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How to Answer Any Interview Question!

December 22, 2020

OK, a bit of an overstatement, but preparing for job interviews can be daunting, and this interview tip has helped many of my clients.

Common Advice for Interview Preparation

I’ve found that most articles on behavioral interview preparation focus on two methods: 

  1. Practice answering common interview questions. 
  2. Use the SOAR or STAR method to prepare stories of your accomplishments that emphasize your strengths and demonstrate you’re qualified for the job. 

Feeling Overwhelmed 

Often the questions are categorized into various topics, such as teamwork, client-facing skills, ability to adapt, time management, motivation, communication skills, etc. While it’s essential to practice answering common interview questions, it can be overwhelming to prepare answers for a list of 50 possible questions in all their variations. 

First Start with “Philosophical” Answers

To remedy this dilemma, I suggest that my clients develop an introductory “philosophical” answer for each category.

Develop an introductory “philosophical” answer for each of the question categories

For example, for the category of teamwork, this is a common question an interviewer might ask: “Share a time when you had to work with a difficult team member.” A client might compose the answer, “I believe I can get along with any co-worker as long as we both conduct ourselves within the boundaries of professional demeanor. I might not be their best friend, but I can work with anyone if we behave professionally.” Once you have developed these statements, practice until you can say them without hesitation. 

When to Use Them

This buys you time…go through your list of prepared accomplishment stories to find the most relevant answer. 

These philosophical answers are useful when you are surprised by a question and are at a loss for an answer. Rather than appear flustered, start answering the question with your prepared philosophical statement for that category. This buys you time and as you deliver the statement, go through your list of prepared accomplishment stories to find the most relevant example. 

 Finish with Your Accomplishment Story 

The best result is after you’ve completed your philosophical statement, you then say, “for example…” and continue with your relevant accomplishment story. However, even if you can’t recall an accomplishment that demonstrates how you resolved a conflict (Attn: you definitely should have one prepared), at least you gave an answer to the question, and then you can state and accomplishment that is indirectly related to it. For example, if you have one for the Communication category, you can preface your answer by saying “this is wasn’t exactly a conflict, but…” and so forth. 

More Confidence, Less Anxiety

My clients find that using this technique lessens the nervousness caused by not knowing what specific questions interviewers might ask them. Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewers and figure out their concerns. Then prepare your philosophical answers to address them, and you can be more confident in your interviews. 

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