What’s your biggest regret or failure?

Being a mind reader would come in handy during the interview and make the whole getting-a-job thing a lot easier, right? It would take away all the pressure of saying the right thing and allow you to fix any verbal blunders. One can only wish…

While it may not feel like it, the ball can still be in your court in the interview process.

We polled hiring managers on the most common interview questions—and the best answers for each—to better prepare you for your first interview. Be mindful of this expert advice come time for your audition.

How can you relate your academic experience to this particular role?
Scott Gordon, VP of talent solutions at Vaco, a consulting and specialized recruiting firm based in Nashville says interviewers ask this question to test how well you apply yourself. Companies want to understand how you apply previous skills to new tasks versus how much they’ll need to train you.

How you should answer: Use specific examples of something you learned and how you will directly apply it to the job task. Prepare ahead of time by reading through the bullet points on the job page’s description. This way you can give a direct answer. If the job requires you to be bilingual, mention how many years you’ve studied or practiced a foreign language.

What are you looking for in the next company you join?
Gordon says hiring managers are looking for authenticity. They want to know why you’re interested in them and if you’re a good fit. They also want to get a feel for your understanding of the company and if they can offer what you’re looking for.

How you should answer: Be honest and genuine. Read through their website and social media posts to understand their culture. If the company has a social mission, say that you want to work for an employer who shares your passion for giving back.

What’s your biggest regret or failure?
Kristi Jones, director of talent acquisition at Spring Venture Group in Kansas City, Missouri, says hiring managers are looking to understand how you react to failure and how you deal when things don’t go as planned. They’re also testing if you take personal accountability when needed and if you have high goals or ambitions.

How you should answer: Jones says the best answer to this question is one with a specific example that shows what you learned. Prepare ahead of time with an example of something that happened in school, on a project or during your last job. If you failed an important test, you’d answer by explaining how you changed your study habits to get a better grade on the next one.

What are your salary requirements?
Gordon says you should always be prepared to answer this, noting that it’s better to be prepared than to improvise an answer.

“Not being ready or refusing to discuss what you want in detail can lead to disaster,” he says. “Never leave it in the hands of the company to determine your worth. Say what you want and then be prepared to negotiate.”

How you should answer: Conduct research on the average salary for this role in location. Tell them what you expect to make and why. If you have years of experience in the field, mention that. If they ask a follow-up question, such as, “How did you come up with that salary?” you will then be prepared to reference the research you conducted.

Tell me about a time you had to work on a project where one team member wasn’t pulling their weight. What role did you play?
According to Jones, hiring managers use this question to understand your past behavior in order to determine your future work performance. They’re testing how you perform on a team and simulating how you would perform in a real-life situation.

“We’re looking to learn if you are a team player, if you take initiative and how you follow through,” explains Jones.

How you should answer: Give a specific example. You should have one prepared ahead of time to clearly explain what happened, how you handled the confrontation and what the end result was. Always end with a positive, successful solution, or provide what you learned from that specific situation.

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