Business Communication: Answering Any Interview Questions–Three Vital Steps for Success


Job interviews are a stressful experience, but if you follow three vital steps you’ll be more confident and more successful:

First, before the interview, anticipate the questions you are likely to get.

Second, plan your answers using the STAR method, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Third, during the interview, recognize what kind of question the interviewer is asking before you try to answer.

By studying the job description, you can get a good idea of the questions you are likely to be asked in an interview.

Start by identifying the skills and attributes the employer is looking for, both hard skills such as technical qualifications and soft skills such as leadership, listening, and teamwork. Interviewers will typically frame questions around these requirements, so you need to be ready.

Now match those employer needs with your capabilities, education, and experience. For example, if the employer wants someone with leadership skills, identify ways that you have exhibited leadership at work, in college, or in volunteer activities. Think creatively here; even if your experience or skills don’t match exactly, think of ways that you demonstrate the general capability.

After you have an idea of the questions you are likely to encounter, plan your answers using the STAR method, which works nicely for most interview questions.

S and T stand for a situation or a task you faced in the past. This could be something on the job, in school, or in some other context.

A stands for the approach you took in response.

And R stands for the results.

Let’s say you identified “dealing with conflict” as one of the requirements from the job description and you’ve matched that with something in your work or school experience, such as “I had to complete a lab project when one of my partners refused to do any work.”

This would be the situation you faced. Next, think back to the approach you took and the results of your effort to resolve the conflict.

Now shape this into a 20- or 30-second story that you can have ready whenever an interviewer asks, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with conflict.”

When you are in the interview, be sure to listen carefully to the entire question. Then before you answer, take a second to recognize what kind of question the interviewer is asking.

Although companies use a wide variety of interview questions, most fall into four categories that are described in this video.

Note: A student version of this video is available.

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