How To Answer Interview Questions Really Bloody Well

No matter how much prep you put in, it’s always stressful as hell. Hopefully, this will help...

How To Answer Interview Questions

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Published on

It’s the day you’ve been anxiously waiting for. You sit in an uncomfortable chair, nervously fiddling with a stray thread on the cuff of the stiff, brand new shirt you bought for the occasion, impatiently waiting to be summoned. You don’t feel great. Sweaty palms, weak knees and you’re just a few lyrics away from being the subject of an Eminem song.

You’re pretty confident that you’ve prepped thoroughly, though. You have the scribbled notes crumpled in the pocket of your bag and the echo of your mate’s lenient practice questions ringing in your ears to prove it. So why, then, when your name is eventually called to interview for the job of your dreams, does your mouth suddenly go dry and every ounce of well rehearsed self promotion fly straight out of your head leaving you with little more to say than ‘nice to meet you’?

For many,the interview stage is one of the most anxiety inducing stages of applying for a new job. It’s one thing tirelessly tweeking CVsand refining cover letters in the comfort and privacy of your own home, but having to come face to face with the person who has the fate of your career in the palm of their powerful hands is terrifying.

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If we were to delve into that anxiety a little bit, it’s a complicated combination of fear of rejection, self-esteem issues, lack of control and pressure to perform at play here. And as unsettling as it can be, it’s pretty common.

The trouble is, though, that anxiety can play havoc with our memories. Consultant psychologist Dr Heather Sequeira told us that our brains have to prioritise while under stress, so one of the reasons for suddenly drawing a blank when faced with a question you should really know the answer to might have a little something to do with that.

Then there's things like perfectionism and the fear of actually nailing something that means a great deal to us often get in the way of doing just that, too. In short it's a whole lot of stress ahead of a 20-30 minute chat with a stranger.

But how do we get past the fear, tension, sweaty palms and desperate dry mouth? It may not be what you want to hear but there's no secret formula. However,Hannah Salton, a Career Coachwith background in corporate recruitment, gave *The Debrief *some expert tips on how to approach job interviews the right way and, hopefully, take some of the fear and mystery out of a process that we'll all eventually get used to.

How should I prepare for an interview?

Okay, you want to prepare but there is such a thing as _over_preparing. One thing Hannah says you don't want to do is create a specific set of answers to recite. 'The risk coming across too scripted', she says. 'You can never fully prepare for all questions. The trouble is that if you’re asked a question that you haven’t prepared for, you can come across really panicky.'

What you want to do instead, is focus on knowing yourself really well. If you're confident in knowing your strengths and weakness you'll be better placed to answer the questions you're asked in a less rigid, rehearsed way. You should also make the effort to know the company really well, too. The same applies and will make your life easier, trust us.

How should I talk about myself in an interview?

This is one of the weirdest bits, isn't it? Especially if you're not particularly extroverted or shouty about your achievements. But that's something you can get around without coming across as insincere or arrogant. If there's a time to let yourself shine, it's in the interview. And don't worry, your interviewer is expecting it.

In fact, Hannah says that it's the stuff that they'll really want to hear. 'It sounds cliché the interviewer will really want to know you as a person, and they’ll want to hear about your motivations. I’d recommend not just focussing on the “what” but your “why” as well. For example, if you get asked about why you applied for the role, don’t just use your experience, try and share your underlying motivation and what you’d enjoy about working for the company. It’s also an opportunity to show your strengths as person as well as any other strength of experience.'

It doesn't have to just be an awkward listing of achievement's you're not really sure of. As long as you combine one of those brilliant facts about yourself and your experience with proof and relate it back to the job you're applying for, you've ticked all the boxes.

When it comes to 'motivational questions', Hannah adds, 'try and back up what you say with specific examples. So, if you're saying something about the culture of the firm being really appealing, give exampled of reports you've read or the representatives you've spoken to. Give your high level reasons some life with specific examples that explicitly link back to you'.

How do I answer complicated interview questions?

Don't go in there expecting to be sidetracked - that'll just stress you out even more. The trick is to pause and use your ears. 'Listen very carefully to the specific wording of the question', Hannah recommends. 'Sometimes companies can ask nuances of questions and might be helpful to repeat their language back in the answer to explicitly demonstrate that you're able to respond directly to what they're asking'.

Okay I’m still scared about my interview, what should I do?

It's always going to be scary, and I know you've heard this one before but it really does get easier over time. Hannah says: 'Try and reframe how you approach interviews. They can feel intimidating and nerve racking because they’re a new situation. You just need to accept that in every interview you go to you’ll do some things well and some things not so well, you should look at it all as a learning experience and an opportunity to do your best and recognise that some situations will go well and some won’t'.

One of the most important things you can get out of the experience is feedback. Hannah's advice is to be proactive about it and ask for feedback as soon as you get a result from your interviewer. Just remember to be flexible about it, explain why personal development is important to you and approach in a non-entitled, grateful way, okay?

Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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