The Answer to Every Interview Question
When I was on the job search, I took my research on how to interview pretty seriously. I wasn’t taking any chances and knew that once I was invited for an interview, I’d need to give myself the best shot at getting the position. I did so much research on interviewing I was able to get it down to a science. In this article, I’ll share the key insights and methods I created to be able to crush any interview.
During the interview prep, there were some questions I had to blatantly memorize. And for the rest, I developed methods to answering them. I’ll start with talking about the behavioral questions since those are the hardest. These are the “Tell me about a time when…” questions. After that, I’ll briefly talk about answering common, ethical, and then the off the wall questions.
Answering Behavioral Questions
Although there can be an infinite amount of interview questions, especially the behavioral ones, there are only a certain number of core concepts behavioral interview questions could answer. Every one of these questions can be answered with a very specific core principal, and luckily, there aren't many of them. I organized these principals into 3 sets.
If you develop a few stories from your life experiences for each set, you’d then be unstoppable in an interview. With a library of these stories to match the sets, the only hard part of the interview becomes trying to decide what core principal the interviewer is looking for when a question is asked, or which of your stories best applies. This then creates a situation where answering an interview question almost becomes like solving a puzzle. Once, you’ve identified what the question is asking, you just insert the correct story from a set that fits.
Well designed interview questions aim to get qualities from multiple sets. However, having 2 stories per sets is ideal incase an interview questions does point to the same set. To start, let’s go through the sets, then I’ll provide a few examples on how it could work.
Remember when coming up with these stories, the interviewer likely asks “Tell me about a time when…” so it should be answered like a story.
You should aim to have a minimum of two stories from each set. This should be enough to get you through almost every interview.
Set 1 — Internal Leadership
- Can you demonstrate perseverance and/or adaptability?
- Can you show an ability to take responsibility for performance and your or your team’s actions?
- Do you keep your word on commitments?
- Do you take risks and are you not scared to try new things or implement new ideas?
- A story can demonstrate your motivation and drive in completing a task or in your career
Set 2 — External Leadership
Working With Others
- How well do you work with a group of people, how well do you get your superiors to work on an idea you have?
- How do you deal with conflicts with other people and deal with different points of view?
Relates well to others
- How well do you connect with people from different backgrounds and create and maintain these relationships?
- How well can you listen to others and express empathy?
- How can you tailor messages to be deliverable to targeted audiences?
- How well do you do at public speaking?
- Have you ever provided others with challenging tasks/projects and effectively provide feedback
- Are you able to notice when expectations are not being met?
- Can you create excitement for people around a task or a project?
- How well can you get buy in from people?
Set 3 — Future/Vision Leadership
- Have you ever discovered ways to streamline or improve processes?
- How do you ensure current best practices are understood and being followed?
- Can you manage resources, time and remain focus on completing objectives using prioritization?
- How do you address critical issues?
Problem Solving and Strategy
- How do you obtains relevant data, ideas, and opinions to make decisions?
- How well can you create ideas and direction to achieve objectives?
- Are you always learning, generating new ideas, and bringing new approaches to old tasks?
Here are some examples of the process in action:
Question 1 — “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.” Looking for: Accountability, Answer would be pulled from set 1 and could be a time where you made an actionable mistake in which you either took accountability for or had to adapt to a specific situation.
Question 2 — “Tell me about a time when you were given a difficult project.” This question could be looking for your ability to plan or execute a specific vision. So the answer could be pulled from set 3 with a story about how innovative you can be.
Question 3 — “Tell me about a time when you had to work in a group who had a difficult group member.” This could be looking for how you interact with other individuals. This answer will likely be pulled from set 2 where you can tell a story about how you relate well to others.
Your stories should be answered using the STAR method. And if it’s useful, here’s a potential percentage breakdown of an effective story:
- Setting: 5%
- Characters: 10%
- Plot/Conflict: 20%
- Climax/Leadership Qualities: 55%
- End Result*: 10%
*Make sure to include quantifiable results with specifics
Practice: Google “”behavioral interview questions” and get familiar with being able to identify which set a any question can have can point to.
Answering the Common Questions
There are some questions you just have to be prepared for. Basically have these answers memorized because you’ll get asked them at every interview. Because they’re usually asked first, try to take the time to make a connection with your interviewer(s). Learn more about that here. These questions include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What’s your biggest strength/weakness?
- Why did you choose this career/job?
Answering Off the Wall Questions
These can be the upmost random questions like:
- Whats your spirit animal?
- If you had to be a color what would it be?
- If you could have any super power what would it be?
These questions are intended to see how you think under pressure or how quickly you can think on your feet. There’s usually no right answers to these. However, a wrong answer is one that’s filled with self doubt, unorganized, or worse, no answer at all. So, just pick the first thing that comes to mind and then quickly look for a positive characteristic or attribute to your answer and give that as the reason for it being your answer.
Answering Ethical Questions
Answering ethical question may feel a little awkward at first, but it’s fairly easy. Just make sure your answer follows any applicable laws, it’s what you think is right, and then defend it, no matter the circumstance. Your answer may seem silly, or it may seem like it’s against everyday practice given the situation, but for the interview, your answer should always follow the law and be the expected correct/right answer.
Hope this helps! Interview prep can be a stressful process. Shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any clarification on anything I mentioned in the article. If you need more extensive help with interviewing or developing your stories I’d be more than happy to over a triple espresso macchiato from Starbucks. ;)
Thanks for reading.
Richard Waithe, PharmD | Richard@RxRadio.fm