All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Answering Interview Questions

Feb 7, 2018

Got a job interview coming up? Then the best thing you can do is to prepare ahead – but of course, you already know that.

The challenge is how best to prepare so that you sound natural, confident and clear in your interview. While body language definitely plays a huge part, a lot also comes down to how ready you are for the questions you’re likely to be asked. How can you be prepared for the many tough questions you’ll be asked when you have no idea what will come up?

You can only do this by anticipating the questions that are most frequently asked in a job interview and being ready with your responses to them. Here is a selection of some great advice collected from various sources along with their links so you can find out more.

Advice 1: The one job interview question that increases the chances you’ll get hired

Employers do see asking smart questions as a sign of a potentially good hire. Asking the right questions will not only help you connect with the interviewer, understand the culture, clarify what challenges are faced by them and the next steps involved in the hiring process, but it does more than that.

Remember, interviewing is a two-way street, so the most important question you can ask in an interview is the one that helps you to evaluate whether you are right for each other. Most people forget this. They forget that the real purpose of an interview is to evaluate each other. It’s not a one-way affair. The reason for this is that it is hard to even get an interview in the first place so by the time you go along your focus is just on getting the job. You see all the balls as being in the interviewer’s court, but even so, that doesn’t mean you should assume any employer who is willing to meet with you is one you want to work for. Asking smart questions in the interview not only helps you gain the trust and respect of the recruiter, but it also helps you decide if you will survive and thrive as an employee there. That’s why you should always have a list of questions ready to ask before you leave!

Advice 2: The most hated (but most important) interview question

Who likes the question, ‘what do you consider your greatest weakness?’ Most people will face this one during the interview. This question always makes people feel uneasy as they scramble in their minds to find a few ‘pet weakies’ to make themselves look sufficiently humble enough to be believable. It originates from the old-fashioned aversive interview approach of the 1950s and 1960s, designed to make the candidate uncomfortable in order to gauge how he/she handles pressure.

Uncomfortable as it is, you will have to be prepared for this interview question — because sooner or later some stickler will ask. Rather than hemming and hawing for an answer on the spot, it is good to be prepared with one that is ‘true, trivial, brief, and not a fault’. Run your answer by a couple of critical friends or colleagues to make sure it sounds reasonable. When asked the question, end your answer by asking the interviewer a question, so that the attention is deflected away from your answer.

Advice 3: Job interview questions about your accomplishments

When, during a job interview, you are asked questions related to your current or previous positions, it’s important for your response to include a few detailed specifics about what you did in your previous position(s). Keep your answer positive — so, for example, talk about improvements or accomplishments, but stay away from mentioning frustrations or disagreements with co-workers.

The best way to answer interview questions about your responsibilities is to describe a task you carried out, perhaps one where you organised an event or carried out a project. Describe what you did in detail and connect it to the job you are interviewing for. To do this successfully you’ll need to carefully review the job description for the new position prior to the interview and keep in a selection of scenarios you can talk about. Almost every job description you will encounter will provide a list of the skillsets and work experience an employer is seeking in their next employee.

Read more: Job Interview Questions About Your Responsibilities

Advice 4: How to boast about your talents in a job interview without bragging

It is difficult to go into a job interview without boasting or promoting yourself – by their very nature that’s exactly what they are for. Besides, how else are you going to come across as the best candidate they’ve seen without a bit of boasting. The other thing is that ‘talents can be notoriously hard to judge, particularly in short-term interactions with other people, such as job interviews’, so the only thing you can do is to learn how to boast without sounding like a show-off.

So, what should you do if you are interested in communicating your talents to others without sound like someone that’s deluded? Well, three useful pieces of advice from one article is, one, talk about your passion rather than your skill; two, focus on your potential by briefly quantifying your most relevant experience; and three, use references. ‘Ultimately, your reputation is made of what others (not you) think of you. It is therefore obvious that you are better off being promoted by others than promoting yourself. While references—such as recommendation letters—are a poor predictor of future performance, they can still play a very important role in determining your success.’

Read more: How to Highlight Your Talents in a Job Interview Without Showing Off

Advice 5: Answering the job interview question: ‘Why do you want this job?’

In a job interview, you will likely be asked why you want the job, or why you left your previous one. Your answer will reveal whether your motivations are in the right place. While the specifics of your answer will depend on whether you left voluntarily or were dismissed, you need to bear in mind an answer that casts you in a positive light. Never badmouth your previous employer or colleagues.

So, think ahead how best to answer the question ‘why are you looking for a job’ by focusing on your future career direction, even if your leaving your last position wasn’t under the best of circumstances. Don’t say it’s because you need the money or anything that may indicate you aren’t really interested in the job long term. Make your interviewer feel confident that the position you are interviewing for is in line with your personal and professional goals as well as the company’s needs. Speak up so that you sound positive and clear in your response.

Read more: Interview Question: “Why Are You Looking For a New Job?”

Advice 6: What to say when an interviewer asks you to talk about yourself

Interviews are bittersweet. There are you are sitting in the interview room of the dream company you’re dying to work for while on the other hand subjecting yourself to what can sometimes feel like an awkward and nerve-wracking experience. With so much at stake, it’s little wonder many experience sudden amnesia when they’re asked the inevitable question: “So, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

‘Talking about yourself should be easy’, after all, ‘you’ve known yourself your entire life!’ but it isn’t always so. What do you say in those moments when your mind goes blank?

Well, you can talk about where you are right now, what you studied at college or university, what you have always wanted to do or become, and where you currently are on your career journey. You can talk about your hobbies, great lessons you’ve learnt along the way and what makes you feel most alive – but, and it is an extremely important but – whatever you say keep it short, sweet and to the point.

Read more: The Question Interviewers Always Ask (and How to Answer It)

Advice 7: Answering questions that test your moral (or common sense) compass

Some of the toughest questions a candidate can face are those designed to test your moral compass, such as those you’re likely to be asked during an interview at Amazon. The company takes hiring so seriously that CEO Jeff Bezos was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.” Unsurprisingly then, many of the questions you’re likely to face if you go for a job at a company like Amazon are hypothetical scenarios designed to find out how you’ll behave, such as, ‘What would you do if you saw a colleague stealing? Or ‘What if your manager asked you to do something that goes against company policy and was potentially hazardous?’ Or ‘Tell us about a time when a project went beyond your scope of work?’

After sifting through hundreds of Glassdoor reviews Inc. selected the ‘21 Questions Amazon Asks its Job Candidates’ and they truly are an educational experience in themselves. Practise answering questions like these yourself and you should be well-prepared for any moral or practical question thrown at you in the future. Other tough favourites include, ‘Tell me about a time you had to overstep management to get your point of view across.’ ‘How do you motivate people?’ and ‘Name a time you messed up.’

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