If you could start your career over again, what direction would you take?
How to Answer
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How to Answer
A hiring manager will be able to tell a lot about your personality by learning about your other career interests. This is not a way of showing that you are dissatisfied in what you do but rather a way to showcase your many passions. If you could do anything over, what would you do, and why?
"I certainly do not regret the direction I have taken my career; however, if I had to completely start over in a new direction I would likely pursue a degree in creative writing and become a writer. Both of my parents were writers and they seemed to have a very fulfilling career. I do currently write for an educational blog which has been a great outlet for my creativity."
"I am very satisfied with the direction my career has taken. If I could change anything I would perhaps have furthered my education to include a Masters' degree. It's not too late, maybe I will apply for a program in the future."
It's always a great idea to have questions ready for the interviewer. Review the company website and other online resources to ensure the questions you are asking are not mundane, or redundant. The last thing an interviewer wants to hear is a list of questions you could have found the answers to from a simple Google search. It's also a good idea to write your questions down and review them before the interview.
"Here are some sample questions:
- When would you like to have this position filled?
- How long has this role been vacant?
- Is this a replacement search or a newly created role?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What is a project you have completed here that you are really proud of?
- What is the facility's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months?
- What is a new trend in education that you are excited about?
- Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you?
- What do you see as the biggest change in the publishing industry over the past 3 years?
- Is there any reason why you would not hire me?"
"Thank you for asking - I do have a few questions. What is top of mind when it comes to filling this role? In addition, what types of career growth opportunities would follow this position? And lastly, do you have internal candidates who are also interviewing for this position?"
Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn't know from reading your resume.
How to Answer
You have completed 0 answers.
How to Answer
The interviewer would like to get to know you apart from what is written on your resume. The interviewer also wants to get a sense of how your personality would fit with the team. You are certainly not obligated to discuss personal matters such as your kids, or relationship status, for instance. Stick with a couple of fun facts to show the interviewer that you are a real person, too. Your answer should be unique so that you are a memorable candidate!
Focus on special non-work related skills or hobbies. For example, you might share that you enjoy beat-boxing, making origami swans or mountain climbing. Be prepared for the interviewer to stop you and ask you to perform your skill on the spot when it's possible! (This will make you unforgettable!)
"I am an avid marathon runner and have traveled to 10 countries in the last 8 years to compete in a variety of races. I am a competitive individual and enjoy keeping fit. At my last job I started a running club, it was fun to share my passion with my coworkers."
"I am bilingual in Spanish and have some proficiency in French and Italian, too. I love learning new languages. I also am a huge Harry Potter fan and could pretty much quote each book to you! Reading books is such a great way to unwind."
Are you someone who is able to handle stress on the job? How do you manage the stressful times? Handling stress is an important ability to have in the workplace. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to manage pressure in the workplace.
"I handle stress very well and when you call my references, they will attest to this fact. When I am under pressure on the job, I focus on the task at hand and make sure to not get distracted. Staying on deadline is very helpful and I will delegate when necessary to alleviate some stress. I also keep a detailed tracker of all my work so that I don't miss anything."
"Stress is part of any demanding job and I embrace it to the fullest. I take good care of myself personally by getting enough sleep and eating well and I prioritize my workload to maintain a healthy balance in my stress levels."
The best way to discuss your salary expectations are to use your current earnings as an example. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise. Make sure that you also research the role, if a salary range is mentioned, try to fit within that range.
"Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year plus a potential 20% annual bonus. Last year my earnings were $52,000 and I would like to stay in the same range or slightly higher. I also want the opportunity to eventually apply for management roles."
"I am currently making $60,000 per year as a Sales Rep which includes my commission. I am looking for compensation that is aligned with the role and provides opportunity for growth."
