If you’ve been doing your homework, you probably already have an idea of what a good interview answer looks like. For instance, if someone asks you what your biggest strengths are, you likely already have a go-to list of the skills and attributes that set you apart. Or if asked why you’re interested in the company, you can hopefully cite a few things about the mission, industry, and company culture that you admire.
The truth is, these answers will do just fine. But when you’re applying to your dream company, “just fine” doesn’t always cut it. If you really want to stand out from all of the other candidates that you’re competing against, you want to wow recruiters with your answers. But what exactly does that look like?
We asked a handful of recruiters what the best interview answer they’ve ever heard is, and while you obviously don’t want to repeat them verbatim, they can certainly serve as inspiration for how your own should look. Take a look at these eight answers below, and make sure to take notes.
“A recruiter was working with a candidate for a traveling Consultant opportunity and asked what motivated them to apply. The candidate provided a personal story from a study abroad experience where she volunteered to help a community after a hurricane. The candidate had the responsibility of managing the paper health records of those impacted in the village. She was able to articulate how she realized the significance of changing the way healthcare is delivered through technological innovation. Her personal story showcased her passion to impact and collaborate with clients, which is a main responsibility of our Consultants.” —Jessica Lamb, Manager & Lead Campus Recruiter at Cerner Corporation
“[We had an] individual who in an interview process had been asked, ‘What would be your biggest challenge if [you] took the role?’ Somebody said 'containing my excitement’ which I thought was also pretty awesome. I know that that individual was absolutely sold, and to this day always tells me it was true, that has been his biggest challenge at Salesforce because it's such an exciting place to be.” —Ana Recio, Senior Vice President of Global Recruiting at Salesforce
“When a candidate answers that they have been called to healthcare based on their overwhelming compassion for others. Furthermore, when their calling aligns with the mission and values of what SSM Health stands for. It’s most impressive when they know about our culture, mission, and values before it’s even asked of them, and that’s what drew them to apply with us.” —Jessie Pace, Talent Specialist at SSM Health
“We want to hear that the candidate places a premium on innovation, continuous learning and development and enjoys solving really tough problems. Those are hallmarks of Booz Allen. One question I often use gets at what a candidate has done to support a client on a tough challenge. My question may be: ‘have you participated in a cloud migration project?’ The ideal answers are not generalities; they are: ‘I specifically did X’ or ‘I participated as a team on Y.’ From there, my colleagues and our technical interviewers dive into the finer details of the responses.” —Scott Barish, Digital Solutions Recruiting Lead at Booz Allen Hamilton
“The best interview answer I received was from a junior-level programmer answering a question about how to sort a vector of integers using C++ standard containers. Some candidates will pick the best and most efficient method from the start, and some will pick less efficient methods. However, this candidate explained several methods from worst efficiency to best efficiency while identifying all the performance complexity tradeoffs.” —Software Engineering Director, Cadence Design Systems
“The best interview answer wasn’t a response to a question but how a candidate handled an introduction at a career event. Many new grads struggle to find a graceful segway into a conversation with a recruiter, but this job seeker nailed his introduction.
At a recent job fair, a candidate bee-lined right up to the CDW booth and told me that he had driven across the entire city that morning (a 50 mile one-way ride) for the chance to sell himself face to face with CDW’s recruiting team. He had driven all that way just to apply for a position at CDW when he could have easily jumped online. His unique story and initiative demonstrated his drive and served as a great kickoff into our conversation.” —Colleen Flynn, Recruiter at CDW
“We spoke with several of our hiring managers and they all came to the same conclusion: It's not about specific questions or answers that stand out, but rather the candidates who display a great deal of passion about what they do that really stand above the rest.” —Academy Sports + Outdoors
“‘I want to run toward a new opportunity, not run away from my current one.’ Simple, but it said that she wasn't just trying to find any new job, but one in which she really was passionate about.” —Jamie Hichens, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Glassdoor