Sometimes I’m asked by people for a specific answer they could give to a particular question that they anticipate having in an upcoming interview. While I can quite well give an answer to many of those questions, I know it is impossible to give all people an answer that is infallible in all interview situations.
The reason has to do with a number of factors that the interviewee needs to size up preceding the question. It might be useful to look at some of these factors which should influence a person in shaping their replies to questions.
The first factor is a person’s verbal skills. While some people are talkative and effectively communicate their thoughts with words easily, others are less able to do so. Their answers are generally straight forward and short. Vocabulary is closely related to this factor; some have a large vocabulary, know industry buzz words and technical terminology while some do not.
Of course the atmosphere being created by the interviewer often sets the tone for the kind of answer you can safely assume will be received by them favourably. This ability to read the interviewer based on your observations is critically important. If they are jovial, laid back, casually dressed, you might correctly assume some occasional tasteful humour, a smile and a laugh will be okay. A sombre, non-nonsense or even gruff interviewer might be better approached with caution and conservative answers.
Some interviewers read questions to applicants, thus ensuring each applicant gets the exact same question and there are few other words added. They ask, you answer, thanks for coming. This kind of interview restricts the applicant from picking up on information shared from the conversation because the interviewer is adding little to nothing in the process. While they may be friendly and smiling, your answer can’t appeal to anything you are picking up from their words as they are few and far between outside the formal questions.
Of course the number of people representing the employer affects how one answers a question too. A panel interview where you are facing several interviewers can result in an applicant connecting with one or more interviewers over others. Therefore your answers in this case might vary in tone and your words depending on the person you are addressing in answering the question posed. You might answer the Human Resources person differently than the person who will ultimately be your supervisor.
One of the most significant factors to consider affecting your answer to a question has to do with how you perceive things are going in an interview up to the current point in time when you get asked a particular question. If things are pleasant, your confidence high, you might answer a question differently than if you’re feeling the interview is going poorly and the job slipping away with every answer you give.
I hope you will agree that these factors influence how and what you might say in an interview. It’s not enough to have a pre-determined answer ready to a certain question and then just regurgitate it when the time comes. If this is all interviewers were looking for, they’d mail you the questions and read your answers.
Good interviewers and good job applicants read each other internally and constantly checking throughout the interview to confirm or change their opinion of each other. So what started off tense might soon change to a more comfortable experience, and therefore how you deliver an answer will vary depending upon the point during the interview when the question is asked. The opposite is true as well; you might have sensed things were laid back at the start only to find the interviewer has changed the tone of the interview to being more serious, more matter-of-fact.
Therefore it becomes impossible for one person to coach all people to answer all questions the same way and expect the same positive outcome. What one says and how one delivers it will vary from person to person and from situation to situation.
One thing you should reasonably be expected to receive if you are ever working with someone coaching you in advance of an interview, is some personal time. So, if you were working with me for example, I’d be most able to help you if I got to know you first. Knowing your vocabulary, confidence level, experience, assertiveness, communication and people skills are just some of the things that would go into my assessment of your ability to answer questions in the way which will work best for you.
Now if you take a group experience – say you attend a workshop on preparing for interviews, you’ll likely get standard good advice. Things to do before, during and after an interview which are common sense. You might or might not even get a chance to pose some of your own tough questions you’ve been asked. Giving you a personal answer that will work for you is hard though because of all the factors I’ve mentioned earlier. At some point you will need to assess things on the go in the interview and determine for yourself at that moment on how to best proceed.
Some interview better than others as we know. Like anything else, interviewing is a skill and it can be learned if you have the interest and see the value.
All the best out there.