Six Steps to Improve how you Answer Interview Questions

by Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland

In preparation for your interview, you might think that the most important thing to equip yourself with is what you’re going to say when answering specific types of interview questions. However, something that many candidates don’t consider is how they approach answering the question.

Therefore, if you have an upcoming interview or you are thinking about changing jobs. Know that the way you act and the way you answer questions is just as important as the words you use when answering the interviewer’s questions.

Below is some advice which should help you to become more mindful and aware of how you should act in a job interview.

1. Come as prepared as possible:
Crucially, the more prepared you feel for the interview, the more likely you will appear confident and calmer in the eyes of the interviewer. Below are a few examples of how you can be as prepared as possible:

  • Prepare answers to the three types of interview questions you’re likely to be asked
  • Think about questions you might want to ask the interviewer
  • Research the interviewer and their background – LinkedIn is a great tool for this
  • Review your CV, and remind yourself of your key career successes and unique selling points

2. How are you going to introduce yourself?
Your own elevator pitch should effectively sum up your background, skills, experience and – crucially what you can offer to the employer. Similarly, at the interview, you need to be focused, articulate and confident in how you introduce yourself.

Ensure that you speak clearly and confidently during your conversation with the interviewer. Whilst maintaining good eye contact and positive body language.

3. Use the STAR technique as much as possible
The STAR technique is a great way of adding detail and a storyline to your interview answers, and is especially suitable for competency-based questions, which tend to start with phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Describe a situation in which…”

It is based on the idea of setting out a situation you previously faced, followed by the task you wished to accomplish, the approach you took and finally, the results you gained. As you talk the interviewer through your answers, subtle nods, purposeful eye contact and descriptive hand gestures can all help in convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the job.

4. Keep things in perspective:
Remember that the interviewer is just another human being and that the interview is just another experience – you will learn from this experience regardless of the outcome. Sometimes it’s easy for our minds to take over and start to lose perspective in stressful scenarios like interviews, so try to keep yours in check.

5. Be aware of your non-verbal body language:
You should be aware of your other non-verbal forms of communication. Smiling is crucial, at the right times. It shows that you are listening to what’s being said, and don’t appear to be fazed by it (even if you do feel a tad anxious on the inside).

Maintaining the right posture in your chair also shows that you are comfortable, so you should avoid slouching and crossing your arms, which can appear dismissive and as if you are trying to put a barrier between you and the interviewer.

6. Be positive before your interview
We’re all human, and sometimes life can get in the way. However, doing everything you can to approach the interview with a positive attitude is crucially important – the mind is a powerful thing and can have a huge impact on how we communicate in any given situation, not least in an interview.

If you make a point of making yourself feel good in this way, your positivity will shine through in your interview performance and any subsequent dialogue with the prospective employer. In what can be an extremely competitive job market, though, even some of the seemingly smallest details can make a major difference to the impression that you make on potential employers.