As we know, the jobs market is extremely competitive and more often than not we’re up against people with the same qualifications and similar CVs. The thing that stands us apart then, and wins us the job, is our performance in the interview. It’s no wonder that candidates feel the pressure!
Unfortunately the ‘symptoms’ of putting this pressure on ourselves (the sweating, nervous rambling, mind going blank, or even just not being quite authentic) can be the things that lose us the job we know we can do.
One of the most common areas of concern is around answering questions – sounds simple, but in the pressure of the interview it can sometimes be more difficult than you might think.
Here are three top tips for handling interview questions:
1. The Courage to Clarify
Many interviewers haven’t had a lot of time to think about their questions before coming into the room. They also may not know exactly what they want out of a question, or they might be using a standard interview question that they’ve read off a sheet but aren’t sure what they’re after from it. If you are in any way unsure about what they are after, be bold and ask – it’s much kinder to then then rambling on about something you think might be relevant !
2. Listen to the Style of the Question
In order to give the panel what they want, it is a good idea to listen to the way in which they ask the question and answer in the style indicated.
There is a real difference between:
A: Can you name three scenarios in which you’ve had to report figures to senior management? B: Can you recall a time when you handled reporting to senior management well? C: What are the most important things to remember when reporting to senior management?
Whilst they are all about reporting to senior management, the style each question is asked in gives you a big clue as to how to answer it. ‘A’ is most likely to want three short sentences with reference to figures. ‘B’ is most likely to want a story or experience with a bit more detail. ‘C’ is most likely to want a high level summary of what you find to be important. It may be worth clarifying whether ‘C’ would like examples.
Be aware of the panel when you’re answering the questions. Check for ‘buying signals’ like nodding and smiling, and ‘stopping signals’ like fidgeting, interrupting and looking away. If you are aware of stopping signals come to the end of a sentence, and stop.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you have given them what they wanted, you can ask. Did that answer your question or would it be helpful to add more detail/give facts and figures etc.