Answering Interview Questions Effectively

The bookends of a successful job search are a strong resume and savvy salary negotiations. But the true centerpiece is the interview. In this competitive job market, there are often hundreds of applicants for each job listing and postings can be closed within days. Standing out in a crowded field to obtain an interview is an achievement in itself and the opportunity to showcase your skills in front of a prospective employer should not be taken lightly. The most effective way to make the most of this precious commodity is to prepare.

Many companies recruit at Iowa State University because they know the curriculum, projects, and labs prepare you for the technical world of engineering. This is one of the reasons that GPA can be important; it allows employers to compare your performance to that of other students. By analyzing your GPA, class level (i.e. level of coursework), and engineering projects on your resume, employers can get an idea of how much technical knowledge you have. Therefore, the interviewer may not need to spend much time asking you questions about technical topics.

As discussed previously, interviewers use behavioral-based questions to learn about how you handled certain situations in the past because this provides insight about your skills and how you are likely to handle similar situations in the future. The first step in providing an effective answer is understanding what skill or character trait the interviewer is trying to assess. Sometimes it might not be completely obvious. For example, if an interviewer asks you to describe a particularly challenging problem that you solved, he or she isn’t looking for a detailed explanation of the problem. Instead, he or she is interested in your problem-solving skills and wants to hear about the process you went through to solve the problem.

An interviewer may also try to assess your procedural and/or analytical knowledge by asking questions such as, “How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” or “How many tennis balls do you think would fit in this room?”. Again, they are likely not looking for an exact answer. Instead, they want to know how you would explain the procedure or go about solving the problem.

However, companies may have certain technical skills or processes that they find very important. If a company is looking for candidates with understanding and/or experiences in these areas, then they will ask technical questions during an interview to evaluate your level of expertise. Occasionally companies will also ask about technical steps taken in your class/work projects, or about how a particular technical skill was used to solve a problem. If a company is planning to ask detailed technical questions, they will typically let you know beforehand so that you can prepare.

Once you understand what the interviewer is interested in hearing about, you need to fairly quickly think of a specific example to use. Therefore, it is important to prepare for an interview by 1) anticipating the skills and character traits that you are likely to be asked about, and 2) thinking about the specific situations you can use to show that you have experience in the areas of interest. The particular situations are not as important as your ability to use them to highlight your capabilities and strengths. To help ensure that answers to behavioral-based questions contain the right information and right amount of detail, it is highly recommended that you practice and use the STAR method of formulating answers.

Speak with high energy and enthusiasm

Showing enthusiasm is an important part of giving good answers in an interview.

It’s okay if you’re an introvert or naturally quiet… you don’t have to be the most outgoing, bubbly personality to get hired.

Just turn it up a bit…

Do slightly more than you usually do in terms of energy in your tone of voice and body language.

Tone of voice is especially important when answering questions in phone interviews since they can’t see your facial expressions or body language.

If you need help showing energy and enthusiasm in your voice, try standing up and smiling when you talk on the phone. This may sound odd, but it’s a proven trick that phone salespeople use all the time.

Possible answer to “How did you hear about this position?”

“I heard about an opening on the product team through a friend of a friend, Akiko, and since I’m a big fan of your work and have been following you for a while I decided it would be a great role for me to apply for.”Read More: 3 Ways People Mess Up the (Simple) Answer to “How Did You Come Across This Job Opportunity?”

TOP 7 Interview Questions and Answers (PASS GUARANTEED!)

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