Answering the Important Job Interview Questions NOT Asked

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Part of the stress that comes with a job interview is the knowledge that the hiring manager has a list of questions she may ask, and you don’t always know what’s on the list.

Sometimes, however, as you strive to highlight the skills and accomplishments that make you stand out as a candidate, you might find that there are a few questions that did not get asked.

Should you give up and play it safe by only answering what you’re asked? Definitely not! An interview is an exchange of ideas and inquiry into your fit, so it’s well within interview etiquette to take the conversation where it needs to go.

If you struggle to make sure every interview highlights your strengths, here are a few ideas for structuring your interview to answer those unasked, yet vitally important, questions:

Identify the Questions Likely to be Asked

Make a list of questions you know the interviewer is likely to ask. You can do this by performing a web search such as “[Job Title] + Interview questions” or referring to your notes from past interviews to see which questions came up.

For example, if you are interviewing for a copy writing position, you may receive questions about what you write, how often you write, what you’re reading and how you stay creative or energized throughout the day.

Identify the Questions you Need to Answer

Review your resume and cover letter and consider your job history. Which significant moments, concepts and accomplishments are important to bring up in the interview?

For example, as you interview for the copy writing position you’ll want to highlight moments in your career when your work was particularly well received by a previous employer.

Identify Overlaps in the Lists

Compare the lists to each other and see if there are any obvious connections. If your interviewer is likely to ask “Tell me about the most recent book you’ve read,” prepare an answer that links your most recent reading to an accomplishment at work.

Use Unasked Questions as Questions You Ask

If you still have unasked questions, consider whether or not you can rephrase or include them as questions for your employer.

The job interview represents a significant opportunity for you to present your skills, accomplishments and unique fit for the working environment. It’s not likely that you can fit all of that into the pre-chosen questions of the average interviewer. Add an edge to your interview by planning and answering the unasked questions in a way that continues the conversation and highlights your abilities for the hiring manager.

Ashleane Alabre is a third year communication studies major from Miami, Fl. When not in class, Ashelane enjoys ballet dancing, sightseeing, and literature. Keep up with Ashleane on her Tumblr.

Completing Your Senior Checklist

CHECKLISTYou’re a senior? When did that happen?! Time sure does fly. It’s scary to think this year is going to be over before you know it.  Take advantage of the time you have left! Spend time with your friends, create a bucket list, do all the fun things this great city has to offer…but prepare for what comes next!  Here are some tips to keep in mind as you get ready for the professional life that lies ahead:

6) Start with research, and then create a job search strategy for yourself:

Research the industry and company you want to be in and target your search around these companies. Consider what you like about the company, but also contemplate average salaries, cost of living, and other costs you might be incurring.  Utilize NUcareers, online job boards, company websites, and your network!

5) Prepare early:

Update your resume, reach out to references, and practice on Big Interview.

4) Network:

Utilize LinkedIn, Husky Nation, and go on informational interviews. Set yourself up so that you have people willing to advocate for you come application time.

3) Stay organized:

I am a big fan of spreadsheets…but do what works best for you…that might be a journal, a color-coded calendar, or maybe Google Docs.  Keep track of important dates like when an employer is going to be on campus, when an application is due, when you need to follow up, and who in your network might be a good point of contact.

2) Take advantage of all the student discounts while you still can:

Professional organizations offer some great student discounts.  It is very affordable for students to join as a member, and attend conferences.  It’s the last chance you’ll get for these great prices…but what’s even better are the networking opportunities that will come out of this.  Be a part of the conversations on ‘hot topics’ your industry is talking about.

…also make sure you get your fair share of discounts for restaurants, retail, technology, and entertainment.

1) Visit Career Development!

We have a network of employers that are eager to recruit seniors like YOU! Take advantage of information sessions, panel discussions, and interviews that happen right here on campus. Go to events, workshops and walk-in appointments. Attend the Senior Career Conference on 1/22 and the Career Fair on 2/4 – both great opportunities to learn and network with employers. Still unsure about what to do? Schedule a 1-on-1 advising session with a career advisor! We are here to help!

