How to answer questions in an Interview

For many people, there are few things that are as difficult as going through a job interview. For workers over the age of 45, any fear of this can be emphasised. You can find a tonne of hints and tips on interview techniques from a quick Google search, but despite this, the issue still remains. The question becomes even more difficult when you think about what sets you apart. Some older candidates are unwilling to go to interviews for this very reason: “What if I’m too old?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if the interviewer is decades younger and we just don't see eye to eye?"


Any interview will include some questions that are more difficult than others and this affects all candidates, regardless of age. Answering questions in an interview can also help you to learn about yourself by revealing things about you that you might not have thought about too closely. And while interviews can certainly be challenging, there’s no reason for them to be terrifying.


Our first piece of advice is if you are offered an interview always accept it no matter what your feeling is about the job or the organisation. Practice is very important and while you may have some disappointment along the way getting out there and answering questions and talking about yourself will build your confidence in the long term.  But in order to understand how interviews work, we need to first figure out what they are for - as simple as they seem, interviews are something that could be more than meets the eye.


What is an interview for?

Job interviews are not just tools for recruitment: they also serve a specific goal aside from just testing core competencies. Businesses (especially those in competitive industries) primarily rely on interviews to accurately gauge how well a potential hire will fit with their organisation. The reason for this is simple: a business that can accurately assess whether you are a good fit for a role, will spend less time, resources and money on getting you up to speed.


Interviews are designed with three goals in mind:

  • To evaluate the skillset of the applicant

  • To understand his or her personality

  • To check for experience and other things not mentioned in either the applicant’s resume or cover letter


These three goals are often the minimum that a candidate would need to accomplish in order to be considered for the next stage. Of course, there are other factors that can affect this chance - special skills, how well you get along with your interviewer, and so on - but these three goals are the most important.  A large part of the questions you’ll be asked (and how you’ll answer) will depend on these - so how will you state your case?


What’s your skillset?

The primary thing that most interviewers will ask job seekers is: “what makes you a good t for this role?”  This is often just a starter question with the answer having already been covered by your CV and cover letter. Instead, this question is usually more about: “how can you apply your skillset to this job?”  To answer this, you should:

  • Talk about how you acquired these skills and give the interviewer a clear picture on how you learn new skills, which will be useful so they understand how fast you can start to deliver value back to an organisation if you were to become an employee.  

  • How you applied these skills in other areas aside from work to show you have creativity and resourcefulness to apply your skills to different scenarios.

  • Talk about how you plan on picking up new skills. Every job will bring something new to the table, even if they are in the same industry. It might be difficult to work this into your interview, but talking about how your process works in training is welcome information to your interviewer.


Try and provide examples where you can - it's all very well talking about how you do things but if you are able to give real feedback about certain situations it adds credibility. If you can also weave in how you have learned new technology that will always be a plus point as it shows you keep up to date - unfortunately, as an older job seeker a lot of potential employers will think otherwise!


And don't be concerned about talking about your failures - as much as employers want to hear how well you do your job, what could be potentially more valuable is what you do when you don’t. Being candid about how you deal with failure can help you look more open to feedback - something very important with companies.


The overall theme of your answers should be process, not result. You are applying for this job with the intention and the ability to get the job done. Recruitment agencies and employers will, therefore, look for something else: how you get the work done. Focusing too much on results can compromise your work ethic to your potential company - which is why answering this particular interview question can be a bit difficult.


Who are you?

The next goal of job interviews is to establish the personality of the applicant. As they are usually one-on-one at the initial stages of an application, job interviews are the earliest avenues that companies can check how the applicant might work within their organisation.


Here are some tips on how to help with making a good first impression:

  • Be bold when saying hello. It may seem old-fashioned but being clear when saying hello, smiling and offering a handshake is the first step towards creating a good impression.

  • Eye contact establishes genuine interest, engagement, and self-confidence - traits that most businesses look for in potential employees. But be careful to not get too carried away - normal eye movement is also fine.

  • Agree to disagree. An often underlooked area in interviews for candidates is how much you’re willing to disagree. This is more common in jobs that require a high degree of creative freedom: the fact that you will not always have the same idea as everyone else. For some companies, this mindset can often be the deciding factor in whether or not you get hired. Being able to disagree without causing too much of a fuss is a great diplomatic skill, and speaks volumes on how you view interpersonal relationships.

  • Dress appropriately. Do some research on the organisation beforehand to assess their dress sense. You need to be smart and neat. The biggest rule is to be contemporary. Getting out an old suit will just make you look older so some modern styles and colours help. Also, dare we say, a haircut often helps as well!


Be genuine

There are certain things that people do during an interview that can put off an interviewer simply because of the way you answer a question. Sometimes its unavoidable and like an exam you will probably come out thinking you should have answered a question in a different way, or say to yourself, "I should have said this" etc. It's just human nature to think back and analyse.

If you can focus on these three points below it will help you come across as open, genuine and confident.

  • Try not to stumble or fudge answers - be forthright when you can. There will probably be nothing behind it but if this happens it can come across badly.

  • If you don' t know the answer say so - this goes with the first point above in that there's little benefit in trying to answer a question if you don't have the information. You can always offer to send further information through following the interview.

  • Don't fall into the trap of being defensive. Whether intentional or not, sometimes you’ll get a question that’s probing in nature. The proper response is to not lose your composure or get triggered by the question: more often than not, it’s asked with sincerity.


On interviews and other matters

Job interviews may be scary, but they are a necessity and the main way of bridging this gap between you and the business. Businesses who are hiring are looking for someone to ll a gap, deliver value and help them make a profit. It's a business proposition for them and they are looking for someone who can help them achieve their objectives. Put your best foot forward and you may be the person they are looking for.


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