Responding to Interview Questions: the Ultimate Guide

by Kris Dunn | Posted | Career Management

Responding to Interview Questions: the Ultimate Guide

If there's anything that shouts out "freak", it's a meandering, rambling trip down memory lane in response to an interview question that feels more like a therapy session than an interview response.

If you've ever had to say the following in a live job interview, you've got a problem:

"I'm sorry, what was the question again?"

And that statement's close cousin:

"But to get back and answer your question, <whatever gets inserted here doesn't matter>." You're a freak. An honest freak, but still a freak.

When responding to an interview question: talk less

The length of your job interview responses matters more than you might think. Talk too little, and you're an introverted paranoid/Rainman. Talk too much, and people can't imagine themselves hanging out with you, which is 95 percent of the interview game.

The people interviewing you already like your knowledge, skills and abilities. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been brought in for a live interview with the hiring manager and the rest of the team.

With that in mind, let's give you a guide to surviving the first live job interview with a hiring manager with a special focus on length and quality of response.

Talking tips for interviewees, courtesy of The HR Capitalist

1. The length of response to any interview question is 2 minutes or 120 seconds, whichever comes first (that's a cognitive check for you).

2. The only exception to the 2-minute rule is the warm-up intro question, "Why don't you run me through your background/resume and hit the highlights for me?" Then there's its close counterpart, "Tell me a little bit about yourself." When you hear those questions, you should spend 3 to 5 minutes hitting the highlights of your resume/career, then close with the standard personal interests, like non-profit animal adoption and toys for tots.

3. If your interviewer decides that s/he is going to talk for 90 percent of your time together, let them. They‘ll come out of the interview thinking it went great. Of course it did - they got to talk the whole time. That means you're brilliant to them. Counter intuitive? Yes, but just trust me on this one.

4. As lame as it sounds, you should talk in behavioral interview snippets. Start with a situation, what you did in response as an "A" player, and what the stellar outcome was.

5. As pre-work, you should create seven or eight behavioral interviewing answers (situation or task/action/result) from your career. Then just apply one that sounds like it might work with the interview question. It doesn't really matter if it's a direct hit or not.

6. If you're doing your job as the candidate, your interviewer will feel compelled to follow up in a fairly seamless way. That's the power of talking in two-minute bursts and actually giving the interviewer something via the behavioral interviewing approach. You've made them feel like Oprah Winfrey because you're easy to work with. You know you're winning when you get one or two follow-ups to each question. Zero follow-ups (or five) mean it's not going well.

Bonus round for those of you who have mastered what I've outlined above:

7. Part of every response is mirroring. Hold your hands and posture the way that the interviewer does. It screams "peer."

8. If the opportunity arises, never ask questions that make it about you. Always make it about the interviewer's insight. For example, something like, "From your point of view, what's the biggest challenge to the business in the next 2 to 3 years?" Make them the expert. Nobody cares about you at this point. It's really about how the interviewer feels about working with you.

It's easy to be a mess when you interview for a job you really want. Just remember, less is more and rambling answers make you an intellectual midget in the eyes of the interviewer.

Talk less, win more.

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