6. What leadership qualities do you possess? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wants to hire employees who make great leaders. Think about your role as a leader. What qualities made you the leader that you are today? How do you define leadership? Here is an answer example: "Here are a few to get you started
- Being someone who people naturally want to follow
- Exceptional interpersonal skills
- Strong relationship building skills
- Taking ownership for the team's errors and mistakes
- Excelling at motivating others
- Providing kudos to your team
- Allowing your team to provide feedbac
- Knowing how to select and hire the right people to join the team
- Having a vision for the future" Here is an answer example: "I possess great leadership qualities that include diligence, tenacity, and open communication. I use open communication with my team by having an 'open door policy'. I look forward to taking these skills to work for you!"7. How do you define success? What does success mean to you? Tell the interviewer how you see success and be sure to tie your answer into the success that you plan to bring to this particular position, should you be offered the role. Here is an answer example: "I define success by my ability to reach the goals that are set out for me. On a personal level, the things I wish to achieve in my life. On a work level, the targets that are set out for me as well as the professional development that I seek. An example of this is if I can grade all of my papers ahead of time, that's a win in my book." Here is an answer example: "I define success by what we achieve as a team. The department, as a whole, needs to deliver on expectations before I consider anything a success."8. Do you think honesty is always the best policy? Is honesty always the best policy? Your interviewer wants to know that you are trustworthy but is also curious if being honest is always appropriate. Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on honesty in the workplace. Here is an answer example: "Sometimes full disclosure can damage someone's self esteem, and reality isn't always best expressed in full and can be self-indulgent based on the person's intention. In those instances, honesty isn't always the best policy." Here is an answer example: "Honesty is always the best policy. Often times, it is just a matter of how you communicate and deliver your message so managing this with each situation is critical to building honest and trustworthy relationships. I always want others to be honest with me, so I owe it to them to be honest."9. List the top 3 skills that you have acquired in your last role. You have likely gained many valuable skills in your career. Share with the interviewer which skills you value the most. Be sure to include skills that will benefit this potential new employer. Think about the description for the role you are applying to, how would your skills make you a good fit? Here is an answer example: "In the past few years I was able to upgrade my education while still working full time. I am proud to say that I now have my Masters degree. The biggest skill that I gained was my ability to multi-task as I worked the dual role of employee and student. In my role as HR Generalist I have gained leadership skills and improved my communication with others." Here is an answer example: "My last role was very challenging and was a big step in my career. The top 3 skills that I acquired would be my student relationship skills, clear communication skills, and ability to prioritize. These are all skills that I want to bring to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt."10. Do you always double check or proofread your work? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a publishing company, they want to produce the highest quality content that is error free. Double checking and proofreading are very important parts of a job well done. Assure the interviewer that you are diligent when it comes to submitting good, clean, work. Here is an answer example: "Spelling and grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine. I will triple check my work if there is time! I feel that it is very important to submit error free work." Here is an answer example: "I am so accustomed to working under pressure and tight deadlines that I do forget to double check my work at times. This is a habit that I have consciously been working on to improve. One way that I have gotten better at this is by walking away from my project for a few minutes and then coming back to it with fresh eyes."11. How do you like to encourage ideas in others? Encouragement to others is a great skill to possess and it is necessary when working with a team. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to encourage creative ideas in your team members. Try to think of an example when you helped a coworker and what the outcome was. Here is an answer example: "I like to encourage other people to be creative in their thinking and present ideas to their classrooms, no matter how off the wall they may seem, I let them know that there is no such thing as bad ideas. Some of our most successful teachers are ones who are confident in their ability to bring forward their unique ideas. I encourage participation through an open door policy and strong praise for those who show initiative." Here is an answer example: "I encourage my employees to tap into the best parts of themselves. It helps to ask probing questions to get them to generate ideas on their own, sometimes I will even hold a brief brainstorming meeting with my team. If you paint a long term vision for where you want to go towards, you will be surprised at the creative solutions your team will come up with to get you there. My team works the best when we are all on the same page and working for a common goal."12. Give an example of when you used your listening skills to solve a problem. The interviewer wants to see that you have strong listening skills. Being a good listener is critical to working in a team environment. They want to see that you aren't the type to interrupt before hearing your co-workers out. When it comes to using your listening skills while receiving direction from your employer, asking for clarification can save you a lot of grief down the road!
