Who honestly likes answering interview questions?
There can’t be many people who enjoy being put on the spot and asked to come up with the best answer possible while facing a panel of people who are deciding whether to employ you or not.
But that is what you are up against every time you go for a job interview. The pressure we all put ourselves under to deliver the perfect answer every time can often be overwhelming.
That feeling is, of course, a shot of adrenaline, causing your heart rate to increase and your internal thermostat to boil over. So how do you handle it? What strategies can implement to control those nerves and help you deliver clear concise answers?
We work with a range of people to support them answer questions under pressure, whether that is a CEO presenting to investors or a Team Manager presenting to their team.
So here are a few interview presentation tips
As we would advise anyone presenting and then fielding questions, find out more about the interview’s surroundings.
- Will you be sitting at a desk, and where will that desk be?
- Who will be interviewing you, and how many?
- Roughly how many questions will there be?
- What are the facilities like surrounding the interview? Parking, access control, local transport
Some of these things might seem small or trivial. However, understanding and controlling environmental factors is crucial in managing nerves and anxiety when preparing people to present.
You will undoubtedly have received a job description and personal specification for the job you’ve applied for. In the same way, we help CEO’s of startups prepare for the Q&A at the end of an investor pitch by drafting a list of anticipated questions; you need to prepare that for your interview.
Take time to assess the list of competencies and prepare an answer for each. There may be quite a few, but it will certainly increase your chances of success if you have covered all the bases.
According to our friends at TalentSpark, most interviews follow a competency-based framework. The interviewer will be looking for you to reference an experience you had and how it relates to one of the competencies.
Their suggestion is you use the STAR technique to structure your answer,
- Situation – give a brief explanation of the situation; where and when it took place.
- Task – Reference the task you had to undertake and the result you were expecting to achieve.
- Action – Again, briefly outline the actions you took to achieve your goal.
- Result – Complete the answer by explaining the outcome you delivered.
With this structured approach to answering and being able to research the potential questions that you might be asked, you have the basis for a successful interview.
As discussed in our presentation training, keeping all that information in your head can be challenging. If you are standing up in front of a crowd and your mind goes blank, we advise most people to use prompt cards. However, in the case of an interview, you will likely be sitting down, and in most cases, you will be permitted to bring notes.
Use this as another opportunity to help manage your nerves. It is essential to adapt your answer to suit the situation. So don’t write down lengthy notes and then read from the page, desperately trying to fit your prepared answer around the question.
Just as you would with prompt cards, use keywords and phrases laid out in line with the STAR technique that will trigger your memory and allow you to answer in a more relaxed, conversational style.
Take your time
Taking your time might seem like a strange suggestion when your heart is racing and your nerves are jangling, but take the time to listen to the question. Then give yourself an extra few seconds to write down a note or two that will remind you of the premise of the question.
So often, when we are preparing Founders and CEO’s to answer investor questions, they will wander off-topic or think they have picked up the essence of the question and give a stock answer based on what they have rehearsed.
A sure-fire way of failing any job interview is not answering the question asked. In writing down the question, you are also buying yourself time to find an appropriate answer and consult your notes for those triggers.
This will settle your nerves and allow you to structure an appropriate response.
Your answers need to be accurate and concise. You mustn’t drone on in your response. Use your notes to keep you on point, but practice giving answers based on the STAR technique and time yourself in the run-up to the interview.
Long answers will lose the panel’s attention, and they will struggle to remember the essence of your response.
And finally, use what we call a did-you-get-that-pause to emphasise key points of your answer. You might find this difficult, but silence for a second or two while the panel take on your message will help them understand the point you are trying to make better. It will also help you slow down and manage your delivery as you answer the question.
Your adrenaline will make the pause feel longer than it is, but the more your practice that, the easier it will become.
Finding the answers
So the secret to answering those interview questions that everyone finds challenging is to prepare well. Draft a range of answers around the competencies and base them on the STAR technique.
From there, take time to listen to the question and even write the question down to avoid lengthy, meandering answers. And finally, learn to master the did-you-get-that-pause.
We wish you the best of luck in your next interview.