How to Answer Interview Questions Strategically

If there is one complaint heard most frequently from employers about the performance of their interviewees, it is that the job seeker has not gone into enough depth about his/her qualifications for the job in the job interview.

Your task as the interviewee is to convey that you would be the best selection for this job in terms of your skills, experiences, and personality.

If the interviewer asks you a seemingly free and open-ended question, (such as: Tell me about yourself.) your job is still to answer the question in a way that highlights your skills and abilities for the job.

Similarly, if the interviewer asks you to highlight your strengths and weaknesses, stick to the ones that apply to the job at hand. And of course, offer a flattering weakness one on which you are working and/or one that translates as a strength in the eyes of the employer.

Being memorable is not that hard, but it does require that you study ahead of time and think of anecdotal information that you might use to illustrate your answers to their questions.

For example, it is not enough to say that you are good with people and typically get along well with others when asked how you manage conflict in the workplace. You need more substance in your answer than that!

Add in something that can bring forth a positive image in the mind of the interviewer. Here is a formula to make this a bit easier.

Think about telling them a very brief story, an anecdote to illustrate your point. We call this the STAR Technique (situation–action-result) and it works quite well. Here’s how it might play out:

Interviewer:

“How do you manage conflict within the workplace?”

Interviewee:

“I typically get along well with my co-workers. But I understand that conflict can arise when creative people are brought together to work on a project with demanding deadlines and large client accounts such as you have here with Ad Co.

Once when I was working as the deli manager for Subway, I was confronted with a conflict over scheduling between two of my best employees and they were attributing some of the blame to me.

I quickly arranged a time for the three of us to get together and talk out our differences of opinion so that the conflict did not escalate.

As I predicted, it was a symptom of miscommunication on our parts and was resolved with clarification of preferences and goals.

From then on, each one of us did a better job of communicating to the other their wishes and expectations. We got along really well and had a fun workplace to come to each day!”

The STAR Technique prompts you to substantiate your claims about your skills and abilities as well as offering you a quick show-case for your successes.

It strengthens your example if you can quantify an outcome (e.g., 20% increase) or at the least when you can name the positive result with a new set of skills (e.g., learned constructive techniques for conflict resolution or successfully implemented a new budgeting procedure).

Updated: 19/06/2011

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