The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Questions
Written by Pamela Skillings, top interview coach — named
"a guru in the world of job interviews” by The Wall Street Journal
Why Your #1 Task Should Be Figuring Out What Questions You’ll Be Asked
Keep Your Industry in Mind
Mastering a Great First Impression With “Tell Me About Yourself”
Nailing the Question
What In The World Do You Say When Asked “Why Do You Want to Work Here?
How Discovering Your Key Selling Points Will Help You Answer “What Are Your Strengths?”
Talking About Your Strengths
The Dreaded “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” - How to Avoid Tricky Pitfalls and REALLY Answer This Question
Why Ask in the First Place
If they know most people won’t tell the whole truth and they can see through positive-to-negative answers, why do practically 100% of interviewers still ask this question?
Because how you answer the question reveals a lot about you.
If, for instance, you dodge the question or fake your way through, the interviewer may be wondering if:
You have a secret weakness you won’t discuss
You have no self-awareness and therefore think you’re perfect
You have very low standards for perfection and personal accountability
You’re a con artist
They’re trying to get past the social niceties and get a grasp on who you really are and what you’ll be like to work with day in and day out.
A job interview is stressful anyway, and you have a thousand anxieties running through your mind as it is, so this question can make even the strongest of candidates bungle.
Okay, So How Do I Answer This Impossible Question?
One Foolproof Formula to Answer ANY Behavioral Interview Question
How to Write Your Irresistible Stories Using the STAR Method
We’re about to go Henry Ford on your behavioral interview answers.
This is the assembly line approach to crafting awesome “greatest hits” stories.
It’s important to use frameworks like this one- job interviews are overwhelming enough as they are. We get it.
They are a lot to process.
And when someone throws a question at you like, “tell me about your greatest strength,” it isn’t any wonder the typical impulse is to go slack-jawed and start “ummming’ like a Buddhist monk.
So here it is…
The one outline you need to organize your greatest hits stories.
The STAR Format
One of the best techniques we know to build stellar answers is to use the STAR format.
STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Approach, and Results.
Your Situation and Task should be a brief yet concise overview. You are setting the stage here.
You want to give enough information to provide context and explain why this story is relevant, but be careful not to include any unnecessary details.
This should be the shortest part of your answer. The meat is in the details, not the context. Be concise, but thorough.
The Approach part of your answers is where you really shine. This is where you demonstrate the actionable steps you took to solve the problem.
Emphasis on Action. You really want to show and not tell here. Be specific. Vague details will not help anyone.
Lastly, you’ll wrap up with your Results. This is where you’ll show off your happy ever after.
Concrete results are always especially impressive, such as increasing sales by 32% or earning a promotion, but anecdotal results can be just as powerful.
Either way, wrap up on a strong, positive note that brings your story full circle with a solid, happy end point.
Don’t Write a Script
What you’ll want to do is write down bullet points for each of the STAR areas and use them as notes during your practice.
Notice we said use them as notes, not memorize them.
You don’t want to train yourself with canned, robotic answers. Your bullet points written with the STAR format are guide posts along your path, but the words will be yours.
Your story will come out a little different each time, but that’s okay. You want be natural and yourself in your interview.
Practicing with your notes will put the relevant information in your brain while also keeping you free to articulate your story as it feels right in the moment.
Choosing Your STAR Format Stories
Now you know how to use the STAR format, you need to take some time to think through what stories you want to tell.
As we mentioned above, we like to refer to these as your “greatest hits” stories. They are moments in your career where you really rose above, grew, took initiative, or learned something significant.
Storytelling is such a powerful tool in job interviewing that we recommend that you have at least 3-5 greatest hits stories prepared across the most commonly asked about competencies.
One of the things that makes a good greatest hits story is that it’s adaptable.
For instance, a story about a successful project could be adapted and used to describe skills in problem solving, leadership, or conflict management.
If you’ve worked out 3-5 stories, you should have enough material to adapt your answers for different opportunities and lead with the one that is the most relevant to the job description.
Be sure to choose stories where you’re the hero. You don’t want to tell stories where you solved a problem that you caused in the first place.