Yet, it is essential that you do this right. Furthermore, you also need a high level of detail to make the story feel credible.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare to make this much easier.

This high level of detail is also necessary in the results step. You need to use as many quantifiable metrics and specifics as you can in order to prove that you had an impact.

If your response is just “We made fewer mistakes” or “Projects got done faster,” it just isn’t good enough. Your interviewers may not call you out on it, but they will feel less than fully satisfied with your response. Percentages, before-and-after comparisons, and even client feedback are all helpful to prove the value of your work.

What are your top three fundraising skills?

What were the “lessons learned” and “wisdom obtained” from your previous fundraising jobs?

In asking questions like these, understand that employers want to ascertain that you meet a few basic criteria for the job:  (1) you can generate the revenue level they would like to obtain; (2) you have a proven ability to cultivate relationships and alliances; (3) you have worked in corporate relations/engagement where the big bucks are, and (4) you can get them some good PR, which can generate new revenue streams.  If you can convince them that you meet these requirements, then you’ll have a clear advantage.

Tell me about yourself.

Yes, "Tell me about yourself" seems like an open invitation to tell your life's story. Still, you shouldn't be surprised when you start describing where you grew up that your interviewer quickly loses interest. Worse yet, as the first question you may be asked during an interview, flubbing this question can put you on edge for the rest of the conversation.

So how do you ace this question? Reply with your personal elevator pitch. In a minute or less, and in fewer than 150 words, describe who you are and what you have to offer.

Here is one framework that can help you succeed:

1. Describe who you are.

2. Connect your identity to this job or career.

3. Then explain why you are switching jobs.

4. Close with enthusiasm for this job.

Why did you apply to this company?

To answer why you have taken interest in a company, say some things that intrigued you about the company. They want to know that you are interested enough to effectively sell their service/product/food or will have enthusiasm and spirit doing your job.

There are actually several questions you need to answer here:

  • What do you know about the company and the position?
  • What evidence can you provide that you have an interest in the sort of thing we do?
  • What do you hope to get out of the job, apart from a salary?

“Evidence” of your interest should be just that. Saying “I’ve always wanted a career as a software developer in the financial services industry” won’t cut the mustard. Naming relevant experience projects, university modules, or active involvement in relevant societies will do.

What types of jobs are you currently seeking?

When you are asked this question, the employer usually wants to know if the position you are applying for in their company is really a job that you want for the long term or if you’re just looking for something temporary. The most important thing is to be honest about your answer.

You don’t want to say that this is a position that you want for the long term when you really don’t. You’ll end up destroying professional relationships.

Can you handle stress?

When you respond, be sure to frame your answer positively. If you say that you hate pressure, it will be a red flag for the interviewer that you may not be the best candidate for the job.

Sample Answers

  • I find a fast pace to be invigorating and thrive when the pressure is on.
  • I'm the kind of person who stays calm under pressure and handles stress fairly easily.

You should also share relevant experiences to support or show how you have handled stress in your past jobs.

Give me an example of how you solved a problem in a creative way?

Interviewer’s objective:

This question is designed to assess how you handle working under pressure. The interviewer wants to know if you are put in a stress-filled situation, whether you can thrive or you’ll crack.

How to answer this question:

Your answer should start with the situation you were in. What were the constraints, and what were your options? Tell them about your thought process during this situation. What made you think that your decision would be the best direction to go?

Describe an example at work where you caught yourself from making a big mistake. Describe to me what you were thinking and how you prevented it.

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer typically wants to know if you can keep yourself from going against company procedures or if you can be trusted.

How to answer this question:

In answering this question, the most important part is to be positive. We are all susceptible to making mistakes, but what is important is what you do afterward, because that will show who you really are. Did you continue making the same mistakes repeatedly, or did you take a stand in stopping yourself from committing the same mistake again?

How do you treat someone who isn't pulling his weight on a project?

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of this question is to find out how you would respond in a team environment. It’s to test whether you’re someone who will be a great addition to the team or a cause of division in the team.

How to answer this question:

What you want to show your interviewer is your ability to be a leader. You want to show that you will do whatever it takes to encourage other members to contribute and help towards achieving the goal. What you don’t want to say is that you will do nothing about it, because it will show that you don’t care and employers want employees who do care.

What was the worst work situation you have had?

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer wants to understand how you handle conflict. It’s to test whether you’re someone who brings conflict to a team or someone who will be there to make sure everybody gets along and works together.

How to answer this question:

In answering this question, what’s important is not to give in to the temptation to bad-mouth former co-workers. While you may not have had the best working relationship with them, what you want to show your interviewer is how even the worst work situation doesn’t affect how you work.

