Interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process. My goal is to give you my top tips on how to answer tough interview questions as well as how to ask the right questions at the end of a company interview. In this article, I will talk about the importance of clarifying your purpose, conducting research before the interview, crafting a compelling message, and many more helpful tips. Knowing how to answer job interview questions the right way is very important as you grow in your career.

Top 10 Tips for Answering Interview Questions Strategically

As you are conducting your job campaign, it is important to be strategic in everything that you do. Answering interview questions can be tricky, but it is crucial that you answer them strategically. In interviews, you want to make sure that you are representing yourself to the best of your ability. Remember this is your dream job on the line! Learning how to answer interview questions confidently can make a big difference in the outcome of your interview.

1. Clarify Your Purpose and Values

First thing first. Before you begin the interviewing process, you want to reflect back and take a moment to ask yourself what you want out of your career. If you need some help here, you may want to take a personality test that may help you see what drives you and what you are passionate about. One personality test I love is 16personalities which is a no cost assessment. Pay attention to your blind spots – which are aptly named. 

After doing some reflection, you can better focus on what you want, your purpose and what you value the most. By being confident in your purpose and values, you can show the interviewers you’ll meet what you will bring to their company. Keep these self reflections handy, because they will be useful as you practice answering your potential questions later in the interview preparation process.

2. Research Thoroughly 

Now that you have conducted some self reflection on what you want out of your career and can focus on the interview, you are ready to start conducting research on how to achieve success in your conversation with the company. A good place to start is the company’s website. Look through their work – what projects do they work on that you would be passionate about? Those would be great examples of why you want to work for this company. You can also look into their social media platforms or their monthly newsletters if they have them listed online. Do either of these platforms showcase examples of company culture that could be exciting for you? If not, I have a way for you to learn more about the company’s culture later in the blog. 

It might also be helpful for you to talk to someone you know who works at the company – if you know someone that works at the company. Do they have any advice for the interviews? Do they have any insight about what the company may be looking for at this time?

3. Develop a Curated List of Practice Questions

When developing your list of potential interview questions, aim to have a balance between broad career insights and specific industry knowledge. Some options include asking about key moments in your career, specific strategies that are used to overcome challenges, and trends that have recently emerged in the field. Include questions that ask about your career journey. You may be asked about your challenges as well as your triumphs.

Later in this blog I share some difficult questions we see often and how to best approach them. However, if you’re looking for some more in-depth practice questions and coaching on how to answer those best, check out my Interview 2 Be Hired program. One of our three level options may be a good fit for you!

4. Crafting Compelling Interview Responses

It’s vital when preparing for interviews that the responses you develop for practice questions reflect both what you are passionate and knowledgeable about, and what the company is looking for in a candidate. 

This part of the interview preparation is where having your self-reflection notes on your purpose and values will come in handy! Here you’ll also want to have a list of potential professional experiences to pull from that you can share. Some of these may already be on your resume, if you set up your resume well. The interview is a great opportunity to expand upon those examples. But it’s always good to have more examples to pull from as well.

5. Practice Active Listening

The next tip for having a successful job interview is practicing active listening. While being interviewed, be sure to keep all of your attention on the interviewer’s questions or responses. Do not interrupt, and allow natural pauses to occur. When you hear valuable insights and advice, take detailed notes. This will allow you to follow up on relevant points by asking questions to either delve deeper into topics or to clarify uncertainties about the role or company.

6. Seek Mentorship Opportunities

During successful interviews, you may find an interviewer who resonates with your career goals. Use this opportunity to express your eagerness to learn from them in mentorship. This is an opportunity for you to show future employers that you are passionate about what you do. Remember, not every interview will result in a direct job, however they may lead to other beneficial opportunities.

7. Show Gratitude and Follow Up – Continue Building Relationships:

Once your interview is completed, express your gratitude to the interviewer for their time and wisdom. Send a personal thank you note that shows your enthusiasm for the open position while also mentioning key takeaways from the interview. After the interview, it is always a good idea to keep in contact with the interviewer if your career goals are aligned. By keeping in contact, you can hopefully rely on them in the future for guidance or inspiration during your career campaign. Another positive for keeping in contact with the interviewer is that you can grow your network and connections! You can never have too many connections! 

