Interview questions at Cengage

We analyzed 308 interview reviews for Cengage from various job sites, social network groups and forums.

Here are the most frequent job interview questions asked by HR managers during initial phone or onsite interviews. This list does not include technical or factual questions.

12 frequent non-technical questions at Cengage:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Tell me about yourself
What is your greatest weakness?
Walk me through your resume
Tell me about your work experience. What was the most interesting?
Tell me about a successful project you were involved in. What was your role? What was the result?
How would you describe yourself?
Describe the most challenging work problem you faced in your last job
What was the biggest mistake you made in your most recent job? How did you handle it?
What types of people do you find it difficult to get along with?
What skills are you looking to develop on your next job? Why?
What negative thing would your last boss say about you?

According to our research, hiring managers at Cengage ask soft skills interview questions 20% more than at other companies:

Cengage interview question statistics

1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?top question

How to answer

This question belongs to a family of behavioral, or even more precisely, reflective questions.

The interviewer wants to see whether you are reflective about yourself, whether you are ambitious and strive to grow as a professional, whether you like to learn and develop your skills.

They are also looking for your ambitions to fit the career path opportunities related to the position you are applying for.

  1. About Yourself

    Presumably, you are interested to grow professionally.

    Think about the possibilities that may lie ahead for you: take a personality test (I recommend 16Personalities which is based on Myers-Briggs test), research the internet on what career paths are possible with your skills and current job.

    What challenges do you like overcoming?

    For example, if you are applying for a software tester position, you may find it fascinating to master automated testing in full and eventually become a software engineer, or you may be a natural trainer and love coaching other people which may lead you to become a QA team or department lead, or you may be more interested in understanding business aspects of requirements which may logically lead you into a Business Analyst position.

    However, if you are happy just where you are and want to further your current skills, that is also fine as long as there is a growth path for you that can be imagined and described.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company to learn what career opportunities may be available in the department you are applying to, and what the trends are in the company in general.

    • Is the business expanding, are they opening new locations, or starting new projects?
    • Or are they heavily automating and cutting staff?

    Let’s say you are applying for a UX designer position for a brand-new product.

    In the future, if the product becomes a success - which is what the company hopes for - the company will hire more designers and you may become a lead designer, or you may become a product manager.

    On a side note: If you train your mind to be open to opportunities you will be amazed at how much this world has to offer to you!

  3. About The Fit

    And, of course, try to see where the perfect fit lies between your own potential and aspirations, and the company’s trends and hopes.

    However, beware of the risk of showing too much excitement for future opportunities compared to your attitude towards the current position.

    If you aren’t really excited about the position you are applying for and you demonstrate this lack of enthusiasm, the interviewer may conclude that you are not a good fit for the current position.

    Try to find a source of excitement in the current position as well, otherwise, you may be doing yourself a disservice by applying to a position you will find boring in 2-3 months.

Pro Tip

This question gives you a good opportunity to showcase your Key Selling Points (e.g. “As I am very good at delegating tasks, I can easily see myself leading a team of software testers in the future…”), and end your statement by asking about current initiatives and goals at the company.

It is generally NOT a good idea to say something like:

“Oh, I cannot imagine what happens to me tomorrow, let alone in 5 years”.

This will show you as a person who is unimaginative and not forward-thinking enough to grow with and be a good fit for the company.

Statistics

This question is asked 86% more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

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2. Tell me about yourself

How to answer

This question may sound vague, but it actually requires a matter of fact, concise and relevant answer. Here’s how you can approach it.

  1. About Yourself

    What is your current occupation? Define yourself professionally in one statement.

    Pick 3 key skills that make you great at your work (your Key Selling Points). How have you applied these skills?

    Try to give some numbers to support your statement.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company.

    Based on what you know about the company and the job description, why are you interested in the position you are applying for?

  3. About The Fit

    • Based on your Key Selling Points and your knowledge about the company, why do you think you are a good fit for this position?
    • Can you support your statement with relevant examples from your past experiences?

    Try to be concise and stay within 1-2 minutes.

Pro Tip

You can also end with a question like:

Do you know what the current needs in the company/department are, where my skills and experience can help?"

That can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

Read our blog post to learn more about how to answer this question.

Statistics

This question is asked 35% less frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

How to answer

This question ranks as the most challenging for many people. Fortunately, Mr. Simon is here to help!

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness, your honesty and openness, and your capability for self-improvement.

  1. About Yourself

    No one is perfect and your interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect either.

    While it is good to be honest and open, it will not help you to put yourself down.

