The smart way to answer interview questions

Interviews are not meant to be easy. The whole point is to put you on the spot, make you squirm a bit and dig deeply into your knowledge and capabilities. That can make the process pretty daunting, especially if you do not think about how to answer interview questions carefully and present yourself strongly.

1. Think about what the interviewer wants to hear.

Remember that your interviewer is looking for an applicant with the essential skills and attributes that they require for the job. All of their questions are going to be based on assessing your fit to those requirements.

2. Preparation

So start your preparation by listing those requirements. Review and interpret the job advert and the position description, if there is one. Think about how you can show that you meet those requirements.

3. Examples are key

The best way to show that you meet requirements not just to say that you are a great project manager, for example, but to give evidence that you are.

Think back to your recent career and come up with real-world examples of achievements that match each of the stated requirements for the job. List them and learn them until you can easily pick them out of your head.

4. Why examples?

How you answer interview questions gives a very strong impression to the interviewer. Without structure, you can come across as rambling and uncoordinated if you are not careful. By using examples, you will impress as a) suitably experienced, b) achievement-orientated and c) organised in your delivery.

5. Listen - and match examples to requirements

In the interview, you will get plenty of opportunity to use your examples. Listen carefully to the interviewer. Listening is the hardest communication skill to master, but you can do it with care and practice. When you get the opportunity, answer any requirement-related question (which will be most of them) with a live example that shows you meet that requirement.

6. Get in early and strong

The first opportunity you will get to shine at the interview will be your opening statement. The answer to the “Tell us about yourself”, “Why do you want to work for us?” or “What is it about this job that appeals to you?” question.

You, of course, are going to give a summary of how you meet the requirements of the position. Keep it natural and conversational, but make sure you get the main pointers into that first statement.

7. Delivery is everything

When it comes to giving your examples, it can be very easy to get bogged down in detail and fail to get the core points across. Try this technique when you answer an interview question with an achievement example:

  • Result
  • Evidence (Situation, Action)
  • Repeat result

It will keep your answer focused and on-track. I can assure that it works to show that you have the right skills - and reinforces how achievement focused you are. For example:

“I always focus on bringing in projects within budget because I recognise how critical that is to profitability. I brought our last major project - the refurbishment of Anytown Hospital’s South Wing - in two months early and $1 million under budget at $34 million. That added $1 million straight to our bottom line.

It was a two year project and we were the principal contractor running a lot of sub contracts. I made sure we planned the project for early completion and that our sub contractors allocated the resources we needed to achieve that aim. I also negotiated contracts with them to reward early delivery and penalise delays.

It took constant monitoring of the project schedule and close performance measurement and financial management of the contractors, but we completed in 22 months, controlled costs and made $1 million more profit than planned.”

The Result, Evidence, Result approach to how to answer interview questions will keep you on track, deliver the results-focus that you want and help you remember the examples.

Good luck with your interviews!

For more information or help

See our Interview Coaching Service page, call us on 1300 97 87 66 or email us for more information. We will be pleased to help.