8. Reflect on Your Interview:

Finally, the interview is done and you have sent a follow up email expressing your appreciation to the interviewer. What do you do next? Well, now it’s time to start the reflection process again. Remember how we started with self reflection at the beginning of this process? It is important to end the process with reflection as well. Think about what you learned from each interview. What did you learn about yourself? What insight did you gain from this interview? Are the jobs you just interviewed for what you were looking for in a career move? 

After you have completed reflecting on the interview process, you will want to come up with  actionable steps to take next. This reflection process will be useless to you if you do not create actionable steps to take in the future. Writing down what you have learned from the interview process can be very helpful. I have found that journaling is very helpful and beneficial during the job campaign. Try it out!

9. Build a Network of Support:

Once you have reflected on the interview process and decided on actionable steps to take, you want to make sure that you build a strong network of support. This journey can be exhausting and draining. At times you will need extra support. This isn’t a bad thing! Make sure that you have a diverse set of relationships with a lot of different professionals. Even if you are not interested in a certain market segment, you should still have a few connections with professionals in that industry. Don’t be afraid to grow your network of support to many different industries. Embrace the chance to learn something new! Casting your network broader can lead to new job opportunities that you may have never known you would have been interested in. It can also give you a more well-rounded perspective and pool of knowledge, which can come in handy.

10. Embrace Continuous Learning:

As I said above, embrace learning something new! Look at interviews as a way to learn something new either about yourself or about the industry. It’s always a good idea to look at interviews as an ongoing learning opportunity vs a one-time event. I have found the professionals that are the most successful stay curious and are not afraid of opportunities for growth and development. 

During an interview you may learn that there are specific qualifications or certifications that the job you want requires. Once you know that it’s good to get started right away while you have momentum! Keep an open mind and you will see what you are capable of! 

Difficult Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

When the questions start, there may be several difficult questions. While some may be technical, depending on your industry, it’s also very common to get some difficult behavioral questions. Here are some of those top difficult questions, along with my recommendations on how to tackle them.

1.What describes your three most important accomplishments? 

The important twist to remember here is that your three accomplishments need to relate to the job that you are applying for. While you are preparing for your interview, think about accomplishments that exemplify you in a way the interviewer could use to see you in the desired role. Tell the interviewer where the accomplishment occurred and how the transferable skills could be used in the environment of the open position. 

2.What kind of decisions are the most difficult for you? 

This question is designed to discover your decision making skills. Provide a response that shows how you have learned from the decision. The interviewer wants to get a feel for your cultural perspective with your reply. 

3.How would your previous or current boss describe you?

You want to think about the good things your boss would say as well as some opportunities for you to improve. Remember that the interviewer is listening for an opportunity to hear you in a way that allows them to see you in a managerial role. Try to make that easy for them by giving them good examples. A good example would be your boss describing you as a leader and mentor of newer employees. 

4.Describe your impact on your present company. 

This question is especially tough for those of you that dont know how they add value to the bottom line. Think of examples and stories where you have improved a process, created efficiencies, or improved productivity. These would all make good examples of how you can improve the bottom line. Next, explain how often, how much, and how many when you describe the scope and scale of what you have done. 

5.What types of tasks do you feel you cannot delegate?

This is a similar question to the one asked before about decisions that are the most difficult for you. Think of tasks that demonstrate awareness of your emotional intelligence and show that you can overcome obstacles in the work environment that could hold you back. For example, you may have had a strong trustworthy relationship with a client that has asked your department to do an important task. Delegating this task would break the trust of the client and possibly harm the relationship and the company that you work for. Use this example to clarify that the relationship is the most important aspect.

 

I hope these example interview questions and how to respond to them have given you confidence for your next interview. Remember that these questions give you the opportunity to paint a picture of yourself that opens the door to the job you are seeking. 

Ask the RIGHT Questions in Your Next Job Interview

As an added bonus, you always want to ask the interviewer the right questions, too. Because don’t forget, an interview is a great opportunity for you to learn about the potential job and company as well. Here are example questions that can give you insight into the job without directly asking.

 

  1. Can you tell me about a time when two of your team members had competing priorities? How did you manage the conflict, and what was the outcome? 
  2. The answer to the above question can show you the culture within the company allowing you to make an informed decision.
  3. Share an example of a time when the company’s mission informed a decision and subsequently your guidance about how best to handle a situation or follow through on an important priority. 

     

    Overall, job interviews can seem daunting and overwhelming. The more you practice these tips the more confident you will feel before and during interviews. I would challenge you to spend time brainstorming potential interview questions and how you would answer them. Practice makes perfect! I wish you luck in the process of securing your next dream job.