Show that you are one to check for full understanding when you are navigating new territory. Highlight to the interviewer that you are the type to attentively listen and troubleshoot problems in a collaborative style. You can also give an example that demonstrates how you avoided miscommunication by using your stellar listening skills! Here is an answer example: "Someone with good listening skills will:
- Give the speaker their full attention
- Maintain proper eye contact
- Show invested interest by nodding or agreeing
- Avoid interrupting
- Take notes if needed
- Ask followup questions
- Make statements such as 'If I am understanding you correctly...' or 'Do you mean that you want...'
- Ask for clarification if needed " Here is an answer example: "My current principal is very brief in her communication and sometimes it creates confusion within the faculty. Last month she asked me to run a report on a student whose parents she was meeting with the next day. I wasn't entirely sure that I understood what she was asking. After she finished telling me what she was looking for, I repeated it back to her. I will often use qualifying questions such as, 'So what you're asking is...?' or 'Do you mean that you want me to do (X)?' This seems to avoid a lot of unnecessary problems down the road. It also shows her that I am listening and giving her my full attention. Sometimes the biggest thing is that we want to feel like our voice is being heard."13. How do you believe you will complement our department, if you were hired? If you were awarded the position, what would you bring to the department or organization? How do your skills and experience benefit the company? Assure the interviewer that you are the right fit for this position. Here is an answer example: "If I were hired, I feel that I would complement your department in a few significant ways. First I am a fast learner and I already bring 6 years' experience in the education industry. The time to train me will be reduced. Also, I have contributed to textbooks in the past and I am confident in my ability to offer new insights." Here is an answer example: "If I were hired, I will complement your department by adding value to the pressing initiatives you have prioritized. I have been in a leadership role for the past 5 years. I am excited to share my knowledge when it comes to cross-departmental efforts."14. When entering a new job, describe how you build relationships with your new coworkers and supervisors. Due to a wide variety of personalities, relationships can take time to form. How do you ensure that you have a strong line of communication with your co-workers and supervisors, right from the start? Here is an answer example: "I understand that some relationships come quickly and others take time to nurture. When starting a new job all that I can do is be my true self and let my personality, integrity, and reliability speak for itself. I have found that my coworkers value this and I am able to more easily connect with them." Here is an answer example: "I get along well with most personalities. My colleagues were great team players and we would often meet up after work for drinks or team activities. I would simply start there, when starting a new job. Becoming involved in post-work activities and continuing to be the social person that I am. I am also not afraid to introduce myself and start up a conversation by the water cooler, it's important to know who you work with and really feel like you are part of a team."15. Why do you want this job with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt? If you are lucky enough to land an interview, make some effort and conduct research on the opportunity. Think about how this job will help you in your career. It's important for you to know not only what you have to offer them, but what they can do for you. Research their history and values. This is your time to show that you have a true interest in the company and have taken the time to research them.
