4 Critical Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.

22 Oct 2013 By Binny Mathews

Almost all interviews have these questions. I am sure you have been asked these questions in some form or other. No matter what industry you are interviewing for, you will get asked these questions. If you are nervous and not confident before your interview, that’s because you are not prepared and are planning to wing your interview. That’s a bad idea. Follow these tips to ensure that you are super confident before an interview -

1. Structure your Answers
When asked questions such as “Tell me about yourself” or “Why are you the right fit for this job”, you need to present your answer in a structured manner.

For the question ““Why are you the right fit for this job”, the answer should be something like this –

“ To be successful in this role, one needs to have 1) Analytical Skills 2) Attention to Detail and 3) Teamwork.

I have very strong analytical skills due to my background in Engineering and my summer internship at JP Morgan.

I have very good attention to detail since I have spent a lot of time building financial models for small companies. In these situations I have to deal with large amounts of data and make sure there are no errors.

I excel at Teamwork and I have prior experience since I used to be the Captain of my debating team in college.”

You will notice the structured pattern this answer follows – This job needs skills A,B & C. I have skill A due to experience X, I have skill B due to experience Y and I have skill C due to experience Z. Hence due to my experiences in X, Y and Z, I have the required skills A, B & C and hence suitable for the role.

Such a structured answer will make you sound confident and smart.

2. Provide Examples
It is common for recruiters to ask you “What are your strengths”. It is important that you don’t list a series of qualities (hard working, analytical etc) without backing them up. Any strength you list down should be immediately followed up with examples of situations where you exhibited these strengths.

For example, if your strength is “analytical skills” then you should talk about the financial modelling project you worked on that honed your analytical skills. Or if your strength is in “Java”, then you should talk about the open source projects you have contributed to.

Without such examples, the recruiter has no way of knowing if anything you say is true.

3. Be Technical and Provide Data
Most people only offer a brief overview of their skills or contributions when asked questions such as “Tell me more about your last work experience? What exactly did you do?”.

Such a question is your only chance to exhibit your technical skills in your domain. As a junior employee your most important value addition to any team are your technical skills. So you need to take full advantage of this question.

If your experience is in Finance, you should talk about the specific financial models you built, the specific valuation models you analyzed, the research reports you have written etc.

If you are in Marketing, you should talk specifically about the different marketing strategies you implemented, what was the ROI, the conversion %, the customer acquisition cost etc.

If you are in Sales, you should talk about the revenue growth rate, profitability etc.

4. Use the STAR Framework
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

This is most helpful in situational questions such as “Give me a situation where you have demonstrated leadership skills” or “Walk me through a situation where you have been in a crisis and how did you solve it”

In such questions the STAR framework works as follows – First explain the Situation or the problem you were faced with. Then explain what Task you had to perform to solve the problem. Then explain the set of specific Tasks you had to perform to solve the situation. Then summarize what Results you achieved due to your actions.

Following the STAR framework ensures that you don’t give long winding answers that are too wordy and confusing.

5. Bonus Tip – Shortlist 3 things you have to convey during the interview
Interviews are stressful events where the recruiter sets the agenda and you may not get a chance to talk about your strengths. So it is very important before an interview session, for you to make a list of 3-4 things about yourself that you must definitely convey. Keep this list in front of you during the interview and make sure to absolutely convey these points during the session.

6. Bonus Tip – Prepare your answers in advance and memorize them
Prepare answers to popular interview questions well in advance. Memorize your answers so you don’t need to spend valuable time thinking of answers to obvious simple questions. You can utilize your interview time to tackle the more difficult questions.

This will make you sound more confident and smart in your interviews.

Good Luck!!


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