Answering Interview Questions 1

You only need to prepare for a few core questions

Preparing for a job interview is a daunting task for most people and many people feel overwhelmed with the seemingly huge amount of work involved. But the task doesn’t have to be so overwhelming if planned properly. One area that prospective interviewees should focus on is preparing for commonly asked or otherwise predictable questions.

The hard way of preparing for these is to do an internet search on “interview questions” because you will inevitably end up with hundreds of such questions – that would certainly add to the feeling of being overwhelmed! However, the majority of possible interview questions only require preparing answers to just a few core questions. Let me explain why.

What the Hiring Manager is concerned with

During the interview, the hiring manager (or recruiter if applicable) is concerned about four things:

  1. Can this candidate actually do the job? Have they got all the ‘key requirements’ (a mix of skills, qualifications and experience)?
  2. Who is this person? What are they like? What type of personality have they?
  3. Will this person fit in with my team or company? Will they fit in with the organisation’s culture?
  4. How much is this person going to cost me?

So you don’t need to research and prepare answers for hundreds of interview questions. Instead, all you need to do is to prepare your responses to just a few possible questions that stem from the four main concerns of hiring managers listed above. If you prepare material so that you can competently and confidently discuss these four concerns of hiring managers, you will have prepared answers to most questions you can be asked at interview! The questions may be phrased differently or come in various forms, but essentially they are asking about these four concerns, and the responses to them will be similar – based on your preparation to discuss them.

Make sure to give the hiring manager what they want

In order to do well in the interview, your task is to provide the hiring manager with all the information they require to put the above four concerns to rest. As many hiring managers are not trained in interviewing skills, they may or may not ask appropriate or sufficient questions to elicit this information, so your additional task is to make sure you address them whether asked about all of them or not. In other words, you need to be proactive in the interview.

That start off question: “Tell me about yourself

Some people, both interviewers and candidates, see this question as one to settle you down – an easy question to answer because it is about you. But it is a mistake to respond to this in a casual or informal manner, and a wasted opportunity too. A well-prepared response is as easy to prepare and deliver as a casual ‘history of me’ answer!

This question provides a great opportunity for you to describe your background (i.e. education and work and other relevant experience to date) in a manner focused on showing that you meet the key requirements of the job [you can read an article on how to identify these key requirements here – it is titled “The Single Most Important Task In Your Job Search”].

Answering the question in this way also helps you steer the interview in the direction you want – that is to demonstrate how you meet these key requirements. From your answer, the interviewer will pick up on a few points you mention to continue the discussion – and conveniently you have prepared for these points.

One useful way to structure your answer to the question is to talk about your education (from university or school onwards, whichever was most recent) and your work experience. Then discuss the skills you developed along the way, especially those that are your strengths (you can read how to identify your skills and strengths here).

The skills and strengths you choose to discuss should of course be focused on some of the key requirements of the job. You can follow on from that by discussing one or two of your work achievements, particularly any you are proud of or are relevant to the job target.

The Salary Question

In answering questions that stem from the fourth concern of the hiring manager (How much is this person going to cost me?), the key is to not get into negotiating salary before you are actually offered the job – read how to do this in our article “When Is The Right Time To Talk Money During Salary Negotiation?

Further “Tips for Negotiating a Higher Salary” are discussed here.

Just in case you made a mess of your salary negotiation at an earlier interview or answered too soon or asked for too much in the current interview, read our article “Did You Ask for Too High a Salary During Your Interview? Here’s How to Make A Comeback.”

A following article, Answering Interview Questions 2, looks at other core questions that stem from the four concerns of a hiring manager. You can read that article here.

Published by

Nigel Nolan - Managing Consultant, Sandbox Advisors

Nigel has vast experience in Training & Development, Facilitation, Lecturing, General Management and Operations. In addition to an educational background in philosophy, psychology, theology and communications, he has advanced qualifications in business, adult education and coaching.

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