For the majority of people, the most challenging part of the interview is the question-answer period. Some of us are more comfortable with this process than others. Regardless of which type of person you consider yourself, I recommend you research and rehearse your responses to the type of questions likely to be asked during an interview. A little practice will lift your confidence and allow you to respond to greatest effect.
In our last post we looked at the three most common types of interview questions and the motivation behind them. Here are some tips on how to form your very best answers.
The main idea here is to answer in a way that will demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration while putting the focus on your experience and career goals. Here are two examples to illustrate that approach:
A: Are you the kind of person that enjoys a challenge?
B: Yes. At my last job, I was part of a marketing development team in charge of rebranding during an economic crisis. This led to a 60% increase in sales. I like the challenge of collaborating with a diverse team of co-workers and problem solving.
A: How many jobs have you had in the last 5 years?
B: Three. Because I was self-employed as a part-time copywriter and worked full time as a travel agent for two years, I learned a great deal about freelancing while juggling the demands of a day job. This is what lead me to be interested in travel writing, media and publications, and ultimately, to you and your organisation.
As you can see, it is possible to answer honestly and directly while forming a response that incorporates your current skills, experience and abilities in a positive light for the employer.
Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Questions
Your strategy in answering these types of questions should be to emphasise experiences in your background that best fit what each interviewer needs. If you keep that in mind in preparing your answers and during the interview, you will successfully answer every question they throw at you. Take a look at the example below:
A: The main programmes utilised in this position are SAP and Microsoft Office. What is your comfort level with these programs?
B: In my last position, I frequently used Microsoft Word and Excel to draft correspondence and reports for clients. I maintained databases creating and using Excel spreadsheets. I am very comfortable with Microsoft Word. I began working with SAP a short time before leaving, so I am comfortable at a beginner level in this area and look forward to increasing my skills in this area.
Rather than calling attention to the lack of experience with the SAP programme, the candidate emphasised their familiarity with it instead, and displayed enthusiasm for further development in that particular area. They deftly turned a potential weakness into a strength by showing their enthusiasm for learning.
Behavioural and Situation-based Questions
Can you tell me about the last time that you had a conflict with a co-worker? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
These questions can be the toughest of the lot because they require a great deal of information. For that reason, it is absolutely essential to prepare for them by doing the following:
- Research the company and note the skills that the employer has predetermined are necessary for the job.
- Prepare a variety of example stories, choosing ones that can be adapted to similar questions; use recent work, volunteer, school or any real-life experiences as examples of your past behaviour. Make sure they are relevant to the position at hand.
- Familiarise yourself with a variety of different behavioural and situation-based questions.
- Practise the answers and prepare a mental outline of how best to respond.
- Know your CV inside and out.
- Find and use helpful resources on job interview questions on the internet or at the library.
- Review and practise your responses to a comprehensive list of common interview questions.
- Give yourself ample time to prepare your answers prior to the interview; write them down, rehearse with a friend or aloud on your own.
- Have examples demonstrating your knowledge, ability or skill ready to go.