18 June

How to Answer “You” Questions in a Job Interview

I Hate Job Interviews

Adapted from I Hate Job Interviews: Stop Stressing. Start Performing. Get the Job You Want. by Sam Owens.

Companies seek to combat the risk of hiring a bad cultural fit by asking “you” questions. These are direct, probing questions that require you to explain yourself as a person and professional. They are different from behavioral or scenario questions. Rather than asking you to describe how you achieved a result or how you would approach a scenario, “you” questions want you to discuss how you think about yourself.

Companies ask these questions to gauge self-awareness because one common trait of difficult people is that they are unaware of just how difficult they are. Thus, if candidates can demonstrate that they are self-aware, the chances of them being extremely difficult to work with are low.

Here are some common “you” questions:

  • What is your single most important accomplishment?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Where do you want to be in five years?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What kind of a leader are you?
  • Are you collaborative?
  • What’s a weird quirk you have?
  • What is something you deeply believe in?
  • What are you most proud of outside of work?
  • What is your philosophy for dealing with difficult people?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What kind of work do you love doing?

Do these questions make you uncomfortable? If so, you are not alone. For many, these are hard questions to answer for two reasons. First, many people genuinely don’t like talking about themselves when they know they are being evaluated. Second, these questions are highly ambiguous. There is no request for a specific story. There is no specific scenario to address. It’s choose your own adventure, which to many people means choose your own disaster.

The SEE Model

Fear not, there is a simple model that makes these questions easy to answer. It’s a framework that works every time. The model is three letters: SEE, which stands for Statement, Explanation, Example. If you are asked a “you” question, just remember to help them SEE you. Let’s look at how it works:


You start your response by giving a direct statement that succinctly answers the question. For example, if someone were to ask you, “What kind of leader are you?” your statement might be something like, “I would describe myself as results oriented, collaborative, and caring.” Or, if someone were to ask you, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” your statement could be, “In five years I see myself in a manager role at this organization, with increased responsibility in scope and in people management.”

The key to the statement portion is to answer the question directly without hemming and hawing. People appreciate a simple answer to a direct question. So keep it brief, concise, and related to the job. For example, if they ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” they don’t care that you are working toward a black belt in karate (unless you are applying to be a karate instructor). The only exception to this would be if they ask you specifically for a non-professional example. For instance, I’ve been asked, “What is your greatest accomplishment outside of work,” which, of course, is my family.


After your simple statement, you explain what you mean by giving context that helps the interviewer better understand your answer. For example, if I were asked about my leadership style and I said that I was competitive, my explanation could have the following context: “By competitive, I mean that I have very high expectations for myself and my team. For me, it’s not about beating out everyone else but about delivering work that is excellent and that I’m proud of. I suppose I’m competitive with others to a degree, but it really comes down to the expectations I have of myself.” Or, if I were asked, “Why should we hire you?” and my statement said because I have the right experience, I could explain myself by saying, “My five years working on social media platforms and developing deep expertise in lead generation has set me up perfectly to add value to this job immediately.”


Your response now is good. Solid. Acceptable. But to make it a knockout response you need to provide proof through example. Only if you give an example will your answer be fully credible and memorable. Without an example, you will have presented strong principles that they relate to and agree with but no assurance that you actually are who you say you are.

Going back to our leadership example: if you described yourself as collaborative, you could demonstrate why that’s true by saying, “For example, in my last job, I was given the ‘Collaborator’ award, which is a peer-nominated award given at the end of each year” or “I scheduled one-on-ones with each member of my cross-functional contacts every other week. No one else at the company was doing this at that time. It enabled me to work more efficiently than my peers because I had relationships across the organization.” Examples like these provide irrefutable evidence that you are who you say you are. They also allow you to brag without looking like you are bragging.

The SEE Model In Action

As an example of how to apply the SEE model, an interviewer might ask “What is your philosophy about persuading other people to your way of thinking?” One is a behavioral question and the other is a “you” question. But the story you tell is the same.


When I try to persuade people, I do it by building a personal relationship first and then persuading through facts.


I start by building a personal relationship because it builds a foundation of trust. I’ve found it’s hard to get someone to listen to me if they don’t know me or trust me. And the reason I like using facts when trying to persuade is that it shows that I don’t have a personal agenda and that I’m just trying to get to the answer that will be best for the business.


One example of this from my work experience is when I worked as a marketing intern for a clothing retailer and was responsible for boosting our online sales. The in-store buying group was afraid that I was going to steal a lot of their sales, so they weren’t supportive of what I was doing. To get them on board, I set up a time to meet with each of them and listened to their concerns to build trust. Then I showed them some research I’d done that demonstrated that online sales could actually boost in-store sales. After that, they were highly supportive of me.

Paperback and audiobook of "I Hate Job Interviews"

I Hate Job Interviews will give you confidence in answering introductory, behavioral, hypothetical, opinion, personal, think-on-your-feet, salary, and self-awareness questions. Go into your next job interview with confidence, ready to knock any question they throw at you out of the park!