How To Answer Interview Questions

During a job interview, managers are likely to ask some standard questions — but they’re also likely to throw in some zingers just when you least expect it. Be ready for some surprises, but there’s still plenty you can anticipate and prepare for. To answer interview questions in the best way possible, take some time to research and rehearse ahead of that big interview.

Anticipate the Questions

Ahead of any job interview, review the job posting to remind yourself of the skills, education and general background the employer wants to see. Staying on top of that information will help you frame your questions in a way that will appeal to the employer and tell him what he wants to hear — so long as it’s true, of course. Based on what the employer wants, plot out appropriate responses to some of the most common interview questions, including why you want the job, your biggest career accomplishments, what you think you’ll bring to the company and why you’re leaving your current job. Practice your responses with a friend until you can deliver them smoothly and with confidence.

Prepare for Behavioral Questions

Another common tactic is the behavioral interview question, in which the employer asks how you’d behave in a certain scenario, or asks how you’ve acted when put in a difficult situation in the past. The idea is to gauge how you’ll behave in similar situations in the future. To prepare, once again review the job posting and try to determine what challenging situations you might encounter in that job, suggests Alison Green of U.S. News & World Report. Then think back to your past job history and try to match a scenario from your past with the hypothetical one in the future. Practice talking about the problem, and the response you had to the problem, and the outcome of the actions you took, recommends Green.

Use the STAR Technique

When you describe a situation and the outcome, you’re basically following the “STAR” model, short for “Situation or Task, Action, and Result.” Sometimes, employers may ask you to follow this model, so it’s good to know what it is. To follow it, lay out the challenges you faced or the task you had to complete, and then tell the employer what you did to remedy the situation or work through the problem. Describe any specific results that came out of your action. If you’re in sales, for example, tell the employer how many more sales you made from the change. You can also add an “E” at the end of “STAR,” to evaluate what you learned or how you grew from the experience.

Avoid Getting Stumped

With each question, respond with confidence and enthusiasm, showing the employer you’re competent and very interested in the position. At the same time, don’t bluff your way through a question if you don’t know the answer. If you get stumped by a question, admit it. Admit you don’t know, and tell the employer you’re willing to learn that skill she asked about, or that you will take the time to get up to speed if you are hired.

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