Emily Norris is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. She loves working with students and guiding them to make informed career decisions that will lead to personal happiness.  She enjoys hiking and a good workout, but also loves cooking and baking for friends and family to ensure a healthy balance! Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

Rock that Interview.

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You’re on the job hunt and have sent out resumes upon resumes upon resumes and you finally get that phone call offering you an interview with a potential employer. First, congrats! Getting an interview is the next step and that deserves appreciation. Second, here comes the time to shine, to rock that interview.

Interviews aren’t exactly about showing that you’re perfect; they’re about sharing with another person what you’ve done, what you want to do, and how you can fit into their workplace culture.

Think of some answers beforehand. We all know the typical interview question: Tell me about yourself, tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it, describe a past project to me, etc. I could go on. Chances are you’ll get asked these at the majority of your interviews so it’s good to have some answers thought out beforehand. Don’t stage what you are going to say, just have a general idea. You’ll relax and allow yourself to focus on simply answering the question instead of scrambling to find an answer.

Dress to impress. It’s time to pull out a nice outfit. Dress up slightly more than you would for a typical work day. It shows the interviewer(s) that you care about the interview and respect their company. Go for something more business professional than business casual. A little tip: try to make sure you wear something you’ve worn before, at least once. The last thing you want is to find out a new shirt is itchy or just plain uncomfortable when you’re waiting for the interview to begin.

Be personable. You are a human. Your interviewer is a human. Therefore, be a person. You don’t have to build yourself up and only talk about your successes. Companies want to see that you have faced challenges in the workplace and want to know how you troubleshot them. Be yourself. Don’t try to change the way you speak, just answer their questions, ask questions, and let your natural light shine through.

Hopefully these tips help you out with any upcoming interviews! Personally, I think the last one is the most important because it’ll show the company who you are because they want to make sure you will be a great fit for their workplace culture. There’s a wealth more of tips on this blog and online, so be sure to check those out if you need more. And remember, you got this.

Interview Freak Out: How Do I Answer That?!

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Our worst fear, when walking in the door for an interview, is that we’re going to get stumped. This HR recruiter is going to ask us something that stops us in our tracks. We imagine ourselves sitting there with a blank stare, dumbfounded expression, and sweat starting to form on our brow. So what can we do?  Consider using these 4 strategies.

  1. Buy some time. Restate the question to the interviewer. It will look like you are just getting clarification. It might look something like this:

“So, you are wondering about a time when I had a disagreement with my boss about an issue at work? Let me think about that for a second.” 

By restating the question it’s giving that question time to settle into your brain and buying you valuable seconds to see if you can come up with an example. It’s far better than saying, “ummmmmmmm”.

  1. Swap the scenario. If you can’t think of a time when you had a disagreement with your boss, then swap out the scenario. Maybe you can come up with a slightly different example.

“While I’m not able to think, right now, of a time when I had a disagreement with my boss, I can think of a time when I had a challenge with a classmate during a semester long academic project. Could I share this example with you?”

  1. Answer directly. Now if you are still drawing a blank, here’s one other approach. Consider stating that you can’t come up with an example, but mention in general how you handle conflict and ask if that helps.

“While I’m having trouble coming up with a specific example, I can share that in general when I have a conflict with someone I typically pause first to think through the situation, step into the other person’s shoes to try and see where they are coming from, then think up questions that I can ask that would allow us to explore the situation in more depth as a means to working through it.”

4. Postpone

“This is an excellent question, and I can imagine it’s important to know how an individual employee will deal with conflict.  I’m having a hard time thinking up an example in this moment; however, I wanted to see if we might be able to circle back to this question at the end of the interview?”

In the end, one of the most important things you can do is to stay calm and be real.

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to


How Do I Answer That Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

Do you know what your career path looks like for the future?

For many of us, this is such a tough question.  We’re just not sure exactly where we want to go, or what kinds of opportunities will present themselves.  But, sometimes we get asked this question, which means you need to be ready for it before you walk into the interview.