    What's important is to find a weakness that you have overcome or something that is not related to the position for which you are applying.

    For example, one of our clients admitted that he is not very good at public speaking and that he has recently become a member of Toastmasters International to improve. What a respectful answer and approach, in my view!

  2. About The Company

    Research the company (website, social media, etc) to learn about the company culture.

    What personal and professional qualities do they value?

  3. About The Fit

    It is important that the weakness you decide to talk about is not one that will prevent you from performing the job for which you're applying.

    For example, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, do not talk about how you are struggling to understand HTML code.

Pro Tip

Use this question to sell yourself!

It's important to show how well you've overcome a weakness by motivating yourself and learning a new skill to grow professionally.

Statistics

This question is asked 2% less frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

4. Walk me through your resume

How to answer

This question is often asked at the beginning of the interview.

The interviewer wants to hear a brief overview, a summary of your professional experience, in order to have a starting point from which they can dig deeper.

Structuring your answer wisely gives you a good chance to emphasize your Key Selling Points and to channel the conversation in the direction you want.

  1. About Yourself

    Print out your resume. For each of your recent job experiences (at this point do not go back more than 5 years), write down 3-5 key points at which you feel you are strong.

    For example, for your current (or previous) job, you may want to list skills like “Excellent presentation skills,” “Employee Engagement guru,” “Analytical skills,” “Attention to detail” (they don’t have to be all soft skills, but being aware of at least a few of your strong soft skills is important). Make sure you have examples for each of your statements.

    If you have difficulties to think of these points, search online for job descriptions for similar job roles, and figure out which of those keywords appeal to you. Look for people on LinkedIn that have jobs similar to the one you are applying for. Their profiles often contain many keywords that you can use in response to this question.

    Now that you’ve gone through all your recent experiences, are there any points that repeat more often than others, or are especially important to you? These are candidates to be your Key Selling Points -highlight 3-5 of them.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company and the role for which you're being interviewed. When researching the company, find out what skills and qualities they value the most. Carefully consider the job requirements. What is it that you will be responsible for?

    Now, write down 3-5 keywords from the job description that you find of utmost importance for this job role.

  3. About The Fit

    Try to establish the match between your own highlighted keywords, and those of the job description. These are your Key Selling Points! You should normally limit yourself by 3-5 such keywords or phrases.

    Now, craft a story based on your career history. You don’t have to go in chronological order - you can start with your current or last job experience, and then go back to your previous ones, or focus on just the experiences that are relevant to your story, and only briefly mention the less relevant ones and only if needed.

    Select one point to highlight for each phase of your career. Make sure you ingrain your Key Selling Points in the interviewer’s memory - after the interview is over, you want them to remember you as someone who is strong at XYZ, or experienced in A, B and C.

    It's okay to focus more on stellar achievements and brag a little bit about them.

Pro Tip

Don't bore the interviewer by going through your resume line-by-line.

Instead, WOW them by succinctly (keep it within 2 minutes) telling a story of how your career path has brought you to this point and how you are the best candidate for this role.

Super tip: The more you practice with Mr. Simon, the better you'll be at telling WOW-worthy succinct stories!

Statistics

This question is asked 2.9x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

5. Tell me about your work experience. What was the most interesting?

How to answer

This question lets an interviewer gauge what makes you tick and whether the job you are applying for corresponds with your areas of excitement and enthusiasm. Such a fit will earn you important points for being a viable candidate.

  1. About Yourself

    Review the details that you shared in your resume. Select the three to five best points to highlight and relate to the position to which you're applying.

  2. About The Company

    Carefully research the company and the job description.

    Find out what duties you'll be taking on to determine which of your top skills to emphasize. Try to find out what current challenges they are trying to solve by opening this vacancy.

  3. About The Fit

    Knowing the duties for which you will be responsible will help you identify which prior experiences to highlight.

    How well you connect your previous experiences with the job requirements can tell the interviewer how prepared you are for this role and how enthusiastic you will be about your job.

Pro Tip

Do not start your answer with "as you can see from my resume," even if you have listed those skills and qualities.

Instead, tell a story showing that you can solve problems similar to their current challenges and that you are enthusiastic about this.

You can best do this through constant practice of your STARs.

Statistics

This question is asked 2.9x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

6. Tell me about a successful project you were involved in. What was your role? What was the result?

How to answer

In the modern business environment, work is often organized in the form of projects. This allows companies to plan objectives and milestones in order to reach their goals, to monitor progress and performance, to clearly define deliverables and success.

With this question, the interviewer gauges whether you have the right mindset for a project-oriented work style.

