Studying is helpful when it comes to preparing for more than just exams. It’s a necessity if you want to do well in job interviews.
When you put the time in to preparing thoughtful responses to interview questions, you’ll be in a better position to provide potential employers with concrete proof that you are a great fit for the job.
The first step in accomplishing this should be taken before you ever schedule an interview: Take the time to create solid answers to common questions you’re likely to be asked.
Remember, you are studying for a test about yourself. Save learning about the target company for once you land the interview. Now is the time to focus on learning to sell yourself with the responses you’ll give to questions.
The goal is to practice your responses until they are second nature. That way, you’ll be able to easily pivot to any variant of the question an interview asks.
For instance, if you prepare for, “Tell me a little about yourself?” you should easily be able to answer, “Tell me about your greatest strength?”
Here are some common questions for you to add to your study list:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- What’s your greatest strength (or weakness)?
- What are you most proud of in your career?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you handle deadlines and pressure?
- Describe how you responded in a situation in which you were unsuccessful achieving a goal.
- Tell me about your experience with _____ (insert key skill for target position).”
For a more question examples, you can find a list in Job Interviews for Dummies.
To formulate answers, an easy framework is to think of hitting a home run in baseball. I learned this concept at my first career conference in 1996 from Dean Curtis of the now defunct Curtis & Associates. Today it is still the most effective interview answer strategy I’ve come across.
The interviewer is going to pitch you the question, and you must successfully run the bases to get home. Here is an example:
- The employer pitches you the question, “Tell me about your customer service skills.”
- You hit the ball by providing a general overview statement: “I have very strong customer service skills.”
- You touch first base by sharing the company where you used those skills: ““When I worked at the XYZ Company…”
- You round second base by sharing the job position in which you used those skills: “…as a sales manager.” (Sometimes you want to combine the first and second base steps in the following way: “During the last 13 years of my career, I have worked directly with the public in a number of capacities.”)
- You touch third base, and this is where you give the proof of when you used your customer service skills in that position and company: “In my most recent position as a sales manager with the XYZ Company, I was responsible for closing all company sales, improving customer relations, and resolving any problems. I was instrumental in increasing our customer satisfaction index by over 40%, which also significantly increased sales and earned me Manager of the Quarter for the last three quarters of fiscal year 2019.” Note that you need to use concrete examples and accomplishments to prove your qualifications.
- You cross home plate. Use this step to link your answer back to the target position: “With my emphasis on educating and motivating sales staff in providing positive customer service, I am confident I can make the same level of excellent contribution to your organization.” This step is optional but when used will powerfully connect what you have done in the past to the match you provide for the target position.
Here are a few examples of how this would look for other situations:
New Graduate Without Job Experience
“As you have seen on my resume, while I have never held a job before, that doesn’t mean I do not possess strong customer service skills. What I have learned through completing my degree is that every person you interact with is in some way a customer/salesperson relationship. For example, when I was on the College Hospitality Committee, my customers included my colleagues who I had to sell on my ideas, the college administration who we had to sell program ideas to for approval, and finally the visitors and new students we actually served. Although it was volunteer work, it exemplified to me the way that a customer should be treated with respect and courtesy — the way I would want to be treated myself. Therefore, I feel certain that once I know your company policies, I will have no problem meeting your goals.”
Business Owner Transitioning from Self-Employment to Workforce
“Now that I have sold my company, I can assure you that not only will I not leave this focus behind, but I will strive to provide your customers with the same high caliber of service and professionalism. Having been self-employed and worked for family for several years of my career, I have had the opportunity to develop a very unique perspective on customer service. I have found that many people believe that if you have worked for yourself, you think you can get away with anything. However, I learned very early on that the customer is always number one. I read a book by Joe Girard, The Greatest Salesman in the World. In the book he talks about something I call the “Law of 500.” It simply means that every person you meet will come in contact with about 500 hundred other people. So, how you treat one person could very easily have a domino effect which could make or break your success. Therefore, in my company and in my career, I have treated customers as the lifeblood of the organization. The result has been a highly successful relationship with my customers leading to my establishing a 55% referral/repeat business rate in the first two years of my business.”
Now that you’ve seen the inner workings of this process, open a word processing document where you can brainstorm your way to home run answers. Allow yourself to free write on each of the bases and then go back to refine and tighten to your best responses. Once you’ve created your answers, study them to commit them to memory.
With a little practice you will be ready for any pitch they can throw you to start hitting your own job-landing interview answer home runs.
About the author: Laura DeCarlo is the founder of Career Directors International and the author of Resumes for Dummies and the Certified Employment Interview Consultant program. As someone who has worked in the careers industry since 1994, DeCarlo leverages roles as an award-winning university and college placement director, resume writer, career coach, business consultant, and entrepreneurial coach. Learn more about her at https://careerdirectors.com.