Interview Question: "What Are Your Job Expectations?"

Jamie Birt

Updated May 23, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

During an interview, there are a variety of questions a potential employer may ask. One such question is “What are your job expectations?” Answering this question correctly requires you to understand the true context of the response the employer is looking for.

In this article, we discuss why employers ask about your job expectations and how to answer this question with sample answers and tips.

Why employers ask about your job expectations

There are several things an employer may look for when asking what your job expectations are. What they want to hear in your answer varies based on the context of the question. When employers ask about your job expectations, their real question may be:

  • “What were your job expectations in your previous role, and how did you meet or exceed those expectations?”

  • “What are your expectations from us as an employer concerning work environment, culture and growth?”

  • “What is your understanding of our expectations for this position?”

Related: How To Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview

How to answer questions about job expectations

Follow these steps to provide a winning answer to a question about your job expectations:

1. Determine the true question

The first step to answering “What are your job expectations?” correctly is determining the actual question the interviewer is asking. Use context clues from your conversation to determine what the interviewer is asking when formulating your response.

2. Answer honestly

When you are answering this interview question, it is important to be truthful. Providing an honest answer to this question helps the interviewer determine whether you are a good fit for their team.

If the interviewer is asking about expectations in your prior role, avoid the temptation to exaggerate your responsibilities. If the interviewer is asking what you expect from them as an employer, you should identify the things that are most important to your job satisfaction. If the interviewer is asking for your understanding of the expectations for this role, use your own words to explain the job duties based on the job description.

Related: How to Ask About Advancement Opportunities During an Interview

3. Keep the answer positive

It is essential to keep all your answers optimistic during an interview. You should always reflect on positive experiences and the things you liked most about your previous positions and avoid discussing areas of stress or concern in your previous roles. Staying upbeat about your prior experiences shows the interviewer you can reflect on the positives in any situation and assures them you won’t speak negatively about their company later.

4. Answer directly with specific details

It is crucial to answer questions about job expectations both directly and specifically. Answering this question using precise details ensures there is a clear understanding between you and the employer of both your and their expectations. If the interviewer is asking about your prior job expectations, identify a specific scenario that shows how you met or exceeded expectations. If the interviewer is asking what you expect from them, briefly explain why the factors you choose are important to you.

Example answers to “What are your job expectations?”

Here are sample answers for “What are your job expectations?” in various interview contexts:

Questions about prior job expectations

“One expectation my previous employer had for me as a senior sales representative was that I would display my leadership abilities through special projects and tasks. I met this expectation. For example, my employer chose me to be an onboarding coach for newly hired sales representatives. In this role, I provided new sales representatives with feedback and coaching while also continuing to meet the expectations for my role.”

This answer is strong because it shows you met the expectations your employer had of you for your job duties but also that they trusted choosing you for special projects and tasks that allowed you to display leadership abilities. You support the answer with a specific example of what the expectation was and how you met that expectation.

Questions about your expectations for the company

“My expectations for the company would be to provide a work environment in which I can contribute to the team, I receive appreciation for my contributions, I have job stability and the ability to grow with the company. Specifically, I look forward to providing the legal team with the support they need while I am in the role of receptionist. However, I also look forward to advancing to the role of a paralegal once I finish my degree.”

This answer is strong because it shows the employer you expect to be a valuable team member and that you also plan to stay with their company as your career grows.

Questions about your understanding of the company’s expectations of you

“My understanding of the expectations of this role, based on the job description and our conversation, is that the company wants me to meet specific sales goals and targets while also providing customer support to existing clients. I have proven my ability to meet and exceed sales expectations in my previous role by consistently being a top-performer while also maintaining strong and loyal customer relationships to prevent cancelations.”

This answer is strong because it shows you understand what the employer expects of a successful candidate and provides supporting information about how you have proven your ability to meet those expectations in a previous role.

Tips for answering “What are your job expectations?”

Here are some tips for answering interview questions about your expectations for the job:

Know the job description

Reading the job description to get an understanding of the employer’s expectations of a successful candidate can help you plan answers that specifically address what the employer is looking for and highlight you as the best candidate for the position.

Have specific answers prepared

Knowing the specific areas you want to focus on questions about job expectations before your interview can help you provide the best answer. Think about the things your previous employers have expected from you, how you met or exceeded those expectations, what you expect from an employer and what you understand the expectations of you would be in the role you are applying for.

Be realistic

It is important to answer questions about job expectations realistically. If the interviewer is asking about expectations you’ve had for prior positions, you want to answer in a manner that sets realistic expectations for you in your new role. If the interviewer is asking what you expect from your prospective employer, it is equally vital for you to have realistic expectations that they can meet.

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