By Biron Clark
Have you ever been asked a tough, curve-ball interview question and thought, "Why do they want to know this?"
Or have you ever left an interview, wished you had said something differently, and wondered if it might have cost you the job?
If so, you are not alone.
Employers ask a lot of tough questions, and it is not always obvious what they want to hear.
So in this article, I’m going to reveal what employers talk about "behind the scenes" after your interview and how they really decide who to hire, so you can give better answers, feel more confident, and get more job offers.
Employers have many concerns when they are considering hiring a new employee. These are the issues discussed most often when evaluating a candidate's "performance" in interviews.
The last thing an employer wants to do is hire someone who will disrupt the current team or bring a stubborn or toxic attitude. So it’s common for the hiring team to get together and discuss whether you’ll fit into the existing group.
This is why it’s important to show you’re flexible, easy to work with, open-minded, and “coachable.” Try to show them you’re open to new ideas and open to learning to do the job their way.
You might have some great experience and ideas you can bring to this role, which you should absolutely show off! However, each company does things a bit differently so there will most likely be some learning involved, too.
Make sure you’re demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to learn new things with each person you meet in the interview process. You never know how much influence someone has in a company, or whose opinion the hiring manager will ask before making a final decision.
It is not uncommon for a hiring manager to ask each person you met what they thought of you, and -- if one or two people have their doubts -- it could cost you the job.
The next thing the employer will discuss is whether you’ll be able to perform the work.
No matter how well you’d fit into the company culture, or how much the hiring manager loves your attitude, they won’t hire you if they don’t think you’re likely to succeed in the role. For your sake as much as theirs, they don’t want to set anyone up for failure.
So, review your own resume before each interview. Be ready to talk about your past work, and how it will help you succeed in their job.
Always try to put your experience in terms of how it will fit into this role. Make the conversation about their job as much as possible and you’ll get more job offers.
I’d recommend never going into an interview without studying the job description, otherwise you’ll struggle with this.
If you don’t have a job description before your interview, ask the person who scheduled your interview for you. They should be able to provide one.
After the employer determines you can do the job, they will talk about whether you seem to want the job.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to train someone in a new role and employers are afraid of hiring someone who is likely to leave.
This is why they ask questions like:
They want to see that you’ve thought about your job search and career overall, and have specific reasons for wanting their position. They’d like to see that you’ve researched their job and know some of the details about what you’ll be doing for them.
And if you’re in an active job search, they would ideally want to see that you’re interviewing for other similar positions.
In my first recruiting company, we interviewed a young woman who said she was interviewing for HR admin roles primarily, and this was the only Recruiter position she had applied for. This was a big red flag to us and made us worry that:
This was an entry-level job. We knew she could do the work. We could train anyone as long as they had a good attitude, but we did not hire her because of these concerns.
So if you want more job offers, show them you’re likely to enjoy the role and stay.
You don’t need to say this is your dream job or that you want to stay in this role forever. Employers don’t need to hear that.
However, you should be able to show them that you’ve put thought into this career move, and that this job is on the path toward what you want to be doing in your life overall.
Employers are unlikely to hire you if they don’t feel they can trust you, and one way they measure this is through the consistency of your answers.
If you meet with more than one person from a company and are asked about the same topics, you should assume that they will compare notes after.
They will discuss and evaluate your explanations for:
Make sure you have your facts straight and are consistent when explaining these areas.
If you already had an interview and feel you made a mistake or gave slightly inconsistent answers, it is okay to follow up with one person and clarify what you wish you had said.
Following up to mention something after the interview shows employers you are upfront and thoughtful, you are a good communicator, and you care about their job opportunity.
These are great traits to show -- withing reason! Do not become a pest, calling repeatedly. One call is sufficient.
Just make sure you choose one specific thing to clarify if you do this. Do not try to correct three or four points when following up after an interview. You really need to pick your battles when doing this.
Most jobs involve some stress, frustration, and the occasional setback, so employers want to make sure you are resilient and able to handle this.
To put their minds at ease, I recommend preparing an example of how you overcome a stressful situation at work in the past.
Review the situation and setting, the problem or challenge, what actions you took and why, and finally – the outcome or result of your efforts and what you learned from it.
This will prepare you to answer common behavioral questions like:
Employers ask questions like these a lot, so reviewing one or two past experiences before your interview should help you jump into a clear, confident answer when they ask.
Employers want to hire someone who is being careful and selective in their job search and looking for the right fit, not just the first job that is offered to them. Asking great questions is how you demonstrate this, and how you make employers much more eager to hire you.
What are great questions? Questions that help you learn more about the position, group, or company, and show that you’re making a careful decision in your job hunt.
Here’s a great question that very few job seekers ask:
"When you look at the people who have held this role in the past, are there one or two traits that the most successful people seemed to have in common?"
This will suggest that you’re not just concerned with landing a job, but that you want to find a position that will be a great fit for your skills and traits.
Asking this kind of question will build a lot of trust with the interviewer because they will see that you’re working WITH them to try to determine if this is a good match, rather than simply trying to convince them to hire you.
This is what the most in-demand job seekers do:
They treat the interview like a two-way conversation where both sides are trying to determine if it’s a good match.
If you do this, you’ll stand out and win more job offers.
Overall, make sure ask at least one question to each person you meet with; two or three is ideal.
And, prepare at least one opinion-based question, because you can ask this type of question to multiple people -- no matter how many people you meet with in a day. No interviewer wants to hear, “Actually, so-and-so answered all of my questions already."
Here are some of the best opinion-based questions you can ask:
I've seen a lot of job seekers fall into the trap of viewing their job search in a "vacuum."
Here’s what I mean: They only think about themselves and the employers one-on-one.
And it's not your fault for thinking this way -- that's really all you see of the job application and interview process – you and the employer.
However, the reality is most employers interview a lot of people for each opening; sometimes 10-15 or more. So after they meet with you, they’re going to discuss how you compare to the other candidates.
[I'm not sharing this to scare you. I'm sharing it to motivate you.]
Because once you realize you will be compared with the other candidates, you will be a stronger candidate IF:
Employers do notice when you put in the extra effort to go above and beyond what’s expected to land their job.
Now that you know how employers decide who to hire and what they talk about behind the scenes, you can show them you’re the person they should hire for their job. The more you can stand out and impress them in the areas we discussed above, the more job offers you’ll receive.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter for multiple Fortune 500 firms and venture-funded tech startups, and founder of the job search advice website Career Sidekick. His advice is read by more than one million people a month and has been mentioned/quoted in CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Business.com, Yahoo Finance, The Muse, and more. Follow Biron on twitter at @bironclark and on LinkedIn.