First, take a step back and think for a moment about the kinds of things that you enjoy most related to your past/current work, and take some guesses on what kinds of things you’d like more of in the future.  Next, look closely at the job description, and provide an answer that would be in good alignment with that role.  For example, if you are interviewing for a job in sales, but you are really hoping to go into PR someday, you’ll want to share an answer that is truthful and that also fits well with the job you are applying for.

In this particular scenario, here’s what you might say:

“While I’m not sure of the exact job title I’d like to have in 5 years, I can say that my goal is to further develop my client relationship building, writing and presentation skills. I’m excited about this job in sales. I’d like to really dive in and learn how to be successful in this role at your organization, then eventually branch out and see in what other ways I can assist the team. My work satisfaction comes from being challenged, pushing myself and seeing what new things I can learn and contribute to along the way.”

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to

How Do I Answer This Interview Question: How many Rubik’s Cubes fit inside an airplane?


Umm wait what? I thought this was a job interview, not a test of my knowledge about the iconic puzzle cube invented in 1974. What in the world does this interview question have to do with measuring my ability to do the job in question? More than likely, the interviewer doesn’t even know the right amount of cubes that fit inside the plane, and probably doesn’t care to know. In reality the final answer isn’t so important; rather the interviewer is more concerned with how you got to that answer! This kind of question may be asked to gauge your problem solving ability and how well you deal with vague situations.

There are a lot of unknowns in this question, and that is the point. If you are presented with a situational question like this, clarify! Ask questions about the problem to help you better understand the answer you are about to give. Thinking “out loud” (sorry introverts!) in this setting will allow the interviewer a peek inside your thought process so they can follow along as you solve the problem. Remember, the math, and final answers may not always add up for this type of question and that’s ok!


You: Before I give an answer I feel is correct, I’d like to ask a few clarifying questions. What model airplane is this?

Interviewer: It is a Boeing 747.

You: Great, and could you tell me more about this 747? Is it fully loaded with passengers and luggage? How many seats does it have? Is it totally gutted and we are just filling the empty shell?

Interviewer: This 747 is totally empty. There is no luggage, passengers or seats in the plane. For this problem we are curious about how many cubes can fit in the hollow shell of the 747.

You: Perfect, can you tell me more about the cube? Is it a standard sized cube? Could you give me the specific dimensions of the cubes that we will be filling the plane with?

Interviewer: Sure, the Rubik’s Cubes are 3x3x3 inches.

You: Fantastic! So to summarize, we are assuming that this 747 is empty, with no people luggage or furnishings inside, and the volume of each cube is 27. With this knowledge, I my best estimate would be roughly 150,000 Rubik’s Cubes inside the 747.

And there you have it! Just remember that these types of questions are less concerned with the actual answer, but more about how you arrive at the answer. Happy interviewing!

Mike Ariale is the Assistant Director of Career Development & Social Media at Northeastern University. He specializes in disability employment issues, and works with many other diversity initiatives on campus. When not at work, you can find doing heavy bag work at the boxing gym, hanging out at the latest SoFar concert, or enjoying Boston’s foodie scene! Tweet him @CareerCoachNU

That end of the interview dreaded question…. Do you have any questions for us??

Interview Questions

It would be easy to take this question literally, and think to yourself, I just want to get out of this interview, so you say “no, I don’t have any questions for you.”

Bad idea! You want to leave the employer with the impression you are the one for the job and that requires you to ask more questions!

Why does the interviewer ask this question?  To find out if you can step back from the long hours of interviewing and ask some broad processing questions. In a nutshell, the interviewer wants to know how you think.

This is a great opportunity for you to not only show them that you are a big picture thinker but you’ll also find out if your need to tell them anything more about yourself!

So, what are some good questions you can ask?

  1. Tell me more about the culture of the office or company? Or how would you describe the culture of the office or company? (You want to make sure this is the right fit for you too.)
  1. What are the opportunities for professional development? How do you develop your employees to take on more responsibilities?? (You are exploring advancement opportunities.)
  1. I read that your company is moving in X direction, or just made X acquisition; can you tell me more about that and how it might impact the company both short and long-term? (You’re showing them that you have done your research on the company.)
  1. What do you see as the greatest challenges for your company over the next 5 years? (Again, you want to learn more about the company.)
  1. Are there any special projects coming up that you’d want me to work on if I got the job? (You’re showing your interest in the job.)

