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How to Answer Interview Questions (Believably)

Posted by Bob Corlett on June 19, 2013

One of the least understood aspects of interviewing is this; most interviewers will not trust your opinion of yourself, they will only trust the conclusions they form about you on their own. So your job is to help them form the right conclusions by how you answer their questions.

Your best strategy is to stick to the facts and share recent concrete examples. Your opinions of yourself only get in the way of them trusting you. When you say, "I'm a hard-working self-starter," they will not believe a word of it. But when you to share a brief vivid example of a time when you had to take initiative, they will believe you are a hard-working self-starter without you saying it. One of the best ways to organize your answers to interview questions is the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

So let's put this into practice with a few common interview questions you can expect.

When they ask:

  • "Tell me about yourself." Don't describe yourself. Just give them a short (2 minute maximum) synopsis of your professional career. Stick to the facts.
  • "What are your strengths?" Don't give your opinion. Just say, "Other people often comment that I'm good with (whatever). I'm confident you'll hear this from several people when you check my references."
  • "Tell me about a time when ..." You should answer virtually every behavioral interview question briefly, factually, without opinion, using the STAR method mentioned above.

Interviewers will rarely believe your opinions, but will often believe your facts, particularly when you mention that your references can confirm them. So keep your opinions to yourself and let the facts speak for themselves.

Topics: Job Interview Preparation