Interviewing Tips

Making sure you can answer tough interview questions is critical to help you get the job. so many people aren’t ready for trick questions and end up losing out on a great opportunity. What’s your

Making sure you can answer tough interview questions is critical to help you get the job. so many people aren’t ready for trick questions and end up losing out on a great opportunity.

What’s your ideal work environment?

The Real Question: Are your preferences compatible with how we do business here?

Top-line Tactic: Say that what you want is what they’re offering.

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Some companies are competitive, others more team-oriented. Some are staffed with quirky non-conformists, others with buttoned-up suits—but either way, looks can be deceiving. Being a great fit for a job isn’t just a matter of skills but also of cultural fit. This question is aimed at determining the fit between how you like to work and how things get done at this company.

As always, questions that seem to be about your preferences are really about the company’s needs. Your first step to answering this one well is to mentally reinterpret it into the underlying question, which is: are you compatible with the culture here? Once you understand that’s what they’re really asking, framing your response shouldn’t be difficult.

Describe the environment you find most enjoyable, being careful to choose aspects of your ideal atmosphere that match up with the company where you hope to work, and perhaps skipping over any preferences that this particular employer isn’t going to be able to meet. If you’re applying for a role as an accountant that requires quite a lot of solitary number crunching, for instance, you might say:

I really enjoy a good mix of collaborative work and time to be head down and really focus on my tasks. I tend to get absorbed in my work, so once I am clear on my objectives, I like having space to really concentrate. I don’t mean to sound like a hermit, though. Everyone runs into questions once in a while, so it’s great to have teammates around to bounce ideas off and ask for pointers and better ways of working.

If you’re applying for a commission-driven sales role, on the other hand, stressing your capacity for alone time really isn’t going to win you any points. In that case, you might go with something like:

I’m really competitive by nature so I find environments where there is a lot of professional rivalry really help to drive me to do my best work. Also, sales can be stressful at times, so it’s good to have friendly teammates around I can joke with to let off steam from time to time. In previous jobs, I’ve found that meeting up with colleagues socially now and again has helped create a good team spirit at work.

Why do you want to leave your current job?

The Real Question: Do you know what this job is? And, to be a little paranoid, do you have some murky problem that I can’t see now? Are you about to get fired? Help me out here.

Top-line Tactic: It’s not about you. Link your answer to what the company needs.

This question is rarely a showstopper—unless you want to leave your job for a negative reason. Sadly there often is a negative reason for leaving, even if it’s not your fault. If that’s you, don’t let this question cause panic. It is always possible to give a sincere and positive answer regardless of your circumstances.

First, you can never know for certain what the interviewer is thinking, especially if you’ve just met for the first time. The interviewer might have assumed nothing but good things about you. Maybe they just intend the question to be an innocent warm-up, not a confession-seeker. Try to answer the question put to you rather than the question you fear they’re asking—the latter will lead you into trouble almost inevitably.

All the same, falling out with your boss or your colleagues will often be the precise reason you’re applying. After all, work is complicated. People are complicated. Falling out is so common that there’s even a saying about it:

People don’t leave companies; they leave people.

Maybe you’re bored and frustrated by what you do all day. You want a change of scene, or some progress. Maybe you need more money.

The point is this: you’re probably a perfectly normal human being. Wanting or needing to move on is just part of life, even if it’s not always to be welcomed.

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