While your passion and excitement about the job are important, it's always good to have some hard facts to back it up. For instance, saying 'I have heard great things about your institution and I know I would be a great fit for this job', is not very specific. Instead say a current project they completed or one of their company values that you really like. If you find recent news articles or press releases which talk about their accomplishments, mention how that impressed you. Here is an answer example: "I am excited about this opportunity because your values are very much in line with mine. Especially your value of helping local communities. I deeply care about giving back to the community through educating our at-risk youth." Here is an answer example: "I have had my eye on new openings at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for some time now. Your reputation for employee development and community involvement is something that I admire. I see a long term fit here."16. At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt we are committed to an excellence in learning and we put a strong emphasis on continued education. We believe that there is always more to learn. How do you feel about continued education? Of course education is important when you are working in the education industry! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt encourages their employees to explore their passions and engage with their communities. Assure the interviewer that you are not resistant to continued education. Perhaps there is a course, program, or workshop that you are personally interested in? Discuss with the interviewer your passion for education. Here is an answer example: "I wholeheartedly agree that education is incredibly important. We can always learn more! Personally, I like to take a short course or workshop 3-4 times per year. These courses have included integrating technology in the classroom, leadership skills, and mentorship related training." Here is an answer example: "Continued education is imperative to my growth as an education professional. I feel strongly about continuing to grow my knowledge in this industry. As a science educator I always try to attend conferences to expand my knowledge and inspire me. Could you give me some examples of the ways that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt emphasizes continued education in its employees?"17. Tell me about your greatest work related accomplishment. Talking about your greatest accomplishment will give the interviewer a strong idea of where you place your values. It will also show the interviewer more about your personality, how you like to be motivated, and how to coach you in the future. It is okay to brag a little bit when answering this question. Show that you are proud of yourself and your career accomplishments! Here is an answer example: "The greatest accomplishment in my career was graduating University as an honors student while still working full time as a copy editor. I was top of my class, and working full time. This showed me that I am able to dedicate myself to my career, and reach the goals that I set for myself. It felt great to accomplish so much and be recognized for my dedication. It also taught me the importance of time management." Here is an answer example: "I have many accomplishments that I am very proud of. Overall, I would say that my greatest work accomplishment is the positive reputation that I have as an educator. My students, parents of students and coworkers have recognized that I am hardworking and passionate about what I do. Reputation is everything and I am proud of mine."18. When have you had to adapt to change? Being able to adapt to change in the workplace is a very important skill to possess. Talk to the interviewer about a time when you have had to adjust to changes on the job. How did you handle the change? Was it a positive reaction? What did you learn from it? Here is an answer example: "I feel that educators adapt to change on a daily basis! The vibe in the classroom is different every day, student moods and efforts vary as well. I am always willing to change up my lesson plan and improvise if needed. I am well accustomed to working in a changing environment." Here is an answer example: "After being a dedicated mathematics teacher for the past 10 years, I was asked to take on a new focus this coming year. I am currently prepping myself to teach chemistry as well. It's been a challenge but I am actually really excited for the change. As educators I think we need to embrace change and always be willing to do what it takes to help our students succeed."19. Tell me about an organization or group outside of work that you contributed to. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is dedicated to giving back to local communities and encourages their employees to volunteer and follow their passions. In addition, many hiring managers will choose one candidate over another because of their volunteer experience. They feel that it shows strong character and selflessness...all qualities that make a great employee. Talk to the interviewer about your willingness to give back to your community in some form of volunteerism. If you do not have formal volunteer experience you can draw on things you do in your spare time to assist friends, family, or even your current employer. Here is an answer example: "For the past 8 months I have volunteered every Wednesday evening at our local animal shelter. I will help with grooming the animals, feeding them, and walking them. It's been a really fun experience and rewarding at the same time. It has also made me more patient and empathetic." Here is an answer example: "I have not formally volunteered in these most recent years, however; I spend a lot of time helping my sister who is a single mom. I will babysit on weekends, cook dinners for her and drive the kids to appointments when necessary. I feel that it is very important to take care of the needs of family. I read that your company encourages employees to get engaged and volunteer, that is definitely something I want to get involved in."20. Private and franchised adult learning institutions have greatly increased in popularity over the years. Do you see value in these institutions? Why or why