|  April 23, 2014

The best way to answer any interview question

I know the subject of the post promises a lot, but stick with me. In a job interview many of the questions you’re asked could actually be answered in just a few words. A few examples…

  • Q: What’s your greatest strength? A: Organizational skills
  • Q: What’s your biggest accomplishment? A: The time I led X project on campus
  • Q: Why should we hire you? A: Because I’ll give it my all every single day

But as we all know we can’t just say a few words and let the conversation fall flat. I’ve been in interviews like that and they’re awkward and over in 10 minutes. With an interview that short, there’s pretty much no way the interviewer walked away fully convinced you can do the job.

So what do we do? Well, many times we answer the question simply, but then continue to talk. We repeat ourselves, we babble, or we end up talking about something that is way off track from the original topic.

I’m going to tell you the best way to answer any interview question – and that’s to back it up (with an example).

Backing up any statement you make goes SUCH a long way. The candidates that have really wowed me in the past answered my question straight up – but then added to it and told me about times in their past experience when they displayed the skill/the strength/the quality we’re talking about.

Adding examples adds depth to any answer. In a way, it’s the closest thing you can do to providing proof that what you’re saying is authentic.

Let’s take an example:

Q: What’s your greatest strength?

A: My biggest strength is that I’m really organized.


A: My biggest strength is that I am extremely organized and very reliable. It’s something I’ve gotten positive feedback on over the years from coworkers and my peers. When I was in school, I was the President of the [x] club. I was in charge of organizing all meetings, member dues, speakers, and activities. In my last summer internship at [company] I also put my organization skills to use when I was put in charge of a large-scale event which had many details to keep track of. I kept spreadsheets, managed a calendar, and partnered with many different vendors to make sure the event went off without a hitch. Based on what I read in the job description, I feel this is a strength that will help me in this role as well.

Much better, right? So remember, the next time you get asked a simple interview question, go ahead and answer but then BACK IT UP.

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