While it’s obviously important to have good qualifications, good interview clothes and appearance, there are certain other things that make a job interview answer shine. Listen carefully to the interview question and then focus on the following aspects.
1. Clarity. Make sure to answer the question that’s actually being asked and to be very clear what your answer is. The simplest way to do this is to restate the question in your answer. So if the interviewer asks what your greatest strength is, you could simply start your answer with, “My greatest strength is…” That way the interviewer will already be focused on what you want them to remember before you get too far into your answer.
2. Proof. Once you’ve clearly stated the overall answer, it’s time to offer “proof.” The best way to do this in a job interview is to tell a well thought out anecdotal story which demonstrates your answer. If you’re saying that you’re a proactive problem solver, for instance, you might explain how you reorganized the patient filing system at a doctor’s office to reduce client waiting time (as charts were located more quickly). That way you’re not just saying you’re a proactive problem solver, you’re telling a specific story which gives the interviewer a reason to believe you and stories are memorable.
3. Confidence and Enthusiasm. While the content of your answer at a job interview certainly matters, it’s just as critical to give an impression of confidence in your abilities and enthusiasm for the job and company you’re interviewing for. I know that most people are nervous at a job interview; so feel free to “fake it until you make it”!
4. End Your Answer. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone talk, pause, talk, pause and never know when they’re finished. It’s uncomfortable for the listener and it does not project an air of confidence on the part of the interviewee. If you find yourself getting mired in details and realize you’ve been talking for longer than necessary, try to go back to the the original question you were answering. Then you can restate the question as a way to signal to the interviewer that you’re finished answering. For example, if the question was, “Why should I hire you?” you can end your answer by saying, “And it’s because of my proven ability to develop long term client relationships that you should hire me.”
5. Preparation. Of course, your interview answer will be most effective if you’ve thought about it before hand. This is NOT to say that you should memorize answers to specific interview questions. That will likely just make you sound rehearsed and, worse, what happens if they ask a question you didn’t prepare for? Instead, I recommend preparing a series of interview anecdotes or stories which you can use on the spot to demonstrate various strengths and qualifications that make you a great (enthusiastic and confident) candidate for the job at hand. Good luck!