The ONE job interview question

On February 12, 2009, in COMM 2322 Spring 2011, Nixon's Classes, by Barbara Nixon

Last spring, I asked Edelman Digital’s Phil Gomes : “What’s the one question you almost always use in a job interview?” He not only shared his thoughts, he also interviewed several of his colleagues at Edelman Digital. Here’s what they had to say: 

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So, what’s the ONE question you almost always ask (or have been asked) in a job interview, regardless what the position is?


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21 Responses to The ONE job interview question

  1. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all people you actually realize what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also discuss with my web site =). We may have a link exchange contract among us

  2. […] “The ONE job interview question” from Public Relations Matters, a blog written by public relations professor @BarbaraNixon […]

  3. […] The following are questions from Public Relations Matters with help from the Edelman Digital staff. Check out the video link here: […]

  4. […] 1.) This first video I tried to post was from our very own teacher, Barbara Nixon’s website. I couldn’t get the video to embed so here is the link: the-one-job-interview-question […]

  5. […] The One Job Interview Question (video, posted 12 February 2009) […]

  6. […] Media Starter Kit: LinkedIn (Altitude Branding)Rachel Created a Job for Herself (Connie Bensen)The One Interview Question (Public Relations […]

  7. […] on B.Nixon’s post “the one job interview question” […]

  8. Wow! This short video was great. I agree with Lauren that it was also a little scary at the same time. My Aunt works for Proctor & Gamble and has told me similar interview questions about your most exciting project, and how did you overcome a challenge, but when I heard the question in the video “what do you read?”… I had to stop and think. I read my textbooks, journal articles for research papers, facebook updates, tweets, Oprah’s book club… I am not sure I would like to share any of these during an interview. This goes to show that being in the industry of PR, there is a lot more to basic interview questions, and through questions like these in the video you can learn a lot more about someone. I am glad that I heard the questions here first, so that I can prepare myself!

  9. i think the commonly asked question is “Tell me something about yourself” This would let the interviewer learn more about the candidate and and tests how they look at themselves.

  10. Ziv says:

    This is a way to select candidated…
    you should get prepared to such Possible Interview Questions finding the best answers..

  11. Amy Dufour says:

    Hi Barbara –
    I am the internship coordinator for my company and the one question we always pose to current students or recent graduates applying for our internship position is “Do your grades accurately reflect your abilities? Why or why not?”

    This question usually catches most candidates off guard and the first thing they say back to me before they respond to the question is — no one has ever asked me that question before.

  12. Byron Wade says:


    The question I always ask when I have interviewed potential church secretaries is “Why do you want this job?” Before I became a pastor I was always asked “Tell me your strengths and weaknesses” or some version of that question.

    Byron Wade

  13. CathyLarkin says:

    I loved the variety of questions the potential interviewers gave. I wish had seen something like this before my first job interviews. It shows that a job applicant needs to be “well-rounded” in how they approach an interview; you can’t just be ready to spout back the items that are on your resume.

    The best question I learned was from a career counseling coach at a local community college: “What 3 skills do you have that you think are important for this job, and give me an example of how you used one or two of them in the past.” Now that is a hard question to answer on the fly. But I have found that it has served me well to learn or know the answer to it, before I went on a job interview – it prepared me to answer many of the questions asked above.

    The exceptional community college job search coach I talked with, after I returned from getting my BA at a university, also suggested engaging in informational interviewing and asking a version of the above question to potential empolyers in the field. “What 3-5 skills do you consider important for people in this job to have, and why?” When I did just that many years ago, I learned an incredible amount. I asked for a few minutes on the phone with several PR managers in a particular PR field, I was not asking for a job, just for information. While the answers varied, they often fell along similar lines.

    The answers would be different today than they were then, but I was then able to do a couple of things

    1) Decide if my skills did in deed fit this type of job, or this aspect of the job, and if not, either shift my job search focus,or gain the needed skills set. (It helped me think through the questions: did I fit into the media relations side of PR/Marketing/Communications, the marketing side, the publications side or the client relations side; and was I looking to work in Corporate or non-profit PR jobs; or to get into large or small agency work.

