What to say in a job interview: 8 bosses share the one question they ask candidates

Job interviews are damn scary and job interview questions can be particularly terrifying.

Even if you’re a seasoned pro, you’re probably familiar with that bottom of the belly nervous energy kinda feeling when you’re asked something you’re not prepared for.

Don’t know about you, but sometimes we just wish we could climb inside our potential employer’s brain and find out exactly what they’re thinking.

Here’s how an interview for reality TV would go. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Businessman Mark Bouris gave an interview this week where he told the interviewer his number one interview question is: “What can you do for me?”

So, while we were searching the corners of our brain as to how the heck we’d answer that cleverly worded question, we got greedy.

We’ve asked some of the most fabulous female bosses in Australia to give us their banger question – the one they ask that’s either going to seal the deal or make it fall apart.

You’ll notice a very strong theme in the answers you’re about to read which we’re definitely not complaining about – at least we know what answers to prep.


Mia Freedman, co-founder Mamamia.

“I rarely ask ‘proper’ interview questions because by the time I meet someone it’s usually the second or even third interview and they’ve been pretty well vetted by other people in our business. I tend to just ask whatever I’m curious about. ‘Why did you leave your last job?’ or anything really because I like to get a sense of someone. Are they engaged and engaging? Do they seem like someone I could communicate easily with?

“I’ve learned that anything that you really notice in an interview – if someone is quite cold or if they have little self-awareness and just talk incessantly without reading the room – these are the things that amplify a thousand times when you’re working together and rarely in a good way. You have to look past the nerves that are understandable in an interview situation which is why I try to just get them talking about different things.

“Then of course I go and lightly stalk them on social. You learn a lot about people that way too.”

Mia Freedman
Mia Freedman, co-founder of Mamamia.

Alyce Tran, co-founder The Daily Edited.

"I always ask why the candidate is leaving their current role. I like to know we can actually offer the candidate what they are looking for in a role and ensure we are on the same page."

Alyce Tran, co-founder of The Daily Edited.

Roxy Jacenko, founder Sweaty Betty PR.

"WHY do you want to work here – what is it that makes this agency the agency for YOU?

"I want them to be able to understand the dynamic mix of our clients as well as the different businesses that sit under the one roof and how they can complement each other. I also want to hear that they are driven by success - hard working and results driven and that they are excited to be amongst a fast paced ever changing environment where there is always space to learn and grow."

Roxy Jacenko
Roxy Jacenko runs multiple businesses. Image: Supplied.

Jane Lu, CEO Showpo.

"I do love the classic 'what's your strengths and weakness' question, but you always get the usual answers like 'I'm a perfectionist', 'I care too much, it's hard for me to let go' (eye roll).

"So what I normally ask is 'when we call your manager for a reference, what would they say you need to work on?' Not only does this ensure a more honest response, but is a good reflection on their level of self-awareness."

Jane Lu, CEO of Showpo
Jane Lu, CEO of Showpo. Image: Supplied.

Clare Stephens, editor at Mamamia.

"What's the biggest mistake you've made at work, and what did you learn from it?


"Asking people for the biggest stuff up they've ever had at work and what they learnt from it forces people to be honest and show vulnerability. Everyone has done something really, really silly, and so it's about being able to identify one of those times, consider how it impacted the people around you, and consider what you could've done differently.

"It's definitely not an opportunity to blame anyone else or put them down, but to acknowledge that none of us are perfect."

Clare Stephens, editor Mamamia.
Clare Stephens, editor Mamamia.

Irene Falcone, founder Nourished Life.

"My #1 question is tell me about a time where you made a big mistake...."

Irene Falcone, founder Nourished Life.

Jessica Travers, Consumer Marketing Manager, M-A-C Cosmetics.

Jessica travers
Jessica Travers, MAC Consumer Marketing Manager. Image: Supplied.

"I always like to wrap-up an interview by asking a prospective candidate to share three words their friends or family would use to describe them.

"When hiring I am mindful of finding someone who has the technical experience and capabilities to fill the role, but is also a good cultural fit and someone I know myself and the team can work with every day.

"Often in interviews candidates are so focused on communicating their technical experience you don’t get a good gauge of who they are as a person, work aside.

"I find this question often relaxes them, pulls them out of ‘work mode’ and helps me understand them a little more. Their response is always a personal interpretation of their own best qualities, which is great as it really highlights for me the qualities they value in themselves or really people in general."

Kristina Karlsson, founder Kikki.K.

Kristina Karlsson, founder Kikki.K. Image: Instagram.

“I always ask people ‘What are you most passionate about?’ because I truly believe that you have to be completely passionate about what you want your career and life to look like.

"We are all responsible for creating our own dream life, including our work, and if you love what you’re doing you’ll be far more driven to making your dreams a reality.”


Looking to change jobs? Find more expert advice in our ultimate guide to getting the job of your dreams: