Home > Asset Management, Career Advancement, Communication, Job Hunting, Networking > What does an interviewer really want to know?

What does an interviewer really want to know?

I am not a recruiter myself but as our group finally started hiring again, I had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table a couple of times recently. There are many articles out there on “must prepare interview questions”, “how to ace an interview”, etc, many of which are quite helpful. Yet what I want to focus on today is the fundamental questions an interviewer wants to answer during his/her conversations with you.


  • Common Sense: Can you help me to make sense of your experiences?

You will probably say: everything is on my resume. That is not enough. You need to help the interviewer to “connect the dots” and to tell good stories so he will understand why you worked at A before, and then B, and then C. You also need to answer the questions of why you want to move from consulting to investment management, and why from SF to NY, and how your past experiences relate to what you are doing today and your future goals.


  • Motivation: Is this what you really want for yourself, NOW?

Telling stories is not enough though. You need to be truly passionate about something so that the excitement will naturally show from your eyes, your facial expressions and gestures (don’t over do it though, this need to be naturally shown). Knowing what you want is important, because nobody will offer you a job so that you can “figure out what you really want to do” on that job.

Knowing what you want is not enough either; the key is if this is what you want “NOW”. This could be your future goal, but are you there yet? Are you really willing to relocate now? Are you really ready to get a much lower pay at this point? On the other hand, nobody wants a jumper, whether you are one or not doesn’t matter. But if they think you are, chances are they will not hire you because nobody wants to end up in a situation where they have spent all the time and money training you only to see you leave 3 months into the job.


  • Strengths: Do you have what it takes for this job?

You can do the job, trust me. In fact, a lot of others can as well. Then why should I give the offer to you? This is where the soft skills come into play: communication skills, analytical skills, transferrable skills, willingness to take risk, etc, and how do you deal with tight deadlines and pressure from other challenging situations. Again you need to tell good stories and give convincing examples that will demonstrate key characters such as team spirit, leadership, attention to details, multi-tasking, etc.


  • Connection: Do I see myself working together with you?

What is worse than “I like you, but I don’t think you can do the job”? It is “Everything about you is great but I just don’t like you”. At the end of the day, if the interviewer can picture himself working with you then your job is done. I am sure you heard about the “airport test” for consultant interviews: whether the interviewer can picture himself spending 6 hour with you between flight transfers. If he likes you, it’s an easy question to answer.

And finally, it’s the question of can I trust you? It is hard to imagine how people can build layers and layers of trust just within a few minutes, while for most other people it might take months even years. Ultimately the interviewer want to hire someone who is a YES to this question: Can I count on you to make my job easier?


If you can articulately and effectively communicate all these ideas about yourself during your interview, there is no way you will not be hired.

  1. Aeaya
    August 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I agree with what you said above and I think another important piece I want to add is the CHEMICAL reaction with the interviewer. I believe hunting a job is like hunting a lover. Besides all those factors that you can control or even naturally pretend to be, there must be some chemical ingredient involved to get you hired instead of someone else. That’s unfortunately something that cannot be taught or advised.

    • August 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Yes I agree chemistry is important and that’s what I am trying to convey in my last point: if the interviewer “likes” you then you’re probably all set. They can teach you the job but they probably can’t force themselves to like you. That’s why personality is key. It will be hard to make everyone in the world like you, but I do believe there are certain things you could do to communicate better and make it easier for the other person to like you (more eye contact, tell good stories, resonate, etc). Does that make sense?

  2. September 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Great article, totally whazt I wanted to find.

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