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The Only Three Job Interview Questions That Matter

Posted October 24, 2013 by Ellen Hunter Gans in Career Moves

You have a big job interview coming up.

You’ve practiced answering questions based on the “Situation/Behavior/Outcome” model.

You’ve researched the company and you’re prepared to ask smart questions to prove that you’ve done your homework.

You’re prepared with a compelling story of how you’ll be able to hit the ground running and “make a real impact.”

That’s all great. However, that’s not what the interviewer really wants to know.

Here’s a big secret for you: When it comes to a job interview, only three questions really matter. Unfortunately, the interviewers won’t ever ask you these questions. It’s up to you to answer them without being asked.

Here are the questions:

  1. Can you do this job?
  2. Will you like this job?
  3. Will we be able to tolerate working with you every day?

Too many interviewees walk in ready to wax poetic about their “outstanding organizational skills.” Or, worse, they walk in wanting to find out how this particular job will fulfill their personal goals and make their lives better.

That is not the least bit helpful in answering The Big Three. They want to know if they’ll have to hold your hand every day. They want to know if they’re going to invest training in you only to have you resent the work and spend all your time on Facebook — or LinkedIn, looking for the next gig. They want to know if you’re going to annoy the pants off them.

News flash:

They’re not interviewing you so they can make your life better. They’re interviewing you because they have an actual, quantifiable need, and they want to fill that need as seamlessly, productively, and (ideally) cheaply as possible.

I know. It’s harsh.

Should you still prepare for the interview in the ways I described at the outset of this post?


Should you always, always, always keep The Big Three in mind as you prepare and as you answer every question you’re asked?

Absolutely. You can convey your answers to The Big Three from the moment you walk in the door. If you do it well, you’ll be walking out the door with an offer — or at least a good chance at a second interview.

About the Author

Ellen Hunter Gans

Ellen Hunter Gans is a freelance writer and communications strategist. She's also a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, a wildly untalented cross-country skier, a newly minted Crossfit junkie, a yoga devotee, a wannabe culinary genius, a voracious reader, a grammar snob, a world traveler, an outdoorswoman, an oenophile, a mediocre gardener, and a secret fan of awful television. Her blog is at www.lifeinreviews.com, and her business website is at www.wordcoutureconsulting.com.