Whether you’re participating in a quick catch-up call with a recruiter or sitting down for an official interview, your communication style and the way you answer questions will play a large role in the impression you leave on that organization.
As you read through these tips, consider how they can also apply to conversations outside the occasional interview:
1) Listen and understand: Before you jump in to answer a question, ensure you fully understand what’s being asked. If you’re unsure … ask for clarification! It’s better to ask than to answer a question you don’t understand. Once you have a complete understanding of the question in front of you, don’t be afraid to take a moment to think through your answer. Most interviewers and recruiters would rather sit in a few moments of awkward silence than listen to you ramble because you’re not sure how to respond.
- Pro tip: You can even say, “Great question! Can I take a minute to think through my answer?”
2) Answer first, provide detail later: When asked a question, it can be frustrating for the interviewer if you immediately start going into detail about an answer you haven’t actually revealed yet. Directly answer the question first and then start to give the key details that support it.
- Pro tip: After answering the question directly, you could ask the interviewer, “How much detail would you like on this topic?”
3) Pay attention to how long you’re talking: If you feel like you’ve been talking for too long , you probably have. Our attention spans are shorter than ever, and if you spend five minutes answering a question without stopping to allow your interviewer to interject, it’s likely they’re not fully taking in what you’re saying.
- Pro tip: Once you realize you’ve been talking too long, ask your interviewer, “Is this good, or should I give more detail?”
4) Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have an answer: Here’s the deal, if you respond to a question you clearly don’t know the answer to but try to come up with something on the fly, people will notice. To avoid sounding like you’re rambling about a topic you’re not prepared to discuss, just admit you don’t have an answer and let the interviewer take the lead from there.
- Pro tip: If you feel uncomfortable telling the interview you don’t have an answer, consider saying something to the effect of, “I don’t have that experience, but this is how I’d approach that …”
5) Stick to the question at hand: The interviewer will ask you all the questions they want answered, so don’t take it upon yourself to answer five more questions they never even asked. It’s also likely you’re going off topic a bit, so right the ship and answer the question that was asked.
- Pro tip: Put yourself on the other side of the table and think, “If I was the interviewer, how would I want this answered?”
6) Quantify, quantify, quantify: Data supports facts, and whenever you can use concrete numbers to support your statements, the more likely your interviewer will have confidence that what you’re saying you can achieve is actually true.
- Pro tip: Before your interview, think through project-specific questions you may be asked and write down [accurate] data points that can support your potential answer.
7) Ask meaningful questions: The questions you ask your interviewer are just as important as the questions you answer. Be thoughtful about them and make each one related to the interview. Avoid resorting to the generic questions that you quickly Googled right before. Do your homework and really dive in deep.
- Pro tip: Imagine yourself in the role and write down three to five umbrella questions you’d want answered before your first day.