Saying All the Right Things: Answering Job Interview Questions

Saying All The Right Things: Answering Job Interview Questions - IowaWORKS-Southern Iowa BlogLast month we covered how to answer the first question of a job interview. Even if you follow every step of what we told you to do, the employer probably isn’t going to shut the interview down after that question to hire you. But with the confidence you’ve given yourself with that first answer, you can coast through the rest of the interview with a few expert tips.

Questions that ask for prior experiences should be answered in a Situation, Action, Result format. If you’re asked a question about a prior work experience, for instance “Tell me about a time where you experienced conflict in the workplace”, you want to come up with a situation where there was a conflict, an action that you took to resolve the situation, and what resulted from your action. “One time I had a customer who was very angry about a broken watch. I apologized for the watch not working, explained what options were available to him including repair or refund, and he accepted the refund and appeared satisfied as he left.” There was a situation, then an action, and a good result came of it.

If questions about your job history come up, always be positive about prior work experiences, no matter what terms you left on. If you were terminated, be honest about what happened without attacking or blaming your prior employer. Offer an explanation where you take accountability for a poor choice and discuss how you’ve learned from that mistake.  Trash talking an old company just comes off as sour grapes that will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the interviewer.

If you have a criminal record, be ready to be fully honest with the person doing the interview about your background. Touch base on how you’ve rehabilitated yourself and any restitution that you’ve paid. There’s no good that will come from trying to hide or minimize the charges because they are going to show up on your background check, so just be prepared to use the negative things in your history as a springboard for the positive things that you have done since.

There are all sorts of strategies for how to answer the question “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” We suggest going with the answer that can be considered a weakness but also looks like strength to the employer. Brutal honesty, being too nitpicky, or wanting things to be too perfect before accepting them are examples of answers that you can say are a weakness, but employers would want.

The last question of the job interview is almost always going to be “Do you have any questions for us?” Because you know this question is coming, be prepared. Ask them questions that will make them think. One good question could be “What do you like about your job?” Another could be “What is the biggest challenge for a person in this position?” Don’t ask questions about office policy, benefits or salary. Those can be discussed or negotiated later. This is a chance for you to leave a lasting impression on the people doing the interview, you can find out about the dress code later.

The first question and the last question of a job interview are the two most important questions you’ll face in the interview.  Both are opportunities to leave a lasting impression.  The questions in between give you a chance to explain your history, show yourself as a successful employee, and build upon the sales pitch from the beginning.


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