Describe your strengths and weaknesses.

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer wants to know if you really know yourself and may want to know if there are additional details about you that you weren’t able to include your resume or cover letter.

How to answer this question:

Preparation is key in answering this question. Beforehand, you have to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of your top strengths that you think would be most important for the position.

Although not everyone wants to recognize their weaknesses, it’s a fact that we can’t do everything on our own. You will always have a weakness; the important part is to show that your weakness won’t affect your ability to perform the job in any way.

Describe a time you exhibited leadership.

Interviewer’s objective:

A question that is typically asked when interviewing for a position as a manager or supervisor; an interviewer wants to understand your leadership style and how you treat people, because as a leader it’s your responsibility to motivate people and keep them productive.

How to answer this question:

Before your interview, it’s important to have prepared an experience that you think stands out among all of your experiences. Share how this situation produced the desired results and how you came up with the idea of how to best approach it.

Describe a time when you prevented a problem.

Interviewer’s objective:

The interviewer wants to understand more about your decision making. If you’re not in a management position, then he wants to know if you will bring the dilemma to the proper channels. He wants to know if you can decide well with or without supervision.

How to answer this question:

The question is best answered with a situation. For example, let’s say you were in retail. You’re selling a refrigerator, but the one the customer wants is out of stock and the only one left is the display refrigerator. A wise decision would be to call the nearest store that has them in stock and order it for your customer.

Tell me a time when you worked with a difficult person.

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of the question is to find out how you handle conflict. There are always situations where either a customer or co-worker is in conflict with you, so show how you handle these situations when answering this question.

How to answer this question:

In answering this question, your goal should be to show how you resolved the conflict. Show that how no matter how big the conflict, you’ll still find a way to come up with a solution and resolve it.

Tell me a time where you demonstrated the core values, beliefs, and ethics of our company. (This assumes that you took the time to find out about the company and what its values and ethics are.)

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of the interviewer is to find out whether or not you actually took the time to learn more about the company. Job seekers often find themselves not putting enough effort into learning all about a company, which is a mistake because employers want employees who care.

How to answer this question:

If you didn’t take the time to study the company, all of your efforts in answering this question will be wasted because the interviewer will immediately know that you don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about. 

Tell me a time when you made a bad decision and what you did to correct it.

Interviewer’s objective:

This question is designed to test how well you handle mistakes. Are you someone who goes out and creates a solution for your bad decision, or are you just going to let a misjudgment get the best of you?

How to answer this question:

Your answer should exude positivity. Show that even when you make mistakes, you don’t falter; you own up to your mistake, and you find a way to correct it.

Tell me a time when you played the contrarian in a work team. How did the others handle your point of view?

Interviewer’s objective:

In answering this question, you want to understand that what an interviewer is looking for here is whether you can be a leader and stand up for what you believe is right or if you’re someone who just goes with the flow.

How to answer this question:

Share a story of how, at one point in your professional career, you didn’t go with the majority. Tell how you thought things could be done better and their way was not the only way to solve a problem. Explain how you were able to get others to see what you mean.

Explain to me a time when you had to follow a policy you didn't fully agree with. What did you do?

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of this question is to find out about your ability to follow instructions. There are times at work when you are given instructions that you don’t fully agree with but you still need to follow them.

How to answer this question:

The best way to answer this question is by sharing an experience—one that can show how you followed or went with an idea that you don’t really agree with, and that can show how you did it for the better of the team.

What would you contribute to this organization?

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of the interviewer is to find more about your personality. It’s a question designed to test your fit with the company and if you will thrive in their environment.

How to answer this question:

The best way to answer the question is by making it unique to who you are. Think about how your unique personality and past experiences can help you bring future achievements to their company.

How are you able to interview while still employed?
Interviewer’s objective:

Find out if you can be honest about your situation. There are employees who actually prefer to hire employees who are currently employed over unemployed ones because it shows that you are desirable.

How to answer this question:

Be honest. Don’t be afraid to let the interviewer know that you’re keeping your search to yourself and your current boss doesn’t know. Tell them that you scheduled the interview around your work hours or that you took a personal day off to attend the interview.

Do you mind if I check your references?

Interviewer’s objective:

While the interviewer’s interest in checking your references is certainly not a negative sign, it’s still not yet a job offer. Most employers (if they have any sense) will check references before hiring someone. It’s always a sensible precaution.

How to answer this question:

If you’re someone who is currently unemployed, make sure to give a heads-up to your references before the interview. Ask for their permission to list them as reference.

