How to Answer Interview Questions (+ Question & Answer List)

how to answer interview questions

Knowing how to answer interview questions is just as important as having been prepared with your interview answers in advance. The way you deliver your message to the interviewer will have just as much impact as the message or answer itself.

How to Answer Interview Questions

Even if you know your answer to an interview question or have your answer prepared in advance, the delivery of your answer is just as important as the answer itself.

Knowing how to properly respond in a physical, emotional, and terse way with the interviewer is what guarantees the impact of your answer.

The best method for delivering a strong interview answer is the following.

Take a deep breath: Step one is to take a deep breath right after you hear the interviewer ask their question. Did you understand the question? Or does it need clarity? If it needs clarity, ask for it. Interview questions are asked in a variety of ways depending on the interviewer. Be sure you and the interviewer are on the same page before you answer the question.

Don’t fear a pause: Pausing before you answer is okay. For most interviewers, they fear silence. Embrace it. If you need time to think through your answer, tell the interviewer, “Let me think about that real quick.” Then divert your eyes, place your hand on your chin or somewhere comfortable then focus.

Deliver your answer with clarity: This is where early preparation will do you justice. Practicing how quickly you can respond to the interview question will be important. Most interview answers unless they are situation questions that start with “tell me about a time” will require 90 seconds to answer.

Don’t lose eye contact: Eye contact is very important when delivering your answer. It shows confidence and connects you two on a deeper level. If anything, use more eye contact than you might feel is necessary.

Question the interviewer after your answer: Don’t forget to ask the interviewer if your response answered their question. If it didn’t, ask which part you can clarify.

Stay calm, be humble: This goes further than you might think. If the interviewer isn’t being clear about the types of interview answers they want, don’t get frustrated. Instead, question them more and be patient. This shows leadership under stress. Never show your frustration.

10 Most Common Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.

Answer: “I’m the kind of employee who knows how to execute very hard and tedious tasks with precision. I pay attention to all the details of a project for the best results. I make sure that every aspect of a task to be completed is just right, and that it is completed in a timely manner.”

2. How did you hear about this position?

Answer: “I'm actively searching right now and found your job posting on LinkedIn while searching for Senior Engineer positions. I reviewed the job description on LinkedIn before applying and it seemed like a great potential fit so I wanted to apply and learn more about the opportunity to see if it’s a good match.”

3. Why do you want to work here?

Answer: “I read a write-up a few months back on the outreach your company does within the local community. Giving back and volunteering is an important part of my own personal core values, and I remember feeling happy that a company values this community as much as I do. That happiness grew when I saw there was a job position opening in my field here. I would really enjoy coming to work each day with the knowledge that I am helping to make a difference in the community through my work in this position.”

4. What is your greatest strength?

Answer: “My greatest strength has to be my solid leadership skills. I’ve been the lead in several productions and they’ve all turned out to be successful, and I was really able to get through to my team so we could work together properly.”

5. What is your greatest weakness?

Answer: “I’m not very good at visualizing how long a task will take me to finish. I quite often underestimate the time it will take to do smaller, less detailed jobs. The result is that I don’t allow enough time to larger and more important projects. I have to rush to get things done, and it’s a very bad habit that makes me miss deadlines. To address the problem, I’ve started taking time management courses at my local college.”

6. How would your coworkers describe you?

Answer: “My past coworkers have told me that I am very organized and quite good at time management. During one specific project, my team members gave me praise for developing and sticking to a timeline for all the different aspects of the project. We ended up successfully completing the project ahead of time, and it went really well! I’d love to have a similar relationship with my team members in this position.”

7. What gets you up in the morning?

Answer: “What gets me up in the morning is the notion that every day is a brand new day to grow. I’m one who loves to beat my own personal records. Especially with health and wellness. Being able to wake up, challenge myself and see the rewards of succeeding is extremely gratifying. More so than any monetary exchange.”

8. How do you like to be managed?

Answer: “One of my favorite managers went by the name of Sam. Sam was incredibly talented at communicating to us in ways that resonated on a personal level. This means that Sam clearly took the time to think about each of our lives and how to best speak with us. His communication felt like guidance. And because of this guidance, myself and many other team members felt like any challenge was possible to overcome. That’s just one of the qualities I look for in a manager.”

9. What are your career aspirations?

Answer: “When I think of my career aspirations, I think of a timeframe maybe 10 years from now. I have more tactical career goals that are 5 years from now, but aspirations I think of longer-term. Ideally, I aspire to be exposed to a broad set of skills that help me learn how to run enterprise businesses. I hope to have been exposed to operations, marketing, and sales more fluently. And aim to have been part of highly collaborative environments that developed me as a professional and person.”

10. What motivates you?

Answer: “On a personal level, I am motivated to show the value of a good work ethic to my children. No matter how difficult the project, I want them to see that it is important to show up with enthusiasm every day, ready to give your best. That translates nicely into what motivates me as an employee. I am driven by the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you’ve given your best to your team each day.”

10 Most Difficult Interview Questions

1. Why should we hire you?

Answer: “It appears that the marketing department is focused heavily on growth. I’ve been part of countless growth efforts at both startups and mid-sized companies. Due to that experience, I feel like I could bring a lot of that knowledge to the team and collaborate in a way that’s highly quantitative. I have plenty of results I could show the team and have that be a driver for our work.”

2. What can you bring to the company?

Answer: “I firmly believe that communication is a large part of effective collaboration. It’s not simply having good verbal communication skills, it’s also about remembering to communicate and learning how others like to be communicated to. In that sense, I’m able to bring connective tissue to the company.”