  1. About Yourself

    Remember a few projects you have been involved in. Depending on your work experience and career level, these may range from small projects like organizing a party to large-scale multinational projects with participants and teams across the globe, million-dollar budgets and high risk and reward stakes.

    For each project you participated in, write down the following:

    1. project name
    2. its reason and goal
    3. your role in it
    4. the duration of the project or its phases (in case only some phases were successful)
    5. the approximate number of people or stakeholders involved in it.

    • What were the top 3 challenges?
    • What was the end result?
    • How did the company (or other stakeholders) benefit from the results?
    • How can you define your contribution in 3-5 key phrases? If you received any praise for your efforts from your boss, peers or clients, what did they say exactly?
  2. About The Company

    Based on the research you did on the company, what kinds of projects can you expect here?

    • What do you know about the goals they are trying to achieve?
    • What do you know about their current challenges?
    • Can you imagine what success will look like for the projects in this company?
  3. About The Fit

    Which of your examples fits best with the projects you may expect at this company?

    Practice telling your story, use the STAR method.

Pro Tip

End your answer by asking the interviewer how they define success for the role you are applying for.

This will provide you with an insight into the company environment and expectations for this role, as well as will help transform the “interrogation” into a conversation, which will give you a break to pull your wits together for further interview.

Statistics

This question is asked 4.3x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

7. How would you describe yourself?

How to answer

This question is like the Tell me about yourself question usually asked at the beginning of an interview, but there are some subtle differences. It belongs to the family of reflective questions where the interviewer is assessing your cognitive abilities, as opposed to the more factual and matter-of-fact “Tell Me About Yourself” question.

  1. About Yourself

    Think of how your bosses and peers would describe you.

    Throughout your professional experience, you have probably heard them giving you some labels – try to remember the exact words they used.

    If you have received LinkedIn recommendations from someone, read those and think why people wrote them and what work situations prompted those descriptions. Remember the context of those situations and frame them as stories.

    Make a list of keywords, or short key phrases, that can describe you. Your Key Selling Points should definitely appear on this list, but try to also use some adjectives here, to add a positive emotional touch.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company's values, standards and policies. Make a list of keywords or short key phrases.

  3. About The Fit

    Which of your keywords correspond best with those of the company? Highlight 3-4 matches. Now try to imagine being a peer or a boss of yours and compile statements about yourself, in the 3rd person, mentioning these keywords. Remember to use adjectives, and don’t be afraid to mention real references from real people.

    For example, if you are applying for a position that requires good people skills, and your boss at your previous job called you a “conflict resolution guru,” don’t be shy to mention this reference, and provide a brief context that caused your boss’s praise. Use the STAR method to craft your story.

    Don’t limit yourself with just one keyword. If you are concise and don’t ramble with your answer, your interviewer will probably want to hear more than one. Just be observant and watch the interviewer’s reaction. You want to keep them interested.

Pro Tip

If you haven’t yet received any LinkedIn recommendations, try to obtain them. Also, offer to write your own recommendations for them - both received and given recommendations will be visible in your profile and will tell the interviewer exactly what you want to be known about your values, your attitude towards work and relationships.

Statistics

This question is asked 2.1x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

8. Describe the most challenging work problem you faced in your last job

How to answer

Everyone faces problems in the workplace, it’s how we deal with them that matters most.

The problems you faced in your previous workplace actually tell future employers a lot about your problem-solving strategies and abilities.

You can expect that some employers – especially those that consider themselves high stress or those that are replacing someone that struggled with problem-solving – are going to ask you questions about workplace problems to learn more about how you reacted.

It’s a complicated question to answer because different people handle challenges in different ways.

  1. About Yourself

    So, how should you talk about your strategy to approach tough situations?

    Try to think about the actual most challenging thing you did, or just pick something that was really difficult, but you succeed at it in the end.

    The situation should be real. Perhaps you went above and beyond to meet a tight deadline while taking over the responsibilities of a coworker who was out sick? Or you took a course, completed an online training, or attended seminars on a topic that was new for you, but necessary to match your qualifications to the position's requirements?

    Make sure your story isn't boring: interesting is a keyword here. Use the STAR method to demonstrate your positive approach to problem-solving.

  2. About The Company

    Take a moment to consider the role and the daily tasks you’d be engaged with.

    • What kind of problems might come about?
    • What difficulties can you possibly encounter because you will be working directly with clients or in a big team?
    • Do you have to communicate a lot, or would problems be more technical in nature?

    Do your research.

  3. About The Fit

    Your answer is an opportunity to highlight your fit for the role and the work environment.

