**This is the show notes for the Millennial Life Admin Podcast: Episode 6**
Job Interviews are difficult under normal circumstances. I should know. I used to get terrified of job interviews. But more now than ever, they are becoming increasingly more important. Today we are going to be talking about how to turn your good interview answer into a great interview answer to really secure that job offer.
This episode of the Millennial Life Admin podcast was inspired by a few things.
This morning I was watching a YouTube video from CNBC Make It that interviewed graduates the 2020 class who just had their job offers rescinded. In the video, one of the students shared why she was especially worried to go back into the job market after having already secured an offer. She talked about how not only would she have to compete with other 2020 grads and new grads, but now she would also be competing against job seekers who have years of experience in the industry and just happen to be laid off during this time. This was a really great point because the truth is, no one really knows what the job market landscape will look in the years to come.
The 2nd thing that inspired this episode was a job interview clinic I hosted a few months ago. In January 2020 I was invited by my alma mater University to go to a networking event and host a job interview clinic for second and third your co-op students were just about to embark on their job search journeys. Now I want to start off by saying all of these students came in prepared with good interview answers. During the interview, I asked them very common interview questions and coached them through the process. And while the answers were good, they met all the requirements and were generally satisfactory, there were little things here and there that could be improved to really wow the employer.
And the last thing that really inspired this episode was my personal experience in job interviews. At the beginning of my career, I really struggled with job interviews and a large part of that was nerves. However, a big part of that was also not understanding how to sell myself in the interview, because let’s face it, the experience is sometimes not enough. After I was able to find my interview voice, I was not only to get interviews and job offers, but I could start securing job interviews and offers for jobs when I didn’t fully meet the qualifications because I was able to market myself.
That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. This article is going to be all about how you make those little changes to turn your good interview answer into a knock-it-out-of-the-park answer.
However, before we start I wanted to lay down the foundation of how you should be answering it interview question. The most common method to formulate an interview answer is to use the STAR technique. STAR stands for:
S – Situation – Define the context for the answer. Where did it take place? What project were you working on? What was the state of the work environment? Was there a difficult client or a pressing deadline?
T – Task – Describe what your role was in the situation. What was your job in this situation? Were you given an assignment by your supervisor or a client? What responsibility did you take on?
A – Action – Explain what you specifically did in this situation. What action did you take? If you were in a team role, specifically identify your roles and responsibilities and how you completed or actioned the task required.
R – Result – Conclude with what happened. How was the situation resolved? What did you learn? Highlight your accomplishments and your lessons.
Now that we’ve talked about how to formulate a good interview answer, let’s start talking about the 7 tips, tools and techniques you can use to turn it into a great job interview answer!
1. Make the interview answer relevant to your future employer.
Psssst, here’s a secret. There’s actually an additional “R” on that “STAR” formula. To truly make your answer great, use the STARR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result, Relevancy. After you spend all that time answering an interview question, don’t let your accomplishments be forgotten. Instead of only talking about what you did in a previous job for a previous employer, pull it back to the job you’re currently interviewing for! If you talked about how you solved a problem, or increased sales, etc. tie it back to the employer and talk about how you could apply those skills in a future position with the company. This really frames you as an outstanding candidate for the position in the minds of the employer and allows them to picture you in the role. Not only will they think you are a standout candidate and secure you an offer, it will also allow you to negotiate better when you are presented with an offer, but because you clearly outlined your skills in the interview and make the employer think “oh we definitely need to have them on our team.”
2. Really paint the situation and create suspense/drama.
Sometimes, excuse me, many times job interviews can be quite boring. So while it’s fine to answer a question along the lines of, “this situation happened at my job, and then this is what I did to resolve it,” a truly great answer is one that can get the employer involved in the story. It’s like reading a good book where you can literally imagine yourself in the situation. Make your answer exciting.
Describe the situation, what were there consequences if you didn’t resolve this conflict? How did it truly improve your team or organization that you were able to resolve this problem?
Don’t over-exaggerate the story, but make it interesting to listen to. It will not only engage the employer more, but it will also make your skills shine more because you resolved this big problem instead of just an everyday blasé problem.
