Web designers in Seattle, project managers in Boston, or maybe financial analysts in Chicago. Using Glassdoor’s crowdsourcing, you could view the job interview questions posed to previous applicants for any role in any city.
The tool is especially useful if you have a company in mind. Enter the name of your dream employer and see what its hiring managers have asked applicants for different jobs.
Knowing the questions in advance could help you before your next job interview. But imagine if you also knew the answers.
How to answer these 5 interview questions
Acing common interview questions is important. But you’ll also have to study outside-the-box questions for jobs at top companies. Facebook, for example, is known to ask, “On your very best day at work — the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world — what did you do that day?”
Whichever big-time company you’re interested in working for, you should be aware of the types of interview questions coming your way. An engineering candidate at Google, for example, might want to be ready for competency or brain-teasing queries that test their ability to think quickly.
But popular companies hiring for any roles will also be asking behavioral questions that challenge your maturity. You could count on fielding experience-based questions too, as human resources departments try to see whether your resume matches up with your actual skill level.
Here are five such questions posted to Glassdoor by former job applicants at Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
1. Airbnb: If you had to teach a class at Airbnb to your peers, what would you teach?
Airbnb is a travel services company that emphasizes being open to new experiences. So it’s probably no surprise that the company hosts in-house fireside chats. Like the intern who posted this question on Glassdoor, you could be asked about the chat you’d lead.
Beyond gauging your knowledge and the ability to communicate it, this question is asking about your passion. You could show your personal side by sharing a hobby, but there’s a better way to score points.
“When you describe what you would teach, also express how it would be helpful to the goals and growth of the company,” said Robyn Coburn, a resume reviewer. “That is, how your peers would become better employees if they knew this stuff like you do.”
Your pre-interview research should shape your choice of topic. The more you know about a company’s mission and direction, the better your answer could be.
“For instance, if you learn that Airbnb is developing shared communities targeted to aging adults, the class topic could be [about] housing issues facing seniors,” said Carisa Miklusak, the CEO of job-matching app Tilr.
2. Amazon: Give me an example of a time you used data to solve a problem.
Experience-based questions often require citing a specific example. You could be smart enough to come up with an answer on the fly. But having one in your back pocket would be in your best interest.
“Amazon knows that not all decisions should be made on gut instinct and that solving a problem with data is effective and measurable,” said Miklusak. “They’re also trying to see if you know how to conduct research and how to analyze data to derive relevant information from which smart decisions can be made.”
You could use an example from your personal life, such as the time you figured out how to pay off your student loans. From comparing lender quotes to choosing repayment methods, there are plenty of numbers to talk about.
No matter your example, highlighting how you employed data is more important than the problem itself.
“When they say, ‘used data,’ that could mean re-examining stats and information that were already available, or it could mean that you designed a survey or other data-collection system to discover the nature of a problem,” said Coburn, who specializes in film and TV careers.
“Start with the problem,” she continued, “how it was noticed, then define how you used or found the data, what that suggested, and then [talk about] your solution.”
You might even ask if your interviewer has experienced a similar problem at the company. That will help you create a two-way conversation, not a dictatorial interview.
3. Apple: Tell me about a design decision you messed up and explain how you handled it.
Apple cracked the top five of companies that millennials are most excited to work for, according to a 2017 SurveyMonkey study. Given that level of interest, the company’s recruiters won’t be hesitant to put your work experience under the microscope.
Talking about a decision that went wrong could show your seniority. Maybe you miscommunicated with a client before handing off a brief to one of your underlings, or maybe you misread the brief yourself.
Either way, the result wasn’t good. That’s where the trap in the question lives, Coburn said.
“Whatever the reason for the mess up, it’s crucial to take responsibility, rather than blame any other person,” she said. “Especially avoid criticizing the client. That would be a job [interview] killer.”
Also, avoid focusing too much of your answer on the problem, not the solution — even though the question doesn’t directly ask for one.
“It would be better not to tell the story of a truly catastrophic error unless you then made a spectacular save,” Coburn said. “Move on quickly to the solution and the eventual outcome, which should be positive. You can also say what you learned, and how you have used that new information since.”
4. Facebook: What is something that you fundamentally changed about yourself to be successful?
You might read Facebook’s query as the dreaded “biggest weakness” question, but it’s actually about problem-solving and self-awareness.
When choosing how to answer, it’s wisest to prioritize a professional example over a personal one, even if it’s from your money-making side gig and not your full-time job. This will help the hiring manager visualize how your fundamental change makes you a better fit for the job you’re applying to.
“This might include overcoming a challenge or fear, like learning how to speak in public so that you could make better verbal reports and presentations in your department,” Coburn said.
Go above and beyond with your response by describing a change that includes a sacrifice, Miklusak recommended.
“It could be a change to [a] habit or your mindset,” she said. “Perhaps you started waking up two hours earlier because you realized you’re twice as productive in the morning. Or it could be that you started taking more risks in your personal life and your career.
“At Facebook and companies like it, change is imperative to be disruptive [on] a large scale, so they want to know if you can operate within that cultural mindset,” she added.
5. Google: Do you work well independently?
You don’t need to hire a career coach to know that Google’s interview process can be grueling. With that in mind, this five-word question might seem too simple. You might even think it’s a trick.
“If you say ‘yes,’ are you implying that you don’t work well in a team-based environment?” asked Lynda Spiegel, a job search coach. “If your response is ‘no,’ doesn’t that suggest that you can’t get anything done on your own?
“Your only recourse is to hedge by explaining that your work is informed by the synergies of teamwork, but you’re comfortable completing projects on your own.”
As with many of these questions, saying yes or no won’t be enough. You’ll also need to provide details, ideally workplace scenarios that you’ve lived through.
In one case, you could prove you don’t need to be micromanaged. Just explain times in your current job where you delivered results individually and as part of a team.
Learn the questions to prepare your answers
Working for the likes of Amazon and Apple might be on your bucket list. But whether you have hopes of getting a job at a top tech company or a mom-and-pop shop, prepare for potential questions you’ll be asked.
Glassdoor is one tool to help you build a cheat sheet. By seeing how past applicants have been put through the ringer, you can give yourself a better chance of coming out the other side — where a job offer could be waiting.
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