Preparing Job Interview Answers


Job interviews tend to make most people nervous. That nervousness is usually depicted as a negative feeling, but to be honest, you can also feel nervous excitement because of the opportunity the job interview presents, especially when you’re prepared in advance and are ready for those questions.

If you knew the questions ahead of the interview itself, you might find the interview less of a traumatic experience. Your anxiety just might ratchet down a notch or two; perhaps to a level where you could – dare I say actually enjoy the interview experience! Well, even if you think there’s no way you’d actually enjoy the job interview, you certainly might be a tad more comfortable knowing the questions in advance. At least you’d have the chance to focus in on the things they are going to ask and prepare yourself for those specific questions.

Good news then; it is entirely possible for you to have this information in advance. Got you Interested? The answer of course lies in both the job posting and the company website. Job postings general tell you what the qualifications are you’ll need to get the job and what you’d be responsible to do. The company website adds to this and also provides the language the employer uses which if you adopt will make you sound like one of them while you answer.

So for example, suppose you are going for a job in a factory on an assembly line. A look at the job posting says you must have flexibility to work a variety of shifts and be cross-trained on different roles, teamwork is essential and you need to good at solving problems. In this scenario, it’s highly probable that you’re going to be asked to prove you have the following skills; teamwork, problem-solving, flexibility and the right attitude to be cross-trained in different areas. How you prove you have those skills is by giving examples from your previous or current experience.

As for the company website, it may reveal that they refer to their consumers as customers – not clients, but customers. It might also state that they place a high value on both safety and quality of workmanship.

If this preparation is new to you, a good idea is to take some paper and write down your current and previous jobs; one sheet for each job. Starting with one of those sheets, think about the work you did in that job. You’re looking for a very specific example of a time when you solved a problem. Got one? Okay so briefly note what the situation was leading up to the problem and the threat the problem represented. Next write down what you did to either anticipate, report or fix it. Now because of the action you took, write down what positive result happened. Did your actions save time and money? If someone said, “Good job, you saved our bacon!” write it down.

You now have the structure for your answer to the question, “Tell me about a time when you solved a problem”, or, “Describe your problem-solving skills.” Now don’t make the mistake of memorizing everything you wrote down because that’s just going to add to your stress. Instead, remember a key word that triggers your memory of the problem-solving story. Maybe it always struck you as funny that someone said, “You saved our bacon”, because in that job you were on an assembly line bottling pickles! If ‘bacon’ is associated with problem-solving, the word will bring to mind the story when asked in the interview. It will sound natural and fresh if you then describe the situation you were in, what had to be done and the threat to the production that arose. You’ll also remember what you did and the positive way things turned out. Finally, you’ll wrap up saying how important it is to you to work safely and take pride in the quality of the work you do.

On a second sheet, now you’re looking for proof of your flexibility. Perhaps you were the person they called in at a moment’s notice when someone didn’t report in. Instead of making that general statement and stopping, see it as just your opening remark. Now give them a specific time when this happened, mention the employer, how you adjusted your plans, re-arranged your priorities quickly and put the team ahead of yourself. Mention the pat on the back, the acknowledgement of thanks, and the, ‘get it done’ attitude you displayed that day and still have. The key trigger words might be, ‘Jim’s twins’ as he rushed his wife to the hospital instead of going to work that day and became a dad.

This process gets easier and easier the more you use it. Don’t skip the step of writing these things down as this process adds the structure to your answer and increases your confidence when it’s time to deliver. You can even make a small note to have in front of you such as, ‘Problem-solving = bacon’, ‘Flexibility – Jim’s twins’.

Anticipating the questions you’ll be asked based on the job requirements and employer’s needs, and using the same language they use themselves through their literature or website is a critical step in planning for a positive interview. Draw on your past experience and relate what you’ve done to what you will do for this new employer.

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2 thoughts on “Preparing Job Interview Answers

  1. Thank you, this is very useful information. I will definitely do this as best I can. However, how well you can answer these questions depends on the kinds of jobs you have had. If you have not worked in jobs where you had much responsibility and had no opportunities to solve problems or attain any great achievements it can be difficult to come up with examples. I mean jobs like answering phones in a call center or very junior jobs working in a back office and relief reception and the like.

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