3. What can you bring to the role?

Answer: “Well, I’m absolutely looking to get this job to give me a new experience. So while I might not have relevant prior work experience. I do have relevant experience in the workplace. You mentioned that dealing with disgruntled customers was a major part of the job. And I recall working on the product team at Apple, we had a customer call us who was beta testing a product of ours. She was extremely upset because our test just so happened to erase all of her data and information on her phone. The best thing we could do was empathize with her and tell her how sorry we were. We thought on our feet and found a way to reward her for finding this issue. While it wasn’t easy, we learned quickly that everyone has something you can connect with them on. And get over challenging times.”

4. How would you describe yourself?

Answer: “I am definitely results-oriented. I’m constantly checking in with the goal of determining how close or how far off we are in a marketing project, and what it will take to make it happen quickly and perfectly. I find this love of pressure and challenges inspiring and a great motivator for the rest of the team, which is always a good thing. In fact, over the past two years, I was able to help my team shorten our average campaign writing time by three weeks.”

5. What’s one word that describes you?

Choose one of the following words:

6. What makes you unique?

Answer: “I am a very excellent communicator and find that it’s easy for me to relate to other people. I this empathy is very important in this industry, both between colleagues and between the creative department and clients.”

7. Tell me about a time you had to demonstrate leadership.

Answer: “When I was at my previous company, there were a couple of weeks where we had a lot of our managers leave the company. It was a hard time for our employees and team members. They felt as though their job security might be in question. There were about 12 of us on the team. And I realized after the first few weeks that our team wasn’t getting together to discuss our work in progress. The previous manager was the facilitator of that. So I decided to step in and schedule a meeting where we could all discuss our work. It was a moment where I don’t think we consciously realized how important those meetings were for our team. And everyone was appreciative of the fact that I recalled those meetings and made sure we kept doing them.”

8. Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without all the required information.

Answer: “It was a few days before our client deadline, we were working on a creative project. Our manager was out on vacation, unable to be reached. And the team had a question. One that was going to impact our ability to complete the project. The team discussed the various options for what we could do to overcome our roadblock. None of them seemed great. Or accurate. And we all felt that. I decided to go back and look at the original creative brief. And while the client evolved their needs very much so from the origination of the brief, I was able to draw some conclusions by looking at the brief and where we were today. Ultimately we made a decision that was small but ensuring the project got done and the client was happy. It was the moment of looking back on the brief that was most impactful.”

9. If you were an animal what would you be and why?

Best answer: Dog

Why: Man’s best friend, of course!

10. Tell me about a time you failed.

Answer: “When I was a project manager, I failed to hire the appropriate engineers and technicians for the production process in order to save money. The result was a lackluster product that didn’t do well compared to other products the company produced. From this experience, I learned that sometimes it is worth not cutting corners to get the results needed.”

11. Are you willing to relocate?

Answer: “I’m thrilled you see me as a great fit for this role. Though, I wasn’t expecting to hear about the role only being available in [Location]. Since I do have commitments and family to consider, can I get back to you on whether this location is workable or not?”

STAR Method for Answering Interview Questions

The STAR method is a framework for answering interview questions. Most interview questions this works best for are situational interview questions. Or interview questions that being with “tell me about a time”.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

Let’s give an example of a STAR structure to a “tell me about a time” interview questions:

Situation: Our team had a tight deadline we had to deliver for a client. It was a 48-hour deadline.

Task: Figure out how our team could deliver on the needs of the client.

Action: Deciding to invite other team members to rally behind the problem and thank them for their efforts with gift cards.

Result: The client’s needs being met on time. Collaboration occurring between team members.

Here is how it will come out as an interview answer:

“There was a situation our team was in, one of our clients had a tight deadline. A project needed to be completed in 48-hours and there was no way we could do it alone. I had to figure out how we could deliver the requests the client had. I decided to invite other team members to help us and in lieu of doing so, I would give them a $100 Amazon gift card. It worked. We had two nice colleagues decide to chip in and we met the client's needs on the tight deadline.”

FAQ’s

How do you answer tough interview questions?

If you know a tough interview question in advance, you’ll be okay. But what’s more common is not knowing how to answer tough interview questions. When a question arises that you aren’t prepared for, tell the interviewer. Say, “I wasn’t prepared for this type of a question but I’ll do my best.” Then try to answer the question. The act of managing your interviewer's expectations like described can mitigate poor answers from impacting your overall interview performance.

What should I not say in an interview?

You should avoid mentioning any other interviews you have been on, ways you think the interviewer could be doing better, or asking about salary compensation before your interview has begun.

Is it okay to bring notes to an interview?

Absolutely. It is encouraged. You should bring questions you have prepared in advance to ask at the end of your interview. If the question has been answered during the interview session, then simply skip that question and ask the rest toward the end of your interview session.

Should I accept water at an interview?

Absolutely. If you don’t use the water that is okay. But having the water nearby can help when you feel your mouth or throat is dry and it is impeding on your ability to better answer your interview questions.

How early should I be to an interview?

You should aim to be at least 15-minutes early to your interview. This spacing of time helps to take preventative measures against traffic, accidents while driving to the interview, or mistakes like being at the wrong office building.

How do I calm my nerves before an interview?

The best way to calm your nerves before an interview is to review your interview answers in your head, take some long calming breaths, and then remind yourself that you are prepared for the interview.

How do I look confident in an interview?

Be sure to sit in a comfortable position. And be comfortable. If you feel comfortable, you will look confident. The rest relies on your ability to answer the interview question with clarity and answer the question in under 90-seconds.

How long should an interview last?

The average interview lasts 30-minutes. If your interview lasted a shorter period of time, this be could an indicator that the interview did not go well. If the interview lasted longer than 30-minutes this could be an indicator that you were not clear with your interview answers or that the interviewer wanted to spend more time in the conversation. In order to know which it may be after the 30-minute mark, use your best judgment based on the interviewer's enthusiasm levels in the conversation.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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