How common questions have evolved and how to answer them
Going into a job interview, you know the standard questions to expect. "What is your biggest weakness?" "What interests you about this position?" and "Why do you think you'd be a fit for this role?" often rise to the top of the common interview questions list.
While these queries are important to today's hiring managers and recruiters, many employers are updating their customary questions to include ones that refer to new trends, address the current economic situation or gauge a candidate's commitment to the company and position in question.
Here are five questions that job seekers may be asked in today's job hunt and what they should address when responding:
1. Have you used social media in your current job? If so, how?
Unless you've completely sworn off new technology, you should be very aware by now that social media are a part of the fabric of society and are well-ingrained in most companies' communication practices. Employers asking this question want to know how well you understand social media and how you think companies can benefit from using social networks. Try to give an example of how you have used the communication form in your current job. If you haven't done much in this area, speak to how the company as a whole uses social media. For extra points, share how you think your prospective employer could benefit from social media.
2. Give me an example of how you've contributed to your present/most recent company's success.
You've likely heard or read résumé-writing advice stressing the importance of not only sharing your qualifications but also addressing accomplishments. In today's competitive job market, employers don't want to hire someone who can just complete tasks. They want someone who can make an impact on the bottom line. If you can, answer this question by sharing examples of how you increased revenue, helped a client gain market share or created efficiencies that saved money. Use numbers or percentages, when possible. If you don't know the numbers off the top of your head, you can provide that information in your follow-up or thank-you note.
3. Why did you leave your last job?
While this may not be a new question, today's hiring managers understand the answer may have evolved. If you've been laid off, be honest. Employers know that the economy is rough, and they expect that some of the candidates they interview will be unemployed. In this case, briefly talk about what happened and then demonstrate how, in the time you've been unemployed, you've continued to boost your résumé by volunteering, attending networking events or joining industry organizations. They want to know that you've put your time to good use and that you'd be ready on day one to take on the required tasks.
4. Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy.
In a recent article, human-resources expert Susan M. Heathfield lists this as a question employers should be asking potential employees. A company doesn't want to hire someone, only to have that person leave quickly because he wasn't a fit with the company's culture.
And it goes both ways. Hiring managers want to hire employees who will thrive in their company's work environment. To answer this question, make sure you do your research so you know what kind of culture to expect. If you know a current employee of the company, ask her to tell you about her experiences working there. Speak to why that type of environment is a match with your personality and work style.
5. What is your motivation for pursuing this position?
According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of hiring managers and human-resource professionals are concerned that top workers will leave their organization this year. As the economy slowly improves and more opportunities become available, unhappy workers will be more likely leave their jobs in pursuit of a more fulfilling career. While there's no way to guarantee an employee won't head for the door as soon as a better job offer comes along, hiring managers may try to get to the root of why candidates want to work at their company.
"I've been unemployed for more than a year and I'm really desperate to get a job." Yes, that's an honest answer, but it's also a red flag to an employer that you're more interested in getting a job versus getting this particular job. When asked this or a similar question, speak to why the company at which you're interviewing is the right company for you, and why the particular role will help you achieve your career goals. Also mention how you see yourself growing at the company as a way to show your commitment to the organization.