If you’re currently employed and want to change jobs, an example of an answer would be:

“I understand the importance of references and would be delighted for you to have a word with my references – I’m confident they’ll be very supportive of my application. However, because my decision to change jobs is quite a sensitive issue – particularly with regard to my current employer – I would, of course, prefer if you contact my previous employers or supervisors.”

What's the worst thing you heard about our company?

Interviewer’s objective:

This question is designed to shock the applicant and test his/her composure and ability to think on his/her feet.

How to answer this question:

The essential thing here is that you expect the question. If you don’t prepare for this one, it’s easy to be rattled and lose your composure. But when you take the time to prepare and research the company, you’ll be able to easily answer this because you have something that you brought with you, such as news of an unsuccessful project. Use this situation, and promote your skills even more. Tell them what you could have helped them with in order for that project to be successful.


"What would you do if someone was not listening to you?"


The short answer is to ask them questions. If they aren't listening, that means that what you are sharing is not engaging them. So to engage them, I would ask them a couple of relevant questions and then reconnect my content back to what interests them. For example, I would ask them about what are their concerns when prescribing for this diagnosis, what would they hope for this medication to do, what complications are they worried about the most / have they faced in the past, what is their current medication of choice and why do they choose it. Then I would connect my product to their goals and concerns. 

If this doesn't engage them, I would ask - It seems as though something else might be on your mind right now - is it anything I can help with? 

Depending on their answer, I would try to address their concern, or I might schedule a visit for a better time.



How do you handle an upset customer?

I would prepare a story where you handled this situation well (see build section for Prepare Your Story). I would explain the context of the situation - where you were working, possible what happened before you started speaking with the customer.

Then, I would describe how I approached it / would approach it. 

Here's the long description:

First, when I interacted with the customer, I would apologize that they are feeling frustrated, ask them to explain their situation and  tell them that I will do my best to help. I would make it clear to the customer that I am patiently listening to them by giving my full attention. I would ask questions if there was some element of what they were saying that I didn't understand and otherwise do my best to at least get the context. Once I clearly understood the situation from their perspective, I would try to solve their problem. First if there was a misunderstanding on their part, I would try to explain the source of confusion. Then, I would lay out the alternatives for me helping them solve this problem, suggesting my preferred approach, but giving them the opportunity to decide which solution to take. Then once they chose and an approach, I would explain what I am doing step by step to resolve their problem, until the situation is resolved by me or passed on to someone else who is better equipped to resolve the situation.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Describe a couple of things that bother you.

What annoyed you/angered you in your previous jobs?

Interviewer’s objective:

These questions are designed to determine whether you’re a good fit for the company. Employers want to hire the best of the best in their company, but being the best won’t mean anything if you can’t fit in.

How to answer this question:

The best way to answer this question is

Describe a situation in which you worked on a team.

Interviewer’s objective:

Assess how you perform in team environments.

How to answer this question:

Sample answer: “In a team situation, I like to step back and try to listen to everyone's ideas. I usually do not take a direct leadership role, but instead, I observe and listen carefully to everyone's ideas, and when I have an idea, I bring it up in an organized way. I don't just yell out a random idea.

I usually try to take other people's ideas along with my own and offer suggestions. I like to be organized. Usually, I am the one who refines other people's ideas and goes deeper into the organization to make things as efficient as possible. I find it easier to really reflect on everyone's input when I am not the center of attention like the leader of the group would be.

In the future, I think I should take more of a leadership role because I am a very good listener and I like things to be planned as well as possible. But at the same time, if I were to take a leadership role, I would need to be careful not to forget to listen to everyone's input.”

Tell me about the project you are most proud of completing.

Interviewer’s objective:

Depending on your answer, this will show what is important to you and what environment you will thrive in. Whatever your answer is, remember that you have to set high standards.

How to answer this question:

Everyone has a proud moment in his/her life. If you don’t have a project that you can share, a personal achievement will suffice. What you don’t want to do is to say that you don’t have anything you’re proud of.

Tell me about what past experiences motivated you to pursue this career.

Interviewer’s objective:

Understand what motivates you and your goals.

How to answer this question:

Whatever has motivated you in order to pursue your chosen career, what’s important is when you say it, show passion and enthusiasm. No matter how good your story is, if it lacks emotion, your answer won’t have as much of an effect as it should.

Tell me about a time when you needed to adapt to new surroundings.

Interviewer’s objective:

Find out if you are someone who can adapt well to new environments. This is especially important when you’re applying for a position where it involves a lot of travel.

