Learning Job Interview Answers is Ineffective

Here’s What you Should Do Instead

Go online and search for something like, ‘interview answer’ or ‘what to say in an interview’ and you’ll get over 1 billion results. Some of them will be excellent answers; some of them won’t be. Memorise the excellent ones and, on the big day, say them as if you haven’t rehearsed them and boom! You’ve got the job. Thank you and good luck.

OK, I wouldn’t be writing this post if it were as simple as that.

It’s far simpler. You see, if you’re trying memorise the answer to every question you might get asked in an interview, I think there’s a better way. Yes, rehearse your interview performance (with a coach; this is important!), so that your answers are clear, beautiful and memorable, but don’t rehearse your answers.

Why not? Well there are a few good reasons:

  1. It’s a waste of time. It’s going to take hours and hours to rehearse your answers to the point that you can give them smoothly in a stressful situation. Who’s got time for that? Nobody — that’s who.
  2. Unless they ask you the exact questions you’ve rehearsed, your prepared answers are useless. You’ll probably try to force them into the interview at inappropriate times and this will look really obvious — as in cringingly obvious.
  3. If you don’t have either of the above two problems (vanishingly unlikely), you’ll sound too polished and, again, everyone will be deeply uncomfortable.
Please stop now. Thank you. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

So What’s The Answer?

There’s a far better way, and it works with every single job interview. There’s very little memorising involved and all of your answers will be far better. Let’s get back to first principles. What’s a job interview for? Behind all the bullshit, and there’s a lot of bullshit, your interviewer is trying to find out if you’re the right person for the job and, objectively, the best person for the job is the one that creates the most value for the company. There’s a subjective element, too, which I covered in this post, but it really is all about the money. So how does it work, this masterpiece of cunning and devilry?

All you have to do, in every single interview you ever attend, is demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that not hiring you would be more expensive than hiring you. Perhaps you’ve heard this before, maybe it’s obvious, but it’s such an important approach to take when going for job that it’s worth having a method behind it and making it habitual. You just need to work out a figure which represents how much you have contributed to the company’s bottom line.

Go ahead and pivot the agile unicorn ok great thanks guys. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

If you’re in sales, or you manage client accounts then there really isn’t much to it; revenue minus the cost of sales gives you the gross profit. If you don’t directly sell products or services, then you need to think about how your work benefits those who do. If you’re in software, then perhaps you make the product? Maybe you’re in HR and you found the people who do? Maybe you’re one of the unsung back office heroes who keeps it all going? The point is, find the sum in dollars, pounds, euros or yen that your work made possible. You need that number.

The rest of the interview strategy is simple. Answer every question with that figure in mind. How did you make it possible? What did you do that other people might not have done? What obstacles stood in your way, and how did you overcome them? It’s like selling anything; you have to sell the value — the results — to the customer, not the stats. The hiring manager might be impressed by how many qualifications and years of experience you carry, but they only have any value if they suggest you can do the job. Show you can do the job, explain how you’ve done all the important tasks before (or tasks which require the same skillset). Tell the story, make it memorable, make it ring true, make it funny but tell the story of how you have done this job before. Tell the story, again and again, of how you bring in x pounds per year. Don’t become a scratched record and repeat the figure constantly, but definitely make sure it’s noted.

Here’s an example of how I would do it:

Q: Why do you want to work here?’

A: ‘Well, ever since I heard about this job, I’ve really been able to see myself making a big contribution to the company. I believe in the products, and I can see that they bring enormous value to your customers, so I’m sure I could help them see that too. I brought in £750,000 this year, because I showed customers how easily the service would fit into their lives, and the immediate benefits it would bring them. Here, at Widgetally, I know our* customers’ pain points well, and I think that the products solve them brilliantly. From what I’ve seen so far, I love the culture here, I love the products and I think I could generate more than £750,000 in revenue at Widgetally. That’s why I’m really excited to work here.

*This is a cheeky little trick, using ‘our’ where you might normally use ‘your’ to imply that you already see yourself in the role. It may appear a little presumptuous but can also help seal the deal if the interview is going well.

This answer is so simple and yet it shows that you have a plan for how you are going to get the money in and that having that plan makes you confident. You mention a nice, big figure which is easy to remember and you explain how you think you could improve on that at Widgetally.

Having that number in your head the whole time is such an easy way to guide your answers and also makes the value that you bring memorable.

Again, don’t memorise that exact answer; it has to be in your words (your most compelling, convincing and memorable words, but your words). To perfect this approach, you just have to practise answering a variety of questions, preferably with an career coach, and then practise again. If it’s working, you’ll feel it as you practise, and you’ll become naturally confident and even start looking forward to the interview in which, without question, you’ll perform brilliantly.

Why not connect with me on LinkedIn here?

Also, don’t forget to check out our Interview Tips: The Top Ten

Finally, if you want me in your corner, landing you interviews and then helping you crush them, check out our services here.

A career coach, planning your success. It’s who he is; it’s what he does. Photo by R A on Unsplash

Good luck!

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