not? The topic of franchised adult learning institutions can be a controversial one! When you are asked to discuss a controversial topic in an interview it is best to avoid any offending statements or pushing any buttons. Remember that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt creates materials that are used in both private and public institutions. Give a rather cooled opinion on both sides and leave it at that. Here is an answer example: "I can understand the draw when it comes to franchised adult learning institutions. Not everyone can attend University right out of High School and many have the option to return to school later on in life. In my opinion, continued Education is important. As long as the courses being offered are legitimate ones, who am I to stand in the way?" Here is an answer example: "I primarily support traditional learning that comes from a University or long-standing College. I feel that the coursework is more likely to be recognized. I would not like to see someone complete a diploma at a franchised institution just to later find out that their courses are not recognized. If they can guarantee course credit recognition, then that is great. I am also all for people reaching their goals and getting the education that they need."21. Do you prefer working by yourself or on a team? The interviewer wants to get a better sense of how you work. Think about the role you are applying for, if it involves working closely with a team you may not want to say 'I would much rather work by myself.' Be honest with yourself but also let the interviewer know that you are flexible. Here is an answer example: "I prefer working on a team. At my current company I work closely with five other coworkers in the HR Department. When things get overwhelming we always have each others back. Whenever I have had a question, it is so nice to be able to talk with my coworker about it. I am a team player and I know how important it is to help others and work towards a common goal." Here is an answer example: "I currently work alone as a freelancer. I can work well with little supervision and I always meet my deadlines. However, I would really like the chance to work on a team. Collaborating is so important for improving your writing and I know that I could learn so much by working with others."22. If you could be a subject matter expert in any subject of your choice, which would you choose? Talk to the interviewer about the topics that pique your interest the most. If you could immerse yourself in a particular subject, what would it be and why? You can make your answer a bit lighthearted and personal if you wish. This is your chance to show the interviewer more about who you are as a person. Here is an answer example: "Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated with mechanics and design. I would build models of airplanes and cars in my room for hours at a time. I still have a very keen interest in design so I would say that if I could be a subject matter expert on any topic - I would choose mechanical engineering. I am actually signing up for a massive open online course on mechanical engineering that starts next week, I am excited." Here is an answer example: "That's a great question! In my spare time I do a lot of reading on socioeconomic related matters. I would love to be seen as a subject matter expert in how the effects of race and social standing directly impact career choice variables. I think understanding more about it will also make me a better educator. It's all very fascinating to me."23. Here at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt we are committed to developing the best educational resources. What is an educational resource that you have personally used or used in the classroom that was successful? For more than 180 years, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been dedicated to helping people learn by developing quality educational content. They want to hire people who share this passion and know the value of creating the best materials for different learners. Have you used a great textbook in the classroom? Did you ever use a supplemental guide in college that helped you get through a tough class? Share how the resource helped you and why resources like these are important. Here is an answer example: "I teach eighth grade English and we recently switched to a new textbook. It has made a huge difference! The chapters are well organized, have great graphic organizers and include questions that help the learners connect the material to their lives outside of the classroom. It's amazing what a difference a textbook can make. That is why I am excited about this opportunity at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt." Here is an answer example: "For example: "I can use my son as an example for this question. He has never been that excited about reading, but then he did a Curious George reading program, which is a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt product. The materials were well made, and caught my son's attention. The program got him excited about reading!"24. At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt we seek to hire those who are passionate about education. How would you describe your teaching or working style? If you have ever heard of an 'Elevator Pitch' - this type of interview question is a great reason to have one! Why do you love what you do? What makes you the best, and most engaged, potential hire for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt? Briefly discuss your working or teaching style and close by giving an example of a time when you were recognized for your work. Here is an answer example: "Education has been my pure passion ever since I started my first teaching job in 2004. There are endless ways that a person can educate another person so I would describe my teaching style as fluid. I will adapt to the needs of my student as much as possible. I also pride myself on creating engaging and challenging lesson plans for my students. My students consistently send me accolades for my work and I often hear from them even after they have completed my class." Here is an answer example: "Here are some keys to effective teaching or working that you can draw on, for your response:
- Willing to pass on knowledge
