Job interview in a cafe

Five questions that employers want answers to – that they won’t ask

Colleen Clarke|

In his recent book, “Guide to Rethinking Interviews,” Richard Bolles says there are really only five questions an employer wants answers to in a job interview – but that they won’t come right out and ask them.

Here’s what they’re trying to find out from you.

    Why are you here? This question really means, “Why are you knocking on our door, rather than someone else’s door? How much do you know about who we are, and what we do here?” Research the company to the nth degree and be prepared to tell an interviewer, without being asked, why you are keen to grace their halls.

    What can you do for us? An interview is all about the company and what you are going to do for them. It is NOT about what you have done in the past that doesn’t relate to the future responsibilities of this position. Feel free to ask the interviewer what skills they see as most needed to do the job really effectively if you haven’t seen a concise job description. This is where your SAR stories really come in. Prepare at least 5-10 accomplishment based statements to sell yourself and present the skills you bring to the table with the results that amaze and impress.

    Will you fit into our corporate culture? This aspect of the interview is to find out whether you will: a) fit in b) inspire others c)be a pleasure to work with d) be problematic one day e) be easy to work with e) share the same values as this place has? You will be under scrutiny from the minute you enter the reception area. Your tone of voice will be evaluated along with your body language, verbiage, eye contact, clothing, self confidence and ability to engage the interviewer(s).

    What are your distinguishing characteristics? This answer isn’t about your skill set, but about your strengths. Are you more tenacious, more thorough, more creative, more strategic than the average Joe? The employer wants to know your magic, your highlights. Be prepared to use comparative words, numbers, percentages and quantities if applicable. An example: “ The average closing rate at my last company was 10%. I closed 15% within the first six months.”

    Can we afford you? This feeling and concern is floating below the surface of the conversations as you move through the interview. Once an interviewer falls in love with you, salary becomes your advantage. The piece de resistance is when a company starts selling you on the job, which is what happens when you make yourself so attractive they decide they can’t live without you.

Help the interviewer out by covering these points without them being raised. Remember too that an interview is a two way street, you need to ask questions as well as answer them.

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group

Category: Job interviews
  • disqus_eQZ40rakxT

    verbiage is not a word

    • Catherine Beleskey

      noun: verbiage
      speech or writing that uses too many words or excessively technical expressions.
      synonyms:verbosity, wordiness, prolixity, long-windedness, loquacity, rigmarole, circumlocution, superfluity, periphrasis

  • Benjamin Wynes

    Not true.
    I always ask salary expectations in the prescreen prior to inviting people in for an interview.
    First question I ask in the interview “Why are you here?”

    • Simon Cohen

      “Why are you here” might be the question you want an answer to, but it’s not a good idea to ask it up front, or even at all. It has a strong tendency to put the candidate on the defensive and increase their stress level. Unless you are interviewing for a role as an air traffic controller, this is not the best atmosphere for an interview.

      Instead, a less confrontational version of the question can give you the answers you’re looking for e.g. “What is it about this job that made you want to apply in the first place?” This version doesn’t carry with it the implied belief that you as the interviewer think the candidate *shouldn’t* “be here.”

      You invited them to the interview. IMHO, if you don’t know why they are “here,” maybe you shouldn’t be the one assessing them for the job.

  • Mike

    Every time I read one of these articles I wonder how on earth anyone manages to land a job these days.

    • Emily Brewes

      Tell me about it.

    • Richard Derek

      I think the same thing.

  • Omer Tamer

    What is wrong with the honest answer ‘Because I believe I have the qualifications stated in your job ad and I have decided to respond to it’ to the question “why are you here?” The whole interview process has become all about popularity contest rather that the core issue: can you do the job that I need done or not?

  • Emily Brewes

    That first question irks me no end. I’m here, instead of elsewhere, for two reasons: you were advertising a position I felt qualified to apply for, then you called me in for an interview. Companies seem to think that by forcing candidates to engage in this kind of cheerleading that those candidates are more likely to make loyal employees. But because it’s forced, and because the companies haven’t any obligation of loyalty to their employees, it’s just a farce. There is no loyalty, only fit.

    • Richard Derek

      I was thinking the same thing Emily. I am only at the interview because the company placed an advertisement. I really think Workopolis should have thought about before posting this article. It’s obvious why the candidate is there.

      • Emily Brewes

        Well, the article is regarding questions employers want to ask outright but don’t, except there are cases when they do. It’s those occasions, when the employer asks a question that they should not only know the answer to, but that only serves to fish for corporate compliments, that get my goat. I only dislike that Workopolis is encouraging the perpetuation of this practice when it should, perhaps, offer both sides of the job-seeking equation a better alternative.

    • Creedence Dengre

      The point here is that if you wish to have a rewarding career you ought to be applying to a company that inspires you and you ought to have approached your future department head directly with a reason you deserve that job. People who just apply for any job they see advertised and sit through the paperwork and interview process will not likely have rewarding careers and will often sit around pointing fingers and saying it was the fault or ridiculous expectation of the organization or “how was that fair?”. If you want a job that can get you somewhere in life you don’t look for open positions at companies that are hiring, you approach your dream employer with a new position you have designed for them and a damn good reason to give that position to you.

  • nick

    Can we afford you?

    Being as every job application asks what you expect to get paid, and every agency asks you the same, they should know if they can afford you, you wouldn’t be there if you were expecting more than the pittance they are offering.