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Popular Interview Questions

Interview preparation should start with knowing what popular interview questions you're likely to be asked. The hard part is figuring out what interview answers you'll provide. As you read through our sample interview questions and answers, think about how your own experience tracks with our suggestions. No one can actually give you interview answers. Your responses need to be grounded in reality. In other words, honesty matters. Your presentation will be much stronger if you think about how to apply the concepts we're sharing to your own background.

Think about how you will answer these popular interview questions. Role play. Preparation is the key to a successful interview!


This is a dangerous question on two fronts. First, you're going to reveal characteristics that describe someone you didn't enjoy working with. If the hiring manager has these traits, you'll be on shaky ground. Secondly, this question encourages you to be negative about a former boss...and if you remember the advice I gave earlier, one of the cardinal rules of interviewing is to never be negative about a former company or boss. What to do? Remember the rule...never be negative.

Answer this question by saying that you've always found a way to work successfully with your boss - and you've undoubtedly learned something from all of the people you've reported to (even if it's what you'll NEVER do when you're in that position!). I would then think about the boss I liked the least and pick one or two traits that were difficult, and speak about him/her on a relative basis, i.e. relative to the other bosses you've had. So, in answering this question, you might say the following:

I'd have to say my boss at ABC Widget. Although we got along with each other, he didn't like to delegate, so I had to constantly ask for more responsibility, bigger projects, to take the lead on sales calls, etc. I like to take responsibility, to be accountable for my results, so it's more rewarding to work in an environment where my manager keeps giving me more and more to work on.


This is another way of asking about strengths, but it sometimes results in more interesting answers. The interviewer is looking for adjectives that your boss would use to characterize you. Try to remember the positive things your boss has said about you and let the interviewer know.

If for some reason your current boss doesn't like you - or is too new to really have an opinion - you'll need to address this. The too new is easy - tell the interviewer that you'll answer for your "old" boss rather than the newbie. If there's a personality conflict, you need to be honest. If this progresses to offer stage, references will be checked. And, even if your current boss is not on the reference list, it's likely a peer will be.

A good reference check will explore the relationship you have with your co-workers, including your boss. And, a good interviewer will pick up on the vibes, i.e. what's not being said. Better to be up front with this one than to try to spin an acceptable answer.

If it's a truly awful relationship, when you answer this popular interview question, explain this briefly and offer up ideas about what your boss's boss would say - or what your previous boss would say. For example...

My boss and I have very different styles, and I'm not sure what he would say. I was recruited into the organization by his predecessor, who he has serious differences with. There's some guilt by association going on here...but, I can tell you that his boss, the SVP of Sales, who I interact with on a regular basis, would say that I'm...

Figuring out the answer to this popular interview question is important, especially if your record is clouded by a bad experience.


Peer relationships can also be interesting for an interviewer to explore. Have you ever heard of people being good at managing up? That means that they pay a lot of attention to their relationship with their boss, and others in the organization don't seem to matter. Peers see you on a level playing field and they have definite opinions about what you're good at -- and what you're not. They see you in team settings, they know if you meet deadlines, they know if you get along with the boss. They know if the people who report to you like you. In short, they can provide some insight into what you're really like to work with.

This is what the interviewer is really going for. I'm always a little skeptical of people who answer this popular interview question in the exact same way that they answer the "how would your boss describe you" question. Think about what your peers would really say. Pick the most complimentary things that come to mind. And remember, peers will likely be on your reference list, so make sure that there's some truth to your response.

More popular interview questions can be found in these sections:

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