    This question allows the interviewer to reflect on how you handled past challenges and use this to make predictions about your future capabilities. It might help them to realize you’re a good fit.

    When employers ask such questions, they are looking for some specific details relevant to the job.

    For example, if you are interviewing for a customer service role, highlight how you’ve managed to deal with a difficult situation in customer service.

    On the other hand, if your future role would be very technical, you might talk about a technical challenge you’ve overcome.

Pro Tip

Sometimes it is hard to come up with “Big” challenges but that does not mean you never had to face down a problem.

I’m sure that you have solved problems in the past, you might just have to dig deep to come up with a few that you resolved to make your point.

Statistics

This question is asked 5.2x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

9. What was the biggest mistake you made in your most recent job? How did you handle it?

How to answer

It’s important to know how to answer a job interview question about mistakes. They ask questions like this to learn how you handle challenges. They also want to determine your weaknesses, and decide if you have what it takes to do the job well.

It’s a chance for the interviewer to see that you can learn from your mistakes and use the experience to get better.

  1. About Yourself

    Do your best to tell a positive story about how the mistake was made, how you dealt with it and what learned from it.

    We all make mistakes from time-to-time.

    Answering some of the following questions will help you understand your own view of dealing with mistakes and their consequences. For instance:

    • How do you use a mistake to improve your abilities?
    • Are you self-aware enough to acknowledge failure and weakness?
    • Do you take smart risks?
    • How do you view success, failure, and risk in general?
    • Do you take responsibility for past mistakes instead of putting the blame on others?
    • If the situation repeats, what would you do differently? What would you do again?
  2. About The Company

    Before the interview, look over the job listing, research the company. Try to think of a mistake you have made in the past that is not too closely related to the requirements of the job you are interviewing for.

    What kind of challenges might you face if you get the job here?

  3. About The Fit

    It’s your opportunity to emphasize the skills or qualities you gained from your past negative experience that are important for the job you’re interviewing for now.

    Put a positive spin on your response by defining the “mistake” as a “learning experience” that led to your increased competency in the workplace.

    Talk about a specific example of a time you made a mistake. Briefly explain what the mistake was; quickly switch over to what you learned, or how you improved, after making that mistake.

    You might also explain the steps you took to make sure that mistake never happened again. Say that something you may have struggled with in the past has actually now became one of your strengths.

    Pick a story that ends with a compelling example of a lesson learned. Tell your story using the STAR method.

Pro Tip

Make absolutely sure that the interviewer understands that you learned from the experience.

Never blame others for what you did (however, if you were part of a team failure, you could relate this experience, just be sure to own up to your part in it).

Always be accountable for what you could have done differently in the failure.

Demonstrate that you’ve had the maturity to benefit from previous “lessons learned” and you can move on with increased wisdom and competency.

Statistics

This question is asked 4.7x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

10. What types of people do you find it difficult to get along with?

How to answer

The workplace is loaded with a variety of different people with varying personalities.

That’s why people skills are highly valued in every company and it is important to show the interviewer how you can manage difficult people, especially if you are applying for a job that involves teamwork, or a lot of interactions with clients.

Your goal is to show that you can work with all kinds of people because you are more concerned with outcomes than personalities.

  1. About Yourself

    Look back on your experience.

    In what type of environment do you work your best?

    Contrast the corporate experience you like with ones that you don’t.

    • Have you ever worked with difficult people?
    • What qualities of them made it difficult for you?
    • Were they two-faced? Dishonest?
    • Maybe they used other people's ideas, presenting them as if they were their own?
    • Or they brought their personal problems to work and created a bad work atmosphere with their own frustrations? What approaches do you take communicating with a difficult person?
    • What were the key lessons you learned from the situations you had?
  2. About The Company

    Research the company to learn about its corporate culture.

    • How does it value its employees and how do they value and respect one another?
    • Is there anything that suggests that the corporate atmosphere supports excellent and outstanding behavior and discourages those behaviors that you find difficult or inappropriate?
  3. About The Fit

    For every job, it is important to have strong communication and problem-solving skills.

    If you can, give an example using the STAR method to describe a time you had a problem with a difficult team member and how you successfully reached an agreement with him for the benefit of the company.

    Remember that everything in this story should be told in a positive way.

    Focus only on the person you disagreed with professionally. By focusing on the work, you are demonstrating the work is what matters, not the personalities involved.

    Describe the approaches you took to overcome this kind of obstacle (listening, discussing, providing different perspectives, persuading etc.).

