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Job Interviews: Top 9 Things Interviewers REALLY look for

When I ask my clients what is the purpose of job interviews, 9 times out of 10 they will reply, “To show the employer I can do the job.”. While partly true, this isn’t the real purpose of job interviews. An employer can see from your CV whether or not you can do the job. If they didn’t think you could, they wouldn’t have invited you to the interview in the first place.

So, if it’s not about your ability to do the job, what are interviewers really looking for in job interviews?

1)   Culture fit

Having the ‘right’ company culture is a top priority for companies. Well, the good ones anyway. They know their success depends on it. In the interview, they will be looking for a match in three key areas:

a) Personality – this is simply your preference for how you approach things. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you prefer to work fast or slow? With numbers or with people? Do you prefer to make decisions or follow instructions? They will compare this to current team/company dynamics and assess if you will be a good fit.

Typical questions:

Do you prefer to work in a team or on your own?

In what working environment do you thrive the most?

What do you do outside of work?

How would your friends/boss/mum describe you?

TIP: Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not in the interview just to get the job. You will only end up stressed in the job later on. If they don’t think you’re a good culture fit and give the job to someone else, they’ve probably done you a favour. There is no such thing as rejection – only redirection.

b) Attitude – Richard Branson has openly stated he has hired on attitude alone. In job interviews, interviewers want to see if you’re self-motivated and willing to go the extra mile. If you have a positive ‘can do’ attitude rather than someone who only focuses on problems. Whether or not you will put company/team objectives before your own.

Typical questions:

Give three examples when you really went the extra mile for a previous employer or team?

What did you dislike about your previous company/boss/job?

What 3 major challenges did you face in a previous role and how did you overcome them?

Tell me about a time you were asked to do something you didn’t want to do, and how you dealt with it?

What proactive steps have you taken in your career to develop yourself and your skills?

c) Values – these are the things most important to you. The things you live by. The company will have their own values (usually on their website somewhere) and will want to see if your values match theirs.

Typical questions:

What’s most important to you when choosing a job?

How will you know if an employer values you?

Why did you leave your last job?

TIP: Always remain as positive as possible in the interview. And do not state ‘salary’ as being the most important thing to you. Or how you gauge if an employer values you. Or why you left your last job. Unless you’re in a hard core sales job, this is a real turn-off for employers.

2)   Return on investment

They can see from your CV you can do the job. What they really want to know in job interviews is HOW WELL you can do it. What rate of return are they going to get on their investment? This is what will differentiate you from other candidates.

Typical questions:

What are your proudest moments in your career to date?

What were your 3 biggest achievements in your last role?

Why should we hire you?

What can you bring to the table that nobody else can?

3)   Passion

People who genuinely love what they do are generally 1) very good at it 2) self-motivated and 3) able to influence others. Whether that’s co-workers, customers or clients. This is a big plus for companies. In the interview, they will be assessing your passion for your work and their company.

Typical questions:

What do you like about your job / the industry / your company / your boss?

What made you choose this career path?

Why do you want to work for us?

How would you innovate your role/company/industry?

TIP: You don’t need to be an extrovert or loud to demonstrate passion. Passion can be shown through facial expression (e.g. smiling and raising eyebrows), tone and pace of voice, and small hand gestures.

4)   Logic – particularly under pressure

Some environments are fast-paced. Being able to remain calm and think logically in tough or time-driven situations could be crucial.

Typical questions:

Give 3 examples of when you had to work under extreme pressure and how you managed it.

When was the last time you had to make a really important decision on the spot and how did you do it?

If you were a fruit – what fruit would you be? (They don’t really care about the answer, but more the delivery. If you can remain calm, or even show humour when answering the question, and your answer shows some level of logic, they’ll be happy.)

5)   Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your own emotions and your triggers. What situations you thrive in and those you find challenging. What are your strengths and weaknesses. How well you manage your emotions. It is also your understanding of other people’s emotions and how you manage those.

Typical questions:

What do you hate most about working with others?

Name a time you were really stressed and how you managed it?

What are your strengths/weaknesses?

When was the last time you had an argument at work and how did you resolve it?

6)   Commitment

Commitment to both your career and to the company. If they are going to invest in you and your training and development, they will want to know you will be with the company for a good length of time.

Typical questions:

Why do you want to work for us?

Why did you leave your last role/company?

What do you need to experience in your job for you to be 100% committed?

If you could do any job in the world, with all salaries being equal, what would you do?

TIP: Again – do not mention salary in answering these questions. Any talk of salary and they will consider you a flight risk. Assuming you will leave as soon as you got offered a higher salary elsewhere.

7)   Leadership potential

Not everyone wants to be a leader. And that’s OK. If the employer has plans for this role to turn into a leadership position, or they want to know if you have leadership potential, they might ask questions around leadership capability.

Typical questions:

Out of 10, how would you rate yourself as a leader? And what evidence do you have to justify that number?

What do you think it takes to be an effective leader?

What does leadership mean to you?

How would you persuade your team to do something they might not want to do, but was for the good of the company?

8)   Communication skills

Company success relies on team work. Team work relies on good communication. (And emotional intelligence). If you can’t communicate effectively, that could be perceived as a barrier to success.

During job interviews, interviewers will be assessing how well you listen to the questions being asked. How well you articulate and formulate your answers. Are you able to take something quite complex and explain it so anyone could understand it? Do you speak in well-thought-out and concise sentences or do you ramble on for hours and hours, never getting to the point? They will also be assessing the speed and tone of your voice, eye contact and general body language.

Typical questions:

Give me 3 examples of where you demonstrated exceptional communication skills?

What do you think makes a good communicator?

When did you last experience a breakdown in communication at work? What was the problem and how did you resolve it?

9)   Confidence

Confidence in your ability to do the job. You’ve done it before, so you can do it again. So there really isn’t a reason to not be confident is there?

Confidence again will come through 1) body language and 2) tone and pace of voice. If you can demonstrate solid conviction in your answers, you’re good to go!

TIP: Confidence comes from doing. The more you practice your interview answers, the more confident you will be. Interview preparation is the key to job interview success. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail… So PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

What weird or interesting questions have you been asked in job interviews? How did you answer them? Please feel free to leave your comments and pearls of wisdom in the comments below!

Want to prepare as best you can for your next job interviews? For more information about how I can help, please email me at or visit

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About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook

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