One of the greatest injustices about the hiring process is that it is not always the best candidate that gets the job. It is often the one that gives the best interview. In many ways how you handle yourself in an interview is as important as both your qualifications and your experience. There have of course been entire books written on the subject but the following five tips on how to answer interview questions are a very good place to start.
It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it
In my opinion this is one of the biggest things to remember when answering interview questions; it is also one of the most difficult things to perfect. You could give a textbook perfect answer to every question asked but if you give it while looking at the floor you might as well have turned up late. You need to answer questions confidently, maintaining eye contact at all times. Interviewers understand that you are nervous; this does need to be hidden. But you also need to demonstrate your confidence and your communication skills. There also quite a few very common pieces of behaviour that need to be avoided. These include:
Learn the questions in advance
Of course we all know the nightmare situation of a job interview. Everything is going perfectly, you’re sure you’ve done well and then all of a sudden you are asked a question and for the life of you, you have absolutely no idea what to say. After an uncomfortable pause, you realize that you kind of just need to start saying something and out of your mouths comes complete gibberish, that even you know makes no sense whatsoever and makes you look like a complete moron. Yes, there are indeed a few curve balls out there but they need not be something to fear. Almost all interviewers ask the same questions. Provided you do your research, you will be able to prepare for all of them. Some good answers to the most common ones can be found at
Research the company, industry and position in advance
Any opportunity to relate what you are saying specifically to the position on offer is a definite bonus. Doing so not only illustrates your points more clearly from the interviewer’s perspective but shows that you have done your research. An interviewer would like to believe that you are applying for this job for specific reasons and not just because you have not been hired elsewhere. Showing an interest in the company and the industry demonstrates this.
Be confident but not arrogant
This is a mistake that many people make. Employers do want to hear what you have achieved and the more the better. They are also looking to hire people who are confident and that fully believe in their abilities. You are of course trying to illustrate that you are better than everyone else who is applying for the position but many people go overboard and come across as arrogant. This is a massive turn off. Not only does nobody want to work with an arrogant person and therefore they negatively affect employee relations but an arrogant person cannot effectively work as part of a team.
Think before you speak
This may sound obvious but many people are terrified to pause before they answer a question. While I’m not saying that you should sit silently for a few minutes crafting the perfect answer but pausing for a few seconds to formulate your answer will not do you any harm. Think about normal conversations that you have with your friends. When you are asked a complex question, some thought is required. A delay of a few seconds is far better than answering the first thing that comes into your head.
Know when to shut up
Simple, short, concise answers are what are required in interviews. Of course there are many points that you want to get across but your life story is not required. One of the worst things that you can do in an interview is bore the interviewer. Figure out exactly what he is asking when he asks you a question and then answer that and only that.
Lastly keep calm
While interviewers expect candidates to be nervous, the calmer you are the better you will answer the questions and the better you will come across overall. There are many, many relaxation techniques and finding one that works for you can make a massive difference.
An important thing to remember is that interview skills will apply to all jobs that you go for. Therefore spending time researching and learning how to give better interviews now is an investment that will reap dividends throughout the rest of your career. These skills are also not necessarily one size fits all. You need to find an interviewing style that you are comfortable with and that suits you. Provided you can do this, you will not only spend far less time worrying about interviews you will also probably have a far more successful career.