USAA Tips: How to respond to interview questions

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

There are ways to be ready in case you face a job interview question you have no idea how to answer. Instead of worrying about an interview, make a dedicated plan on how to succeed in a stressful interview.

1. Have 10-15 Interview Questions Memorized

The best way to be prepared to answer a potentially unknown question or questions during an interview is to have 10-15 answers already memorized. If you look at LinkedIn, GlassDoor, and other recruiting websites, you can see certain interview questions that companies and / or specific industries prefer. You can then join this list with standard interview questions such as “how to work with a boss you did not like”, “an instance where you showed leadership,” or, “how you handled an upset customer.” Then you can use the STAR format to create 4-6 sentence answers for each question. The STAR format for answering interview questions is: (1) S = Situation the organization was in; (2) T = Task that you were asked to achieve; (3) A = Actions that you took to complete the Task; (4) R = Results you achieved in a quantified format. Having memorized answers to standard questions in the STAR format creates a base of known achievements that allows you to “ad-lib” a response with confidence.

2. Know Your Resume

Knowing your resume is critical. When you are asked a question for which you do not know the answer, you can pull experiences that are like the question being asked. In this way, knowledge of your resume and all the results you achieved are critical because it allows you a springboard to take a close example on your resume and use it to answer the question for which you do not have a precise answer.

3. Read News Stories

Reading news stories about the company, industry, and the competition gives you deep knowledge and the ability to ask intelligent questions that may help clarify the unexpected interview question. For example, you can ask a question for clarification such as, “Is this question like when XYZ competitor introduced this new product to compete with your silver-plated widget?” Using a discussion of recent news, industry, product, and competitor information shows that you prepared well for the interview and are trying to understand the interview question in the context of business challenges. Reading news stories gives you a base of real life information to respond to unexpected interview questions.

4. Use A Results Format on Your Resume

Having specific and measurable results on your resume allows you to give solid, supportable, and specific results for interview questions. Even if you have an unexpected interview question, you can offer a close or similar story from your resume that provides specific and measurable results to the question. Interviewers absolutely love specific and measurable results in interview question answers because it helps support / justify their opinions of a candidate. Having results on your resume achievements also helps calm the interview “jitters” because you have the results listed and ready to use in a response to an unexpected question.

5. Use Visualization to Mentally Rehearse Success

Elite athletes use consistent and highly detailed mental rehearsals of all their actions on the playing field. A baseball player visualizes thousands of perfect swings with balance, power, and placement so every hit in their mental rehearsal looks and feels perfect. A baseball player may mentally rehearse how they feel when they have two strikes and how they breathe, relax, and remain calm so they can still have a successful hit. Mentally rehearsing an interview makes you remain calm even when an unexpected interview question arises.