When ramping up for an interview, it’s important to have all your ducks in a row. You’ve no doubt crafted a list that includes social media blitzes to improve your online presence and pressing your new suit, not to mention crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on your resume.

That’s all well and good, but the real ticket to landing your dream job likely isn’t the color of your tie or the font on your CV. No, the biggest determinant of whether or not you’ll get hired is how you answer the questions put forth by your interviewer. Unfortunately, employers are inundated with freshly minted college graduates and middle-aged jobseekers alike. With such a large pool to choose from, old-fashioned questions such as, “What can you offer the company?” and, “Are you a team player?” are no longer enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead, you’ll be asked to take on trickier questions.

Today’s interview is as likely to cover personal branding as it is strengths and weaknesses, and today’s employer is likely to be more curious about your life outside of work than in years past. When trying to land your dream job, you’ll be much better off if you can answer these 7 modern, nontraditional questions.

1. How Do You Like to Be Told You’re Doing a Good Job?

This can be a surprising question if you’ve never received it before, but it makes sense: Interviewers want to figure out how you work and whether you’ll mesh with their team. They’re also trying to determine if you’re independent but willing to take criticism and ask for help when you need it. The right answer here is the honest one. Be open about the type of feedback to which you respond well, and the type that doesn’t work as well for you. Paint yourself as a self-starter but someone who likes the occasional gold star — just make sure your description is accurate.

2. If You Could Do Any Job at All, What Would It Be?

This is a fun question to answer when Aunt Martha is asking it, but potentially alarming when an interviewer throws it at you. They’re posing it because they want to get to know you, so you should be honest, but you should also tread lightly. Steer clear of describing your boss’s job, for example, or the career you hope this job will lead to. You don’t want to come off overambitious or entitled. Even if you hope eventually to be working in the higher echelons, remember that this is your dream job and stick to describing it as it is.

3. What Does Brand Mean to You?

Branding is all the rage these days, and employers want to know how you’ll use your own image to reflect theirs. Don’t be shy. Share how you really see yourself and be honest about the self-promotion tools that you use. Most likely the person asking the questions already knows some of what you’ll say, so try to be detailed about how you’ve built your presence online and off, and what you intend to do in future.

4. What Would Your Mother Tell Me About You?

Interviewers ask this to get to the core of your personality. Because your mama is likely your biggest fan and, at least when you were growing up, your biggest critic as well, you have to be honest. Your interviewer will be suspicious if you just spout off the good stuff. Instead, try to be candid: If someone who loved you were sitting in on the interview, what would they say? Which personality traits and skills would they review glowingly, and which would they throw a caution sign in front of? Your honesty will not only tell your employer a lot about you, it will be appreciated.

5. What Do You Do When You’re not at Work?

This may sound like a throwaway, but really it isn’t. Employers care about the type of person they’re hiring, and leisure activities are a great window into that. Unless you work as a television writer, you probably don’t want to answer, “I watch TV,” and leave it at that. Similarly, an outdoor lifestyle company wants to know about your weekend warring, not your latest quilting project. Focus on relevant pursuits. But don’t fudge, because you never know what you might be called upon to demonstrate.

6. Why Is This Job Right for You?

Your potential employer genuinely wants to know why you’ve applied for this job, but be careful with your answer. Many of us determine our dream jobs based at least partially on elements such as the amount of money we’ll bring in or the lack of travel required. While these are perfectly legitimate factors in any job search, if your employer thinks you’re simply trying to top your last job, you don’t stand as good a chance. Instead, tell them why this really is your dream job. How have you worked for it? Where do you see it going? What does it mean to you to get this opportunity?

7. What’s Your Favorite Book/Movie/Color/International Food?

We all love a random question, but in interviews they’re usually asked to see how well you think on your toes. Before heading in, prep a short list of your favorites so you can answer without a lot of umming and ahhing. Although having to think about a favorite food isn’t so bad, if you can’t come up with a book you may come off as uncultured, and if movie titles escape you it’ll look like you’ve been living under a rock. Avoid that by nailing this easy question ahead of time.

Featured photo credit: Writing In a Diary Close-Up/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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