And finally….

  1. Is there anything you need to know about me that will help you to make a decision?
  1. What happens next in this process? (You want to know the timing of their decision.)

Sharri Harmel works in career development at Northeastern University, acting as the liaison to the College of Engineering. She loves international travel, creative thinkers and good books, all with equal passion. Tweet at her about the article @careercoachNU!

Start Early and Set Yourself Apart: An Interview With an NU Alum

Jay Lu received his BSBA in Accounting and Marketing in May 2014 and MS in Accounting this past August, 2014. During his time at NU, he held numerous positions both on and off campus and internationally. Jay successfully completed three separate co-ops at large multinational companies with experience in audit and assurance, tax and operations. Jay recently completed the CPA exam and his currently working in audit and assurance at a CPA firm. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering, reading and sports. To learn more about his professional background- check out his LinkedIn profile.

When did you first come to the Career Development office?

It was for the Career Fair, freshmen year.

Why go to a career fair? Most freshmen would wait until later for this.

I had no risk.  I didn’t feel pressured.  I didn’t need anything out of it.  I wanted the practice of the experience. It’s kind of like a festival, with everyone dressed up.  It can be a fun event when there isn’t pressure.  I didn’t have a suit back then.  But I went in and just talked with a couple of recruiters.  At this point I didn’t have a resume.  But later on I learned how to create a resume, and how to make a good impression.

What else did you do early on?

Early on I went for an appointment about career direction.  I wasn’t sure how to explore my options.  Through my career counselor I learned about informational interviews.  In fact I even did one for an RA position.  Ended up getting the job because I was more prepared and had someone recommending me from the info interview.  I also got into LinkedIn early on.

From these early experiences, what do you recommend that students do in their 1st or 2nd year?

Don’t think that just because it’s your first year that you have all the time in the world.  You’ll be graduating in a flash.  When you start early, you’ll be ahead for when you need it. When there is less pressure, when you don’t need a job yet, get advice then.

How can students have an impact on potential employers?

A lot of employers want to know if you want them.  It’s not just about your skills.  To stand out, make a good impression early on with them. Be genuinely interested in the field, which should be a natural feeling if you chose a major you are passionate about. Have people warm up to you, and your personal brand early on, even if you might not be fully certain what that is yet.  The idea here is to build your network before you need it.  Things get a lot more competitive, when you are a senior.  Everyone is going after these connections.  By starting early you can set yourself apart. They will be impressed that you are being so proactive.  Another point is that there is more leeway if you mess up, employers will more likely overlook this when you are younger.

How can students make more employer connections?

Go to career services and alumni events.  Do these while you are still on campus.  Once you graduate, it’s harder to fit these in.  Also, the further along you get in college, there are more expectations put on you (from recruiters, parents, peers), compared with when you are in your 1st or 2nd year.

What can you gain from this early networking?

When you chat with recruiters, they might open you up to other career paths that you didn’t know about or hadn’t thought of.  The more exposure and more conversations, the better.  You can never know what you’re going to do, exactly, but you can learn more early on to help.  It’s great if you can find out sooner what you might value in a career, while you can still make changes to your academic or co-op path.  You might save yourself time and heartache.  The more people you talk to, the more confident you’ll be with your choices.  You want to find those people that are in your potential career path, since they’ve already been there and you can learn from them.  Would you want to be in their shoes? Talking to them gives you a chance to find out.

During your senior year, how did you approach your job search?

I didn’t have too much trouble.  I had already been to 3 or 4 career fairs, and I already had quite a few connections from co-ops and various other events. If you have done everything early on, at this point it should be a relaxing year. At my last career fair, I received an interview call in less than an hour after the fair ended.

How do you maintain your network?