- Ability to give constructive feedback
- Continued learner
- Genuine"25. In our industry, your day may not be a typical 8AM - 4PM. Are you willing to work overtime and participate in extra-curricular activities? The education industry is often in demand, even outside of typical school hours and activities. If you have restrictions in your schedule, this is a great time to address those restrictions. Here is an answer example: " I understand that this job will require tight deadlines that will sometimes need to be done past 5pm. I am available and committed to working when needed. I would also be happy to take overtime with some notice if possible." Here is an answer example: "I do take an evening course every Thursday at my college, so I would not be available for additional hours those days. Other than that, I am happy to make myself available as often as possible."26. At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we seek to hire individuals who are always curious. It's our curiosity that leads us to create the best educational content. Why do you think curiosity is important? The best way to answer a question like this is to give a clear and concise example of how curiosity has led you towards creating something great. What is something that you recently wanted to explore more? Why is it important to be creative in the workplace? Brainstorm some examples that show off your ability to think outside of the box. Here is an answer example: "I think that is so important to be curious. Without curiosity, innovations are not possible. When I write my lesson plans I am not afraid to think of new ways to engage my students. Just the other day, I had my students do a scavenger hunt in the classroom using an augmented reality app. I think it so important to not be stagnant in my work, if hired I would bring my sense of curiosity to the company." Here is an answer example: "I believe being curious is a must-have trait for anyone wishing to succeed in the field of education and publishing. Students deserve the best content and that is not possible unless we as educators constantly work to think of new and better ways to deliver their material. That's why I always try to stay up to date with trends in the education field. I want to produce relevant lesson plans and assessments for my students "27. Tell me about a teacher, leader, or mentor who affected your life in a positive way. When you work in the Education industry it is important to understand the difference that a strong leader and mentor can make in the life of a student. Talk to the interviewer briefly about someone who may have helped you along the way. Does anyone influential come to mind? Maybe it's a teacher you had in elementary school or your softball coach, it can even be a previous boss. Here is an answer example: "In my elementary years I had some trouble with reading. My grade 2 teacher was a very patient and kind person who went above her duties by giving me additional resources. Because she was generous with her time and efforts, I was exceeding grade level expectations in no time. In addition to catching up academically, I was able to gain a lot of personal confidence. She taught me how important it is to be compassionate and patient." Here is an answer example: "I believe that every teacher and leader that I have had has played their own part in positively affecting my life. From a young age I have been lucky enough to have excellent mentors who wanted to invest in my future. In particular, an English professor I had in college really made a big impact in my life. He took out so much of his time to help me develop myself as a writer."28. Take a few minutes to walk me through your post-secondary education. Your post-secondary education is likely listed on your resume; however, this is an opportunity to talk to the interviewer about your overall experience. Discuss any accolades and special recognition you may have received. You can also discuss a class, a project or an internship that impacted you the most during that time. Here is an answer example: "I graduated with a Bachelor's of English in 2006. My experience in that program was great! I even gained experience in copy editing by working on the school paper. Even though I worked part time, I was still able to make the Dean's list, received a partial scholarship and graduated top of my class." Here is an answer example: "In 2009 I completed my Bachelor's of Education and immediately followed that with a Masters' Degree in Curriculum. I am very proud of my educational background and am happy with the opportunities that this level of education has allowed me. I would love to continue this education down the road to include a Doctorate. There is so much more to learn!"29. At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt we do full background checks on all of our employees. Are you willing to comply? This is where you must disclose to the interviewer if you do not have a clean criminal background. Discuss with the interviewer your willingness to comply and be sure to disclose any pain points ahead of time. It is better they find any marks on your record directly from you and not when they run the background check! Here is an answer example: "Yes, I am happy to comply with any criminal, financial, and educational related background checks that you require. I am happy to say that my record is clean." Here is an answer example: "I am more than willing to comply with any criminal, financial, and educational related background check that you require. The majority will come back clean; however, I should disclose to you that I have a DUI charge from 7 years ago that may come up. I have been cleared of charges now and my drivers' license has been reinstated. It was definitely a learning experience."
Author of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Answers and Questions
Carly Zucker is an Instructional Designer who creates training for higher education, K-12 and organizations. She also has a background in corporate recruiting. With her experience, she enjoys creating fun and engaging material for her learners. When she is not kayaking or trying a new restaurant, she is writing about exciting innovations in education.
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