How to answer this question:

Show that you welcome meeting new people and love the opportunity to experience new things every time. Show that going to different places is what energizes you.

Tell me about a skill that you needed to learn in your previous job.

Interviewer’s objective:

The goal of the interviewer is to learn if you are someone who is willing to learn new skills when needed.

How to answer this question:

If you haven’t learned anything in your previous job, share an experience where you needed to go out of your way in learning something new to make a project work. It doesn’t have to be a skill that is tangible; as long as it helped you get the job done, it’s something that you can share with your interviewer.

Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult client.

Interviewer’s objective:

Find out how you handle conflict or pressure-filled situations. These are situations that can’t be avoided; there are times when you have to face them at work.

How to answer this question:

You have to show that you can handle any type of situation. Show that even though there are times when you might face clients that are difficult, you will not let this faze you. You will always find a solution to make everyone happy.

Tell me about a time when you influenced others.

Interviewer’s objective:

In organizations, we get others to think and do things in two ways, sometimes known as “telling and selling.” In telling, we use the authority of our position. Most of the time, however, it is better if we change minds without authority; this is what influencing is and what the interviewer is trying to understand.

They are thus looking both for how effective you are at influencing and also the methods you use.

How to answer this question:

Give them an example of influencing somebody outside of your span of immediate control. Showing that you can influence people more senior than you is particularly effective:

“Last month, I need the finance director to approve a project. His schedule was full, so I sent a one-line email with the potential savings underlined. That got his attention. When he came to see me, I showed how I would make the savings, and he approved it on the spot.”

Show how you change minds subtly rather than using a sledgehammer to coerce people into action. Also, make sure you are the person changing minds, not someone who is resisting having his/her mind changed.

Bad example: “In a meeting recently, another person wanted to close the project early. I just told her there was no chance. She argued about it, but I held my ground. In the end, she just gave in.”

How would other people describe working with you?

How to answer this question:

What’s the most challenging project you faced?

How to answer this question:


“How would you handle a disruptive student?” 

“Tell me about a time when you handled a disruptive student.” 

Your response should convey only positivity.  For example: 

 “I believe in using principles of positive reinforcement with disruptive students. Teachers should take the time to find out what motivates each student, and then use that as an incentive to guide the student toward on-task behavior.  One time, I had a student who persisted in talking to any student that was near him while I was teaching.  In response, I reminded him about a behavior plan that we had established earlier in the week.  This student really liked to draw on the board, so I would allow him to draw on the board after class—but only if his behavior was compliant during the school day.  Because I knew what motivated him, he only needed a reminder to put his behavior back on track.” 

No matter how the question is phrased, it is generally a good idea to include in your response a scenario in which you utilized principles of positive reinforcement to gently guide a student toward on-task behavior.


“How do you build rapport with your class?”

“How do you establish a positive classroom climate?”

 The best answer is the one that shows your warm and fuzzy side.  A sample response might be: 

“I believe that the students will give you their best if you show a genuine interest in them.  I try to recognize each student at least once a day with specific praise for on-task behavior.  Before and after class, I take some time to give the students a warm smile and offer assistance with their schoolwork.  Plus, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to tell me about their latest softball game or gymnastics tournament.  A few minutes of personal attention can make a big difference in building rapport.” 

Note the themes being implied here:  providing individualized attention, taking an interest in the students, and going the extra mile to help them.  As usual, feel free to insert a personal anecdote recounting a time when you put these principles into action in a school setting.

If you’re applying for a teaching position, even if it’s your first teaching job, chances are good that you’ve undergone some sort of internship, so use that experience as fodder for your personal anecdotes.  If you haven’t had any classroom experience at all—not even an internship—then substitute a tutoring, coaching, or mentoring experience that you’ve had.  If you haven’t done any of those things, then you might want to consider it, as it will provide ammunition for your resume and interviews (not to mention the fact that you’ll feel good about yourself for doing a good deed).


“What’s your philosophy of teaching?” 

Don’t be surprised if the interviewer expects you to be a philosopher during your job interview.  Instead of brushing off your long-shelved copy of Being and Nothingness, you’d be better off thinking about what outcomes you want for your future students.  Incorporate the ideas of addressing the needs of all students, individualizing instruction, allowing the students to construct their own learning and maximizing student achievement. 


“I believe in treating each student as an individual.  All students are capable of learning and succeeding, and it is the teacher’s job to get to know the students and bring out the best in them.  Meaningful, authentic learning is the key, and I view the teacher as a facilitator of learning.  When teachers give students the tools and guidance they need to learn on their own, that’s when they are truly empowered to reach their full potential.”

