3 Tips to Help You Answer (Almost) Any Job Interview Question
The key to a successful job interview is preparation. There are multiple aspects to consider—from what to wear and how to get to the interview site to the content and delivery of your answers. One of the best ways to prepare is by practicing your answers to common questions and the way you tell the stories that paint a picture of you for the interviewer. It’s imperative that you provide concise and succinct answers, do your research to understand the company and its expectations for the new hire, and establish a rapport with the interviewer. You’ll also want to work on your soft skills and confidence since your body language can be just as important as the words you’re saying.
Although you can’t predict every question you’ll be asked during the interview, all employers want roughly the same information about your previous experience, skills, mindset, and personality. You’re likely to encounter certain questions in just about any job interview, even if they manifest in different forms. Therefore, it’s essential to learn to recognize what different questions are actually asking and to adapt your answers accordingly.
There are a few common interview questions you can practice answering so that you have a clear idea of what examples to share and how each one links your skills and experience to the job you’re competing for. Researching the company is key to aligning your answers with its needs—the point of the interview is to convince the person/people asking questions that you, of all the candidates, are best suited to help the company reach its goals.
Answering smoothly these common questions, which usually focus on your behavior and work history, will help you come across as more confident and prepared. It will also show that you know yourself and what you want, which the interviewers will appreciate. They want to assess your problem-solving skills, your leadership skills, and your ability to work as a part of a team, so be sure to highlight both your hard and soft skills. Any employer also values confident, friendly, and charismatic candidates, so working on your confidence is critical.
If you would like help from an expert, set up a mock interview with a member of our team and use their constructive feedback to strengthen your confidence and interview skills. This is the perfect way to rehearse your answers and make them better before the big day.
What’s the trick to answering pretty much any job interview question?
1. Turn your answer into a story
People love stories. You might not think of stories as appropriate for a job interview, but they are—as long as you’re telling the right stories in the right way. The best way to connect with the interviewer and match your answers and skills to what they’re looking for is to tell them a short story that highlights how your experience will benefit their company. Framing your answers as stories is far more engaging than simply relaying facts, and it’s a simple way to appear more confident and charismatic.
Start by giving the interviewer some context for the situation you’re presenting, which is likely a significant professional challenge or achievement. Set the scene before you explain what the issue was and how you helped resolve it. You want to guide the interviewer through the story, leaving no room for confusion. In your account of the events, be thorough and engaging. Lead with a hook to create suspense and conclude in a way that wraps things up nicely and paints you and your qualifications in a positive light. Throughout your story, don’t forget this is still a professional setting, so mind your language, tone, and speaking volume.
2. Be descriptive and detailed but keep it short
The point of turning your answers into stories is to engage the interviewer, but you also want to use the interview as an opportunity to show how you handle yourself in a crisis and solve problems. So, whether you’re talking about fixing an issue or creating a new product/service, explain the main steps you took to achieve your goal, focusing on connecting your skills to the company’s needs. The interviewer is more interested in how you achieved a goal rather than the specifics of the goal because they’re trying to judge how much value you would add as part of the team. Therefore, make sure your stories paint a clear picture of how you work and how you can improve metrics at their company.
Although it’s important to be descriptive and thorough, it’s also crucial that you keep your answers short! The last thing you want to do is ramble on and on about something completely irrelevant or inappropriate. Not only does rambling indicate poor communication skills or taut nerves, but it also wastes precious time that you could be using to sell yourself. Be nice and personable, but make your point and move on.
Practice is vital for finding the optimal length and depth for your answers. You can start by writing them down in great detail and then trimming them to create quick, crisp, and engaging stories that are still packed with specifics. You can test the results in mock interviews with friends or with our experts.
3. Share results and outcomes
Hopefully, the stories you’ve chosen all have some type of measurable outcome that demonstrates how your actions benefited your previous or current employer. This shows the interviewer your value and what you can bring to the role—ultimately, that’s the entire purpose of a job interview.
Make sure to phrase your story in a way that highlights aspects such as teamwork, leadership, financial growth, or any other positive outcomes you were responsible for. You can adjust the focus in accordance with what this particular company wants—as long as you keep everything genuine and truthful, the way you frame your stories can make a huge difference. Remember that you want to project success and confidence and offer value to the business, so make sure you tweak your answers with that in mind.
Practicing answers to common questions can’t guarantee you’ll handle everything perfectly on the day of your job interview, but being prepared will definitely help you face the interviewer with confidence and provide thoughtful, brief answers. Even if your performance isn’t perfect, it’ll almost certainly be better with practice than without (unless you overdo it and memorize your answers, thus sounding robotic and fake as you recite them).
You can also practice any objections you anticipate from the interviewer by pivoting from your weaknesses to your strengths and focusing on the positives, always looking to emphasize your ability to solve problems and your growth through experience. Finally, ample practice is a great way to build your confidence and calm your nerves, which will help you concentrate on what the interviewer is saying and present a confident, professional demeanor.
Rehearsing your answers with a friend is a great way to prepare for your job interview, but you’ll do even better to arrange a mock interview with a professional as they will give you constructive feedback and prepare you to answer even the most unexpected questions with absolute confidence.