The 3 Core Questions For Any Job Interview

What Hiring Managers Are Really Looking For

by Rich Bechtel, SEBA Graduate Executive-In-Residence | August 22, 2023

All Interview questions can be boiled down to this...

You’ve contemplated a career change for awhile. The old job doesn’t hold the same excitement - perhaps your company has changed strategic direction, you haven’t been in alignment with your boss for awhile, or maybe you have truly max’d out in your current position. In any event, you need a change. You’ve done your homework by researching new industries, investigating interesting companies, and talking with trusted colleagues and mentors for their advice. You’ve applied for a handful of jobs online, and you just received the email you’ve been hoping for: a company on your target list with a great job wants to interview you! Now you excitedly begin the interview preparation process.

So where do you begin? There is so much data available on most companies that it can be overwhelming. Of course you want to do basic research on the company you’re interviewing with, including reviewing their website, understanding their financial statements (at a top line), and reviewing employee feedback on websites like Glassdoor. Now you start wondering … what questions will I be asked? You may feel moments of panic as you think through the endless barrage of questions you could face that range from the truly insightful to the outright bizarre (ie. “How many pingpong balls can you fit in a 747 airplane?”). Relax, a very wise person once taught me that when you boil it down, all interview questions can be summarized in three simple questions:

1) Will you be great at the job we’re interviewing you for?

2) Will you like working with us?

3) Will we like working with you?

Let’s explore these at a top line, and in subsequent articles we’ll take a deeper dive. For the first question, companies seek employees that will be great at the work they’re being hired to do. Sounds so basic, but with all the distractions that go along with searching for a job, this is a good reminder of a fundamental truth. We live during a time that many companies (but not all) value specialization, and depending on the size of the company and industry, many companies value employees that can go deep into their functional areas (ie. Sales, Supply Chain, Finance, etc…) AND enjoy it.

Questions two and three are all about fit: your fit with the company and the company’s fit with you. During your interviews, you should get a good sense of the company’s culture (ie. What it values and how it “feels”), and the company should get a feeling for what’s important to you (ie. Your personal values and goals). Are your goals and values in alignment with the culture and values of the company you’re interviewing with? Most job changes require some behavior modifications by the employee - “I’ll have a new manager and he / she is more hands-on than my previous one so I need to be attentive to that", and sometimes by the employer - “we’ve had quite a bit of turnover in this position, so maybe we need to scale back some of this role’s responsibilities”.

As you prepare for interviews, keep these three “over-arching” questions in mind, and think about your “success stories” that showcase the best, most authentic version of yourself.


headshot of saint mary's executive in residence rich bechtel


Rich Bechtel is the former Director of Executive Search at Apple and currently serves as an Executive-in-Residence and Career Coach for the Saint Mary's Graduate Business Programs in the School of Economics and Business Administration.