Always follow up after any professional encounter. Send a thank-you note after meeting someone at a campus event or any professional encounter.  For example, after attending the Global Careers Forum I sent an email to one of the guest speakers saying thank you.  I didn’t ask for anything in that moment. It might come later. Northeastern makes sending thank-you letters after co-op interviews almost religious, I try to use this same mindset. I always like to think of the story of one interviewee’s thank-you letter being a PowerPoint that showed how he would tackle a current problem facing the company. Now that’s hitting the ground running!

Is there anything you wished you’d known sooner?

Don’t take your professors for granted.  They can be some of the best resources.  They are there for you, and they want to help you.  I made a habit of seeing my professors every semester, even just to chat with them (while you are in the course and sometimes even after).  One professor sent me details about an internship that had been sent in by an alum.  I was given the details about this opportunity because the professor knew me well, and he had confidence in me. In addition, if I had more time, I would’ve joined more organizations that were related to my major.

Anyone you stay in touch with?

One of my accounting professors I went to see a lot.  He had great industry advice about how to get started, he recommended good organizations, and even suggested events to attend.  I sent follow up messages to thank him and to let him know I attended the events he had mentioned, I also shared some information that I thought would be useful for his current students.  It’s important to let people know that you followed their advice, and if you have something you can share, then include it.

What’s your finally advice to students, especially when it comes to networking?

Start early and don’t stop.

Tell Me About Yourself… But Not Really

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This post was written by Amy Stutius, Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

In everyday life, if someone asks you to tell them about yourself, it’s usually because they want to get to know you as a person and learn about your interests, hobbies, and passions.  So if I asked you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you want to say?  Would you tell me that you grew up in California, love to surf, like cookie dough ice cream, and just came back from a family trip to Paris?  That would all be pretty interesting, and a good conversation starter if I asked you that question while we were waiting for a treadmill to open up at the Marino Center, or if we were taking a break from studying for finals.  But what if you were coming in to interview with me for a co-op, internship, or a job that you really wanted?

You response might help me realize what a fun and unique person you are, and that maybe we’d have something in common as friends, but it wouldn’t tell me anything about why I should hire you, and why you’d be a better fit for the job over any of the other candidates I’m interviewing.  Remember, you’re out there trying to compete for, and secure, a great job and the way to do that is to market yourself, not as a terrific and friendly person with an interesting childhood and hobbies, but as a terrific and friendly person who can do this job better than any of the other candidates waiting in the wings!

So how do you master your answer to this question or some variance of it?  Think it through and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  You’ll need to answer this question in some form during your interview, whether the interviewer comes out and asks you to “tell me about yourself,” or if they say “what brings you in here today.”  Even if they don’t ask you the question that directly, it’s great for you to try to weave your proposed answer somewhere into the interview because the whole point of the answer is to clearly and articulately relay a bit about your background and experience, and why that makes you a good fit for this position and this company.

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When you’re thinking through your response, I like to take the “Back to the Future” approach (part 1, that is). You want to start in the present, then travel to the past, and then head back to the present and into the future.

So by starting in the present, you’re going to be talking about your current status, namely, your class year, and major, and anything else relevant that’s going on right now.  Next you’ll travel with your interviewer to the past, where you’ll share a few RELEVANT snapshots of some experiences you’ve had that tie in well to the job you’re interviewing for.  These could be co-ops you’ve done, academic projects you’ve worked on, and/or any research you’ve completed.  After you discuss those all-important RELEVANT experiences, you want to travel with your interviewer back to the present and start heading into the future, meaning that you’re going to very briefly find a way to explain how, through those experiences and your coursework, you’ve developed the necessary skills to make a strong contribution in this position, which especially interests you because….[and here’s where you fill in exactly why you’re so very interested in this position at this company!]

Sound good?  So next time someone asks you to “tell me about yourself” in an interview, remember that they’re looking for you to tell them about yourself in a way that’s relevant to, and focused on, why you’re a great fit for the position and the company.  Save any cute childhood stories and discussion of your favorite ice cream flavors for some friendly banter once you get the job!

Amy Stutius is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University.  She practiced as an attorney before transitioning to higher education.  Email her at