Sometimes it can be easy to psyche yourself out that this is a trick question, but it’s really not. Usually your interviewer is just trying to get a sense for whether you will fit in with the vibe at their office.
So that’s what to keep in mind as you answer the question. You should definitely answer it honestly, but in a way that paints you in the best possible light.
- “I was always challenged by my work, but in a positive way. For example, my boss let me suggest new projects to work on when I could show how they were aligned with our primary goals, and also when I was able to make clear that they wouldn’t interfere with my regular work. For example, I realized that our department needed a representative for the annual company meeting so I asked my boss if I could be on the task force. When she agreed, I was able to meet others from different departments, which helped me know more about how my department interfaced with the entire company. I also positively represented my department and was able to develop new skills helping with the company video. Of course, I made sure my primary duties were never pushed aside to fill this commitment.” See how this answer underscores that you understand networking and company dynamics, but it also doesn’t cause your potential new boss to wonder if you are constantly going to be looking for new projects, rather than doing the work for which you were hired.
- “I really liked the team environment.” This is a great way to show you are a team player and that you function well within a group. You can even add in an example; again, choose one that paints you in a great light. For example you could say, “Whenever we were crunching on a last-minute proposal, my team knew it was all-hands-on-deck. Everyone would jump in to do what they could to make sure that it was completed on time. Sometimes we stayed late to get it accomplished, but when we did it as a team, it made the project so much more fun. And the win that much sweeter.” Mentioning subtly that you stayed late when needed just amplifies that not only did you appreciate the benefits of the team environment — but that you were part of that team-playing vibe.
- “I appreciated that my work was a valuable part of the company’s success. They always let us know exactly how we contributed.” This is a bit of a generic answer, but it hits some key points. It shows that you understand that no one in the company works solo but that you are all part of a larger mission. In addition it shows that you are someone who appreciates knowing that your contributions are important in the larger scheme of things.
- “My company was very open to community service and I enjoyed participating in it. It really helped build camaraderie within our company as well as helping the group that we were focused on.” (Watch the red flag here — you don’t want your potential employer to think, hmmm… we don’t do that around here.) Help mitigate that by adding that you were the one who implemented holiday programs like coat drives in the winter and food drives at holidays or that you fielded a team to participate in a fun run for a cause dear to your heart. By showing that you helped lead those efforts, you’ve demonstrated your leadership abilities as well as your desire to be forward thinking in initiating things, rather than expecting someone else to.
Any of these types of answers is a great way to show how much you liked your other job — You don’t want to give off the impression that you are leaving a job because you hated it or there was something wrong. (Later you can get into why this new job seems like a great fit.)
It’s important to show that you are a team player and that you appreciate your current situation. That lets them know that you speak highly of employers if you were hired. (For more on what to say about what you didn’t like about your job, see here.)
There are a few things you shouldn’t mention in answer to this question:
- Vacation schedule
- Social events
Any of these answers can be construed as a “what’s in it for me” mentality. Even if you think that the pay, perks, vacation, etc., might be comparable or better at the new position, these answers are still focused on ancillary aspects that shouldn’t be mentioned in an interview. Save these for the negotiating table. The bottom line is that the answer to this question should highlight what you can do for the company, not what it can do for you.
by Cathie Ericson