Attention: job hunters. Don’t freak out, but there’s more to the standard interview questions than you may know. 

Richard Bolles is the author of “What Color is Your Parachute?” And he says that employers don't really want to know about your past. They’re only asking about it to help them predict your future on-the-job behavior. So here’s how to help tailor your answers to reveal what interviews really want to know:

For example:  

  • First: When they ask, “So why did you leave your last job?” They’re asking because they’re worried you don't get along with people, especially supervisors. And they want to see if you’ll bad-mouth them. So even if you quit because of your demon boss, never mention it. Instead, stress your love of “teamwork” and how good you are at handling a variety of different personalities. 

  • Another common interview question decoded: “What kind of work are you looking for?” They want to make sure you’re not looking for a job different than the position they’re trying to fill. For example, they’re looking for an assistant, but your answers reveal if you actually want to be a manager. So point blank say why your skills make you a perfect match for the position, like “My strong communication skills and years of experience in the hospitality industry make me a perfect match for your hotel’s front desk position.”  

  • Then what should you say if they ask “Why are there gaps in your work history?” What they really want to know is if you’ll quit the minute things get hard or if you’re a job hopper who isn’t invested in what they’re doing. So give examples of constructive things you did between jobs, like “I was downsized at my last job and have been unemployed for five months. Since then, I started an industry blog and enrolled in a marketing course.”  

  • And when hiring managers ask “What’s your greatest weakness?” They really do want you to blurt out flaws, like “I hold grudges.” But don’t fall for it. Instead, say something constructive like “I’m constantly looking for ways to improve or do things more effectively.” Then give an example of a past shortcoming and how you resolved it.