We’ve all been through interviews at least once or twice. As familiar as you might be with the process, the whole thing is still a source of anxiety. To prepare for an interview, don’t worry so much about random questions out of left field. Focus your interview preparation on the most important questions that are critical to a company’s decision-making process. In my opinion there are five key interview questions. Here are the answers you can give that employers in today’s job market respond well to.
Why did you leave your previous employer?
This isn’t the place for an awkward pause. You’ll seem unprepared or that you’re hiding something. The reality is you’ve changed jobs for personal or professional reasons which may or may not have been in your control.
Avoid explaining every single job change on your resume. Instead, give a synopsis of your career history, pointing out specific situations that have been learning lessons and brought you to where you are today. Start with phrases like:
- “I’ve learned that happiness is key to my success. At this company I found I wasn’t happy for this reason or that.”
- “I was concerned about job stability or long-term advancement. Twice in my career I’ve been burned by companies that sold, downsized, or reorganized, and I didn’t want to go through that again.”
- “Compensation was a factor in my decision to leave. I am career oriented and want to be rewarded for my performance. I didn’t feel like my company understood that or could improve my salary.”
Why are you looking for a new job?
“What I hope to accomplish IF I make a job change is X,” is the perfect way to start your answer. Not only does it leave room for the possibility that you might not leave your current employer, but it sounds more proactive rather than reactive.
“Growth” is the perfect word to fill in the letter X. Everyone defines growth differently, so it gives you room to elaborate on what growth is to you.
What are your career goals?
As a recruiter, what I’ve found when counseling people about making a job change is that they can be content in their current position but still consider new opportunities. That’s because goals are something that require constant pursuit.
Hiring managers will understand your focus on achieving career goals when you use phrases like:
- “I want to develop more expertise in a particular field, position, etc.”
- “I want to do more than just make a lateral move. I want to move up into X.”
- “Professional development to me looks like this type of education, support, advancements, etc.”
Do you want to work remotely?
Covid changed every company’s receptivity to remote work, but it’s a fluid situation with many employers creating return-to-office policies. Start your answer with the statement, “I define work/life balance like this which is why an ideal schedule for me would be X”. From there you can expand into the following:
- 100% remote (keeping in mind issues like time zone changes and distance from coworkers and clients)
- Hybrid schedules (this is an umbrella term for a split office and home schedule as well as telecommuting and commuter benefits)
- Full time, in-office (you could train & onboard 5 days/week in the office but with some flexibility to modify start & stop time or go to a 4-day work week if available)
What are your compensation expectations?
Remember, you don’t have to tell a company what you currently make. Some states prohibit employers from asking about current compensation in an interview. While it’s fine to share specifics if you want, my advice is to start your answer with, “My target compensation range for a job change to make sense is $X, however there’s a lot that can be factored into a total compensation package like PTO, benefits, etc., all of which I value and will take into account in an offer.”
Notice the term “compensation” rather than “salary”. Stick with this as it helps to be realistic, gives employers a range to work within, and avoids backtracking at offer stage if you forgot to account for bonuses, benefit costs, relocation, etc.