    Hiring managers want result-oriented people, so tie this together with a satisfying outcome and emphasize your lessons learned.

Pro Tip

Answering this question speaks more about you as an individual who is capable, despite some of the disagreeable people you may encounter.

Even if you prefer not to work with them, for the good of the company you will find a way to do so.

In the end this will make you appear positive and friendly, as someone that will try to find common ground with everyone.

Statistics

This question is asked 33.9x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

11. What skills are you looking to develop on your next job? Why?

How to answer

When employers ask you about skills you would like to develop, they are looking for honesty in the way you answer.

A common target of the question is to discover how motivated you are to extend yourself. If you are willing to learn, then you are probably more motivated to do the job well.

They might also be trying to determine whether you’ll be a good long-term fit for the company. Are you looking for an opportunity to grow with an organization – or will your plans take you to another employer before long?

  1. About Yourself

    Answering the question, reflect on yourself. Show that you are concerned and active about your own evolution.

    You can indicate how development has worked for you in the past, give examples.

    • What qualities do you wish to develop in yourself both professionally and personally?
    • What kind of culture do you want to work in?
    • What motivates you?
    • What qualities do you feel make strong, healthy relationships?
    • What skills do you admire most in your role models?

    And probably the most important is: What will help you to achieve your future goals?

    Choose something you’re already pretty good at, but still trying to improve even more. Maybe it is something that you learned a long time ago but haven’t used in recent jobs very often?

  2. About The Company

    Do your research and learn as much as possible about the organization and the career path you might forge there. Read the company’s story on their website, review their LinkedIn page, explore their blog.

    What personal and professional qualities do they value and what can you learn if they hire you?

  3. About The Fit

    No matter what skills you say you want to improve, however, make sure that you follow it up with what you’re doing about it.

    Focus on a work skill that may not be critical to your industry or job level and demonstrate how you would like to develop this skill further, implying you already have a level of competency. This way you won't be sounding negative about yourself.

    You could say something like “Coworkers often come to me for advice on how to write or format a document they are working on. I know that I am good at this (that’s why they come to me in the first place), but I have no formal training on mentoring others. I would like to take a course or two on mentoring others that would help them while also improving my own skills in this area.”

    Say you are willing to learn new things and take on new challenges. Show employers that you’re self-motivated and actively looking for ways to improve your skills and value in your career.

Pro Tip

If you choose one of the more common working skills such as networking, presentation, mediation, technical, coaching or mentoring, make sure that they are not anything that’s vital or crucial to the job you’re interviewing for.

For example, if you are applying for a manager position, you don’t want to say that you need to work on developing your supervisory skills.

Statistics

This question is asked 3.0x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.

12. What negative thing would your last boss say about you?

How to answer

This question is another way of asking “What is your greatest weakness?".

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness, your honesty and openness, and your capacity for self-improvement.

Understandably, people might be intimidated by this question; it's because the question refers to your shortcomings. Fortunately, Mr. Simon is here to help!

You can be fairly sure that the interviewer will ask this question sometime during the interview. Just as with your STAR stories, you should have a “weakness” story ready to relate, so be prepared.

  1. About Yourself

    While it is good to be honest and open, it will not help you to put yourself down. What's important is to focus on a weakness or shortcoming that you have overcome.

    Be certain not to mention something that is vital to (or related to) the position for which you are applying.

    Think of something that may have been noted by a past supervisor that was, perhaps, mentioned in your performance reviews as a developmental area.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company (website, social media, etc.) to learn about the company’s culture. What personal and professional qualities do they value?

    Carefully check the job description to avoid speaking about any past weaknesses that may touch upon key areas of responsibility for the position that you are applying for.

  3. About The Fit

    Despite what may seem to be a negative question, you can actually turn this into a positive one! You do this by stating a negative trait or a weakness, unrelated to the position you are applying for, and explain how you have either already overcome it or are working to improve it.

    Be careful with your choices, if you mention any weaknesses that are needed to be successful in the position you are interviewing for, you probably won’t get hired!

    For example, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, do not talk about how you are taking classes to improve your HTML coding skills. Even if you think you are succeeding in your studies, this will look to the hiring manager to be a shortcoming on your part.

Pro Tip

Use this question to sell yourself! Show how well you've overcome a weakness by motivating yourself and even learning a new skill to grow professionally.

Statistics

This question is asked 5.7x more frequently at Cengage than at other companies.


This page has been updated on August 17, 2020.

You can practice answering this question, as well as over 160 other common job interview questions from Cengage by engaging in a mock interview with Mr. Simon. As an artificial being, his undeniable benefits include:

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