What Do Hiring Managers Really Want to Know?

Interviews can be nerve-wracking. It doesn’t help when the person doing the asking is firing off interview questions that seem like loaded guns. Queries like, “Why do you want to work here?” may appear to be no-brainers, but the obvious response isn’t always the right one. In fact, prospective employers often seek deeper insights into your ability to do the job and fit into the corporate culture when asking these types of questions.

Following are some interview questions and answers you may run across during your job search, as well as hints into what the hiring manager really wants to know:

“What do you think of our work?” Talk about a loaded question! Most creatives are used to giving and receiving critiques — and when asked for their honest opinion, they may have trouble holding back. Constantly making something better is part of a creative’s DNA. But this is the time to opt for the abridged version of your ideas.

A hiring manager asking this question is really wondering, first, if you’ve done your homework and are thoroughly familiar with the company and its brands. Second, he or she wants to know that, though you have an opinion, you can convey your ideas in a diplomatic manner. (No one wants to hire a person with a know-it-all attitude.)

So, instead of answering, “Your website needs a complete overhaul,” you might say, “Your website has a retro feel that’s worked well for the firm, but considering that the average age of your customers is under 30, you might want to consider a more modern design.” Offer a few tips that stay true to the brand and the company.

More Career Resources for Graphic Designers

“What’s your greatest accomplishment?” A hiring manager wants to know about your career grand slams but also may be trying to find out what success means to you. If you’re like most designers, you probably don’t have a shortage of projects you’re happy to discuss. It’s wise to offer an example you are proud of that also benefited a previous employer. Perhaps you identified eco-conscious vendors because a greener approach to design is a personal interest. In doing so, you also saved your firm money and helped it enhance its brand.

“What’s your greatest weakness?” Avoid clichés like “I work too hard.” Any experienced hiring manager can sniff out this sort of answer for what it is: disingenuous. What an employer really wants to know is how you have successfully dealt with adversity on the job. Mention an actual weakness — although one that doesn’t relate too closely to the job you are pursuing — as well as steps you’ve taken to overcome it.

Perhaps you’re not the most organized person, but, as you’ve moved up in your career, you’ve embraced project management software that’s helped you meet deadlines and keep teammates up to date.

“Would you call yourself a team player?” This question, and versions of it (“Do you prefer working alone or in a team?”), is designed to ensure you work effectively with many different individuals, from your peers to executives. When asked about your collaboration abilities, give a specific example of how you regularly interacted with colleagues in other departments or led a project team that included staff from several different levels within the firm.

“Do you have any questions for me?” A hiring manager is not only bringing an interview to a close with this question but also gauging your true interest in the role. Instead of answering “no” or asking about salary or vacation time (a mistake unless the company has expressed serious interest in hiring you), pose a few questions you prepared beforehand that were not covered during your meeting.

You might ask a creative director about the strategy behind the launch of the company’s Facebook page, for instance. Your inquisitiveness will demonstrate enthusiasm for the organization and position, and the input you receive may help you better determine if this is a firm for which you really want to work.

With so many people vying for design jobs, knowing what responses interviewers are truly seeking is essential. Doing so will distinguish you from a crowd of individuals offering generic answers and give you the best chance at getting the job.

6 thoughts on “What Do Hiring Managers Really Want to Know?

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  6. tomlien

    Great list! I interview a lot of new (and senior) level graphic designers. One of my favorite questions to ask them (after I’ve asked all the more important questions) is “what is your favorite typeface.”
    I hate to judge too quickly, but you can’t help but judge if they blurt out something like Comic Sans or Fajita. Alternately, if they get really excited and start talking about the intricacies of a nice respectable typeface, I know that I may just have someone as passionate (aka crazy) about type as my company. So be ready for that question!

    – Tom Lien