    Many folks looking for a job, especially early in a career, will take ANY job, but it helps to make sure the job is a fit for your skills & personality, and to ask yourself – is this an industry/company/department/boss I want to work for?

    2) It also allowed me to sort out the top two answers I’d been given – that also fit my skill set, and prepare answers to that question for myself. The tip I was given was to identify each skill, and find a brief, accurate example that shows that I know how to use that skill. The third skill the people would list almost always varied – so I selected one that was sited several times, and that also fit my skill set and would include it too. You can also do the same thing with each item on your resume – item –> skill –> example of how you used skill successfully.

    In my 1st big job interview, the interviewer was not the greatest, unlike the folks in the video above. His question was, “So…tell me about yourself.” Most people’s instinct would be to list the items on their resume – I actually listed the three skills that, from my research, I thought fit the job, and why I was good at them. We discussed a few things. then he asked if I had any questions. I asked him the question – what 3-5 skills are needed for this job, he offered back two of the items I had focused on early in the interview. I then asked a question about an upcoming project (I learned about it during my research) that the company was going to be involved in.

    The applicant list went from 216 resumes, to 16 interviews, to 2 candidates, to me getting the job. I have put this question to good use in my 18 + years in PR.

    I agree with Allan Schoenberg above that researching the company before the interview can be crucial to showing that you stand above the crowd. Most people don’t do this step.

    And I agree with Barbara, that being involved in the business aspects of Social Media may help someone out of college land a job – as it is completely new territory to many of the folks out there hiring. I will warn folks to gauge the initial response to your mention of social media before you wax to poetic about what you have done. There are still some companies, industries and individuals who are still in an old-school mode – who don’t yet “get” the potential of SM, think it is a fad, or to whom it is just a bunch of jargon. If they frown when you mention it – be sure to keep your SM info short, simple and/or site a concrete example of how it was successful.

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  15. Barbara, I find it hard to limit it to just one and I always ask these three questions:

    1. What do you know about us? This is somewhat of a trick question. Just visiting our web site is not enough. I want to know what other research you did. Did you look us up on Google finance? Did you actually talk to people who may know about us and if so who? Did you do a Technorati search? How many stories did you read and what topics were they about? You talk about research throughout school so show me that you can really do research.

    2. Tell me about a project that challenged you and how it turned out. Okay, so that’s not really a question, but I want you to walk me through an issue in your school, internships, projects, etc. and how you worked through them. This helps me see how you reacted and what you learned, and yes, I will ask several questions about this project so be prepared.

    3. Do you have any questions for me? I actually asked a candidate this once — a good candidate — and she said, “You know, not really”. Well, you know, I really don’t want to hire you. This is your opportunity to challenge me and know more about the place where you are going to work. Come prepared with good questions about the company, our industry, access to people, job duties, success (and failure) factors, etc. I can almost tell from this part of the interview who I want to hire and who I don’t.

    • Allan

      Thanks so much for sharing another three good questions to be prepared for. I know I have been asked ALL of them at one point or another in my job searches over the years. I appreciate you taking the time to comment here!


  16. […] Barbara Nixon put an interesting video on her blog, titled “A minute with Phil” which asks PR […]

  17. […] Kennedy of Career Treking was recently quoted by Heather Huhman on a blog titled “College seniors can thrive in the challenging job market” saying,  “starting a career in a recession is like starting a marathon running uphill,” […]

  18. To be honest alot of those questions overwhelmed me. I’ve always prided myself in having good interview skills and being prepared while being interviewed however if I were asked any of those things I would go blank. Are there sites or magazines or books that I should be reading or be more accoustomed to seeing that will better prepare me for what PR firms might be looking for? Or is it that I’m still a sophomore and I’m not quite there yet as far as the job market is concerned?

    • Lauren,

      If you’re overwhelmed at hearing the questions, you’re in good company. Many of the seniors I’ve taught at GSU are overwhelmed, too. By getting involved in social media as part of your curriculum early, you’ll have a leg up on the competition when it comes time for you to interview for jobs or internships.