Also, don’t be afraid to ask other educators about their philosophy statements.  You can use their ideas as inspiration to build your own philosophy.


“What drives you as an educator?”

“Why teaching?”

Spend some time reflecting on why you became a teacher in the first place, and what it is about teaching that makes it worth the low pay.  (The answer, at least during the interview, isn’t “three months off in the summer.”)  If the interviewer asks you about this, the “right answer” is the one that focuses on serving the needs of the students. 


“I’ve been driven to help others for as long as I can remember.  Even when I was a kid, I would offer to help other students who were struggling with their schoolwork.  Later in life, when it came time to choose a career path, it was a no-brainer for me.  I knew that teaching would give me the perfect opportunity to help others achieve and succeed, and every time I see a student having an ‘A-ha!’ moment, it reminds me of why I got into the teaching profession in the first place.”


Why Nursing?

Here are 5 techniques that you can use to help you think of your reasons for choosing nursing:

1) Write down a story about a time you cared for a patient and you realized something that excites you about nursing.

2) Write down a story where your care made a difference in that patient’s care.

3) Reread your personal statement from your nursing school application (if available).

4) If not available, remember a time before you started your nursing training when you cared for someone or observed someone who was a nurse care for someone.

5) Ask a friend why he or she decided to go into nursing.

6) Ask your boss/supervisor why he or she decided to pursue nursing.

7) Make a new friend by meeting someone new.  Inevitably, he or she will ask you why want to be a nurse.  Answer honestly.

Once you’ve gathered some information, you will need to put together a response. Most likely, you will not write the perfect answer the first time. Try writing several versions of this, and see which you like the best and which pieces you like the best.  Ask others what best represents you.  There are two types of approaches we recommend for a response.

Approach 1: Tell a single story of healthcare that makes you feel passionate about the work. Here are two examples:

“What inspired me to go into nursing was an experience that I had during the summer before my senior year of high school.  That summer, I volunteered in the hospital, assisting with the chaplain services.  One day, I was visiting with an elderly female patient alone when she starting having acute shortness of breath. I quickly pushed the call button by the patient’s bed and waited for the response from the other end. When the nurse arrived, she remained composed while examining the patient and administering treatment.  Even as the patient seemed to deteriorate, the nurse remained calm.  She called a code, and in scurried what I later learned was a brand-new resident. The nurse then directed this resident as to how to proceed in a strong, encouraging fashion.  Thankfully, the patient rallied after a round of racemic epinephrine and albuterol.  From this experience, I realized that I wanted to become that nurse, calm and collected even when the patient started to go south, while also being a great teacher to the young resident.” 


“This past year, working at the NICU at University Hospital, I helped 30 infants who suffered from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or various other illnesses become healthy enough to go home with their parents for the first time. Helping these newborns, enabling them to have full and rich lives, feels like a gift. Over the course of the newborns’ stay on the ward, I established strong relationships with the anxious and often exhausted parents of my patients, explaining to them the progress of their children.  As the patients recovered, I was extremely gratified by the joy of these parents able now to take home their child, prepared for the difficult road ahead.  This experience cemented in my mind what I love most about nursing:  healing the sick and educating families not only on a particular illness but also long-term care.”

Approach 2: List 3 reasons why you enjoy nursing and explain how those reasons connect to you.

“Why I originally went into nursing and why I still love nursing is really 3 reasons.  First, nursing is such an incredible honor.  Even as a CNA, taking care of someone’s child or spouse has been not only an incredible burden but also a source of pride, and this honor continues to inspire me to provide ever-increasing quality care.  Second, I really enjoy being part of a team where I know my work makes a difference.  During my CNA experience, I knew that by my helping a patient improve his lung function by teaching him about incentive spirometry, he was able to leave the hospital faster.  Finally, nursing is never a static job, neither in the day-to-day duties nor in the body of knowledge required.  I really value that nursing will always challenge me each day to provide excellent patient care and to continue to learn about advances in medicine and nursing.”


“What frustrates you the most about nursing today?”

“What changes would you make to nursing?”

Be mindful that this is not the time to rant on about the struggles of nursing, how great the “good old days” used to be, or the benefits/pains of having/not having a unionized workforce.  Instead, the answer to this question should offer one or two areas of nursing that could be improved and one or two possible solutions to these problems.  Be cautious not to bad-mouth your previous employer or a problem unique to that institution.  The solutions should be quantifiable, if possible, and generalizable to not only your last place of work but also to your prospective job.  If your prospective employer has already found a solution, state how this solution will continue to benefit nurses, patients, and staff. (This is where some of your research can really pay off.)