The Secret Meanings of Job Interview Questions

Not all interview questions are black and white. There are deeper meanings behind them that add depth to how the interviewer gauges the jobseeker. A single answer can let an interviewer know your organizational skills, collaboration or analytical skills.

What are your hobbies?

When interviewers are trying to get an idea of your personality, a question they may ask could be as simple as “What do you like to do for fun?” They ask because companies are steering away from “corporate America” and are striving for achieving a company culture. Take Google. It is known as a leader in fostering a company culture. Google’s website says it prefers to “hire people who are smart and determined, and we favor ability over experience.” For Google, company fit exceeds experience.

When interviewers ask questions unrelated to experience, they are looking to see if you fit in. If you go hiking on the weekends or try new restaurants, you may be an adventurous person who likes to try new things. If you enjoy following new trends within the industry, social media and technology, the interviewer may find that you are more on the analytical side.

Keep answers as professional as possible. What you do for fun is likely not as important as demonstrating that you have passion and resiliency in your hobbies. People who are engaged and work to perfect their hobbies tend to bring the same qualities to their work.

What do you know about the company?

Interviewers want to see that you have done your research. An interviewer may ask, “What do you know about the company?” Or: “Why do you want this job?” They don’t want to hear you recite the “About Us” page. They are looking for you to say in your own words the company’s vision and how you relate to it.

Are you passionate about the job and its industry? A red flag is to say that the company would help you advance in your career. Stay away from completely self-serving statements and focus on the mutual benefit of you contributing to the company. State how you can use skills in an area of interest for you, furthering its vision, which you agree with, etc. Don’t mention anything self-serving (shorter commute, advancing your career, etc.)

How do you work with others?

Collaboration with your coworkers is important. Whether it’s your direct team or another department, the interviewer will want to know how you work with others. A question one may ask is, “What types of people help you become more successful?” Or: “What types of environments do you thrive in?” This will help them see if you’re a good match with your potential manager.

A safe way to answer is to cite examples of your flexibility – you enjoy working in a team but are completely comfortable managing own deadlines. Offer examples.

Also: Look at how you’d fit in. If you’d be miserable with a micromanager, or you really want an engaged, supportive boss, you won’t be happy taking a job for someone with the opposite style. The interviewer will want to gauge if you will be a good fit for the team. If the team is hands-on, and you are private and introverted, the dynamic might not gel.

How do you tackle problems?

An interviewer may want to know about a time when you solved a problem or faced a challenge, or he or she may want to know the analytical steps you took to solve a problem. A question could be, “Give me an example of how you solved a problem?” They may also give you a hypothetical scenario and would like to see you work through the problem.

They are not looking for the correct answer but rather how you solved it. Are you connecting the right points in a way it makes sense? This gives you the opportunity to explain your work without answering a yes/no question. This also gives you an opportunity to highlight any achievements, projects or tools that are to your credit.

Quick Tips:

  • Research – know about the company you are applying for and the position. It shows you came prepared and that you care.
  • Don’t talk poorly about your last company. Even if it wasn’t a great experience, always show what you learned and how you grew. A positive mentality goes a long way.
  • Have self-awareness. If someone asks about what role you play in a group setting, be honest.
  • Never tell an interviewer what you think they want to hear. You don’t want a job that you’ll end up hating because of poor fit. It’s harder to find a job later if you’re perceived as a job hopper, or even worse, fired.
  • Breathe. At the end of the day remember the interviewer was in your shoes at one time.