How to Handle Interview Questions

How to Handle Interview Questions

There are three people left in the interview; you, a person with more experience and a person who has a resume built that would make Martha Stewart proud. How do you handle interview questions that set you apart from your competition, leave a memorable impression and invite you to be their next employee?

#1 – Do Your Research

Nine out of ten times you can know what the interview questions will be (see here for a list of interview questions). Already have your answer for “tell us more about yourself” and “why do you think you would be good for this job?” When answering those questions, make sure to talk about your personal and professional life. Getting a job or a promotion is more than sharing with them what you know, it’s how well you will get along with the team. If you can share with them that you are a personal, approachable and passionate kind of person who has hobbies and interests outside of work, plus knows how to get things done on the job, you will stand apart from your competition. Write down all the questions you think they will ask you and put them down on paper.  

#2 – Know Who Will Be in the Room

We live in the 21st Century. There are not too many breathing humans on this planet who don’t have a social media account or you couldn’t type their name into Google. Research the team on their website, if they don’t have a website, call the administrator of the office and simply ask who works there. You will be surprised how much you can find out about a person from their social media accounts. Learn as much as you can about the person or team hiring you because you might find out that the CEO hates purple and her favorite color is green. The VP can’t stand cats but is an avid dog lover. You can rock the interview by connecting with them on a personal level by wearing green and mentioning your interest in puppies (only if you really do like dogs). Stand apart from your competition by doing your research on who will be in the room and what they have accomplished so you can use it to your advantage.

#3 – Take Notes

Your pen speaks! What you write on paper is sharing with the team that you possess the number one skill as a speaker, being a great listener. Use your pen to your advantage, take notes, write down questions that come up but can’t ask right now and can come back to later. You will also use these notes as a refresher when you send out thank you letters (not an email, a real thank you letter made out of paper). You can look at your notes and pick out specifics of what they like, what they are looking for and what their jobs are at the company. If you want to stand out from that Martha Stewart suck-up, you can write a genuine thank you letter after your interview to each person in the room (hold the glitter). In the thank you letter, share with them your gratitude for interviewing you, your interest in being part of the company and how you can help them in their specific role if you get hired.

#4 – Ask Questions During The Interview

A common mistake most people make in interviews is they wait until the end to ask questions. Employers want to know if you are interested and engaged. Don’t hold off on your questions, ask them in the middle of the interview when you are on that specific subject. Make sure to have a question at the end you can ask. One of the “red flags” in the interview world is at the end when they say “any questions” and you respond with a simple “no”. A great question you can end on, if it has not already been brought up is, “what is the office culture like?” or ask the team “why do you like work here?” Make sure you take notes during this part, this is solid content that can be used for your thank you letters later. Remember to look at the interview as a conversation, not an examination!

#5 – Practice with a Friend

Practice, practice, practice. I am going to type these words out again. Practice. Practice. Practice! Go into that interview like you have been asked those questions a million times. Grab a friend, give them sample interview questions they can ask you. When you practice you become prepared and it is hard to feel small when you have an advantage like knowing what the questions will be and who will be asking them. Be ready for the random question. I once was asked “If I could eat any color crayon, what would I eat and why?” Companies are looking for how you handle and react to difficult or off-the cuff situations. Can you handle it, or will you break? If you are aware that most likely a question will come up that sounds confusing, out of the normal or just plain weird, than laugh if it is funny but still answer the question and show them you can handle anything that is thrown your way. If you really want to stand tall when you are in the interview, videotape your practice session so you can see the little quirks you do that might be distracting like chewing on a pen, playing with your hair or tapping your hand on the table. Don’t worry, you don’t need to upload this to YouTube for the world to see, this is for you eyes only.

#6 – Pick Three Stories

Remember, luck favors the prepared mind! Most likely you will be asked about a time you failed, a time you excelled and to list your strengths and weakness pertaining to your professional career. Have three stories you can draw from to use for any question. Have a story when you failed. Have a story when you excelled with limited resources and have a story when you had a conflict with a peer or boss and how you handle the situation. Then you can draw on these stories and use them in your interview answer. Remember to keep it short. One of the worst things you can do is take a simple question and turn it into a complex and drawn out answer.

Now you have the tools to nail your next job interview. You can do this. Do your research, know who will be in the room, take notes, ask questions during the interview, practice with a friend and pick three stories to land your next job!

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This post was written by
At age 25, Ryan Avery became the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking in history; competing against more than 30,000 people from 116 countries to claim the 2012 Championship title. As an Emmy Award winning journalist and a proud member of the National Speakers Association, Ryan uses his background in multimedia and speaking to help reach the younger generation on the importance of improving their communication skills in order to advance in their professional and personal life.

5 Comments on "How to Handle Interview Questions"

  • Ryan, brilliant post. I especially like preparing 3 stories – when we failed, when we excelled with limited resources, and when we sorted out conflict. I’m going to write these out and be prepared for questions like that. I’ll also get my video camera out in the next couple of days and practice. I’ve heard the video camera called “The eye that never blinks.” Tough, but important! Thank you for your practical tips and insights.

    • Thank you Lynn. I really liked how you said a video camera is “the eye that never blinks” line… I am going to use that for sure in my training!

  • Great article! I’m glad to see you included #4, Ask Questions During the Interview. This is so important! Too many people look at an interview as a one-sided process. This is not the case! People need to remember that you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.

  • David T. Maestas says

    Ryan you made some very interesting and valuable points. In my last interview after researching the company I wrote down five questions and had them ready for the interview. The interviewer was impressed not only that I had questions prepared but that they were intelligent questions.

    I have a question; what do you do if their web site gives very little information a out the company, information we need like how long they have been in business, mission statement, company owner and a list of executives or management names and/or pictures? Can you give me some other venues to use to gather information?

    • Hi David, great questions. For questions like you have listed, feel free to call the front desk or admin person to get as much information as you can. I have called a few companies before and asked as many questions as I can. You can also look them up on LinkedIn but remember they will be able to see that you viewed their profile. Maybe ask a friend to look them up for you. You can also see who they do business with often and call them to get information. This will also help you build relationships in the future in case you get the job. I hope that helps and good luck with your next interview.

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