7 Things Employers Want to Learn in an Interview

Job Search

shutterstock_220767838If you’re searching for a new career, you’re probably doing everything you can. You’ve amped up your résumé, you’ve perfected your image and you’ve found hundreds of potential interview questions that you’ve been practicing in front of the mirror on a regular basis. What if you could do more? What if those questions you’ve been practicing aren’t what really matters?

You could practice interview questions every day for a year and still not be truly prepared for what an interview is all about. Sure, employers want to see that you’re well-versed and able to perform under pressure – which is what an interview provides. However, what they’re really looking for aren’t generic answers to questions that have clearly been rehearsed and memorized in advance. Instead, they’re looking for certain pieces of information and clues as to who you are as a professional.

While you’re preparing for your next interview, focus on what employers really want to find out, instead of an answer that sounds the same as what everyone else has to say. Some of these things are listed below.

  1. If You’re Willing to Go Above and Beyond

There are three unemployed people for every open job in this country. This means that in many situations, employers have choices when it comes to finding the right person for a given position. One thing they’re looking for? Overachievers. They want to hire professionals that are willing to go above and beyond on every project. Think about this as you consider the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond in the workplace.
  • What projects appeal to you?
  • How do you define success?


  1. If You’re Honest

Anyone can brag about themselves during an interview; that’s kind of the point. Employers want to know that those they bring on board are honest, about themselves and about what they’re able to do. Overpromising doesn’t help anyone and can be disastrous. Honesty can be demonstrated by answering:

  • Tell me about a time you fell short at work.
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?


  1. How You Perform Under Pressure

An interview is a rehearsed situation that’s a prerequisite for any job or career. Because of this, it’s easy to prepare for and there’s a lot of information out there to help in the process. Unfortunately, many situations at work aren’t so easy to prepare for. Unexpected situations, deadlines and challenges can appear out of nowhere, with little time to prepare. Employers want to know that the candidates they hire can excel in stressful circumstances and that they won’t break under pressure. Questions that help them identify this quality include:

  • How do you perform under pressure?
  • Tell me about a situation that you were forced to make a big decision in a hurry.
  • Talk to me about one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on the job.
  • If you were faced with ____ (insert challenge or situation here), how would you react?


  1. Whether You Plan to Stick Around

A new employee is a big investment. That investment doesn’t relate solely to money. Instead, employers pour hours of training into any new team member that they bring on board. Because of this, they want to know that new employees plan to stay. Because of this, they may ask:

  • Tell me about your five-year plan.
  • What do you hope to accomplish in your professional career?
  • Tell me about your job history; why did you leave your previous company after two years?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?


  1. If You’ll Fit in With the Existing Team

Employers spend years building workplace cultures that reflect the mission of their companies. They encourage teamwork and want employees to have strong working relationships. It can be hard to bring a new employee into the mix without causing friction. Because of this, they want to know that you can adapt and that you’ll fit in well with existing employees – both intellectually and culturally. Questions that relate to this idea include:

  • How do you work best, alone or in a team?
  • How would you describe your relationships with co-workers at your previous job?
  • How would past co-workers describe you?
  • Tell me about a time that you worked well in a team environment.
  • When working as a part of a team, what role are you most likely to fill?


  1. That You Know What You’re Getting Into

A job description might sound like a great fit based on your skills, but employers want to know that you understand the company and brand that you’re stepping into. They want to know that your personal beliefs align with their mission statement and that you’re the right person for the job. Furthermore, they want to see that you’ve done the right research before the interview. To analyze this, they could ask:

  • Tell me what you know about our company.
  • Why are you interested in this job/our company?
  • What are your core values?


  1. If You’re Self-Motivated

No one has time to baby a new employee. Sure, training will be there to ensure you’re ready to perform in your role, but to succeed you must be able to look at what needs done and take action. The real world isn’t high school or college; there are no to-do lists that are handed to you or homework assignments on a daily basis. Instead, you must be able to push yourself forward and start making a difference the moment you arrive. To assess this quality, potential employers might ask questions like:

  • What motivates you?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a self-starter? Tell me why.
  • In what ways have you taken charge in past jobs?

By understanding the motivation behind interview questions and what employers are really trying to learn, you can be more prepared than ever for your next job interview. Think about the qualities that you want to highlight and work them into your answers through real-life illustrations and stories. This level of preparation may be the difference between landing your next job and falling short.