3. Remember that you are the star of the show.
Some of the students tended to answer questions with “we” statements instead of “I” statements and I get it, they didn’t want to come off as cocky. I used to do this ALL the time too. I had a lot of imposter syndrome And I didn’t want to come off as cocky I didn’t want to come off as overconfident so I used to answer my questions with a lot of “we: statements. However, as I’ve learned throughout the years being on both sides of the interview tables when you’re answering an interview question the highlight of the answer is you.
Employers don’t really want to know what your other team members did that much they really want to know what you did what your results for and how it impacted other people that’s what they’re looking for. I promise you interviewers aren’t thinking “wow this person is so overconfident and cocky.” They requested to meet with you because they wanted to learn more about you it’s. It’s not a time to be humble and to be modest about your accomplishment really take credit for what you did really elaborate on your skills and what you can bring to the table by demonstrating it in your answer. But when you are answering an interview question, the focus is on YOU and what YOU specifically did in this situation.
4. Make sure you highlight your skills.
Interview questions are nerve-wracking. I used to turn a bright tomato red in interviews, so it can be tempting to just answer the question, but you need to bring more to the table. When you’re answering an interview question, make sure to mention the skills you have that helped you resolve the problem. As you answer a question, don’t just go through the STARR method. Pull in the skills you used at every single stage. These can be soft skills such as communication and time management skills or hard skills such as Excel and other software.
And if you want to go a step further I recommend you look at the job description prior to the interview and pulling the skills that they’re looking for for this role. Bring them up during the job interview. Pulling keyword skills out of the job posting is something I recommend when you’re doing your resume and job application but it’s just as important during the interview.
5. Create a step-by-step answer on how you resolve a problem.
Employers what to know the steps you take when solving a problem, not just that you did it. For example, in the job interview clinic I hosted, one of the questions was “Describe a time when you had to resolve a problem and were unable to contact your supervisor.” One of the students described a time he calmed down an aggressive client on a highly sensitive issue and it was fine. But I wanted to know – How? What did he say? What negotiation techniques did he use? Because if I were hiring for a position that involved a lot of independent judgement, I would want to know his step-by-step thought process for resolving this problem.
I also found this technique helpful in situations where I would get very nervous because it would prevent me from going on too much of a tangent and allow me to create a coherent answer. When you’re asked a question it can be very easy just to try to answer it. I used to do this all the time because they just wanted to get the kind of interview over with but it is really important I’ve learned it’s really important to show employers my thought process in answering a question and the steps I took. By creating a step-by-step guide on how I saw a problem in employer is able to understand that I put a lot of thought into my actions and into my work and not just do it half-heartedly.
6. Give specific details and quantify them.
For similar to the points before, giving specific details is what makes you stand out. One of the students described how she initiated a new club at her high school for mental health which was great! But didn’t go into the specifics of her leadership in it – what exactly did she do? And what kind of events did she plan? Details are important.
And if you can quantify them, they are even better. If you talk about sales or anything regarding numbers, make sure you plug them in. How many people did you manage? How many followers did you gain as a result of the marketing campaign you led? How much money did you save the company with your new initiative/procedure? Detailed data is what really elevates an answer from “good” to “great.”
7. Record yourself
It sounds extremely cheesy but practice really does make perfect when it comes to job interviews. There are many people who are naturally charismatic, extroverted and are good at public speaking who will answer interview questions extremely well.
However, if you’re not someone with those natural qualities it will take practice. The usual advice is to practice with another person which is great and I recommend it as well. However, depending on who you’re practicing with you might be just receiving it feedback on how to create a good interview answer.
The only person that knows your experience knows the company knows is skillset the required of the job position really well is you. So when you are looking at creating an excellent interview answer record yourself doing it. Have some interview questions in front of you you can mix them up and create flashcards whatever works for you you can have them on your computer or your notes app whatever works for you and really just press record and keep going even when you stumble in an answer. This technique is really important because it will not only allow you to see how you are being presented, you can see the gaps and areas in your answer that you are missing information. I know it can be kind of cringey to watch yourself on video if you’re not used to it but it’s so helpful. Additionally, as we move to a world of online and Zoom interviews, it also allows you to practice how you come off online on camera!
My biggest piece of advice when it goes to job interviews is just to practice and work on getting better.
I’m by no means perfect at job interviews but I’ve definitely gotten better throughout the years using these methods. I hope you find it helpful and if you ever need any help, download my free job application tracker and interview questions study guide for more!