Interviewing: Answering Questions

answering questions

In an interview, how you answer the questions is just as important as your answers to the questions. Answering questions appropriately is about sharing your accomplishments without bragging. It’s about being straight-to-the-point without leaving out information. It can be hard to find that balance in the way you answer the interview questions. Luckily, there are certain questions and topics that are almost always come up in an interview, so you can practice and prepare for the real thing.

Here are five things to keep in mind when answering questions in an interview:

  1. Be Brief
  2. Stay Positive
  3. Be Honest
  4. Share Your Accomplishments
  5. How to Answer Common Interview Questions

Let’s take a closer look at answering questions in an interview.

be brief

Be Brief

Try to be brief and straight-to-the-point when you are answering interview questions. Being brief means that you use the minimum number of words necessary to answer the question completely. In order to do that, it is important to pause and collect your thoughts before you start speaking. Think about a few key points that you want to cover in your answer and go from there. Once you have touched on those points, stop speaking. Don’t go back to something you have already talked about. Don’t feel like you have to keep talking until someone else does. Often there will be a moment of silence following your answer while the interviewer processes what you’ve said and writes down some notes. This silence can be uncomfortable for some people, but it is important to resist the urge to keep talking.

stay positive

Stay positive

No matter what questions come your way, always keep your answers positive. You might be asked questions such as “What did you like least about your last job?” or “Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along well with one of your coworkers.” Of course, it would be easy to dive into a list of all the things you disliked about your last job, but it is important that you do not. While you might think you’re simply answering the question, your interviewer will just hear complaining. Instead, keep your answers more general and give them a positive spin. For example, if you disliked your last job because you always got assigned the same tasks, say that you wished there had been more opportunities for advancement and growth.

Be Honest

Under no circumstances should you ever lie during an interview. Even if you think the truth will keep you from getting the job, it’s important to tell the truth. Not only is telling the truth the right thing to do, but it is very likely that the employer will eventually uncover the truth if you lied about something in your interview. For example, let’s say the interviewer asks you if you have experience using a specific software program. Chances are the reason they are asking about this particular program is because you will need to use it for the job. If you say you know how to use it when you really don’t, they will realize you lied as soon as you start the job and can’t figure out how to use the program. In a situation like that, it is better to admit that you have not used that specific program, but let them know that you are a fast learner and you would be excited to learn how to use it.

share your accomplishments

Share Your Accomplishments

An interview is no time to be modest, or shy, about what you have accomplished and what you can do well. In normal social settings, talking about yourself in such a way would be considered bragging and would be impolite. However, in an interview you have to share your accomplishments with the interviewers in order to convince them that you are the right person for the job. Now is the time to talk about any awards you have won, certifications you have earned and skills you possess. You can’t talk enough about your qualifications and talents during the interview. Anytime you can find a way to mention a skill or accomplishment that will help sell yourself as the winning candidate, do it. This is your time to shine!

How to answer common interview questions

The three common types of interview questions are Direct, Behavioral and Situational questions. Let’s take a look at each type of question and discover the best way to answer each type of question:

  • Direct Questions

A direct question is a straightforward question about your specific skills and qualifications. With this type of question, you don’t have much room for creativity. You must answer the question honestly, so answering this type of question should be pretty simple. However, a very common direct question asked in an interview is, “What is your greatest weakness?” With this question, it is possible to answer honestly without making yourself look bad by turning a positive quality into a negative. Then follow up by talking about what you are doing to improve this weakness.

  • Behavioral Questions

A behavioral question is one where you must tell about a situation you have been in and how you acted. Behavioral questions can be tricky because answering them requires you to think back to all of your experiences and find an example of this specific situation. For this type of question, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a moment to think about the question before you answer. In order to prepare to answer behavioral questions, think about situations where you have dealt with conflict, disappointment or the failures of others, and also situations when you have demonstrated leadership and strong work ethic.  

  • Situational Questions

A situational question is similar to a behavioral question, but it’s about what you would do in a certain situation, rather than what you have done in the past. Although you don’t have to have a specific example of this situation from your own experience, it’s great if you do! So, again, take a moment to think about how you want to respond to the question before you dive in.

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About the Author:

Stefan is a senior developer at The Conover Company. He has experience researching and writing online courses for assessing and teaching Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills. He currently lives in Oregon with his fiance.

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