As many of you prepare for interviews, we offer this mbaMission checklist to help you ensure that you craft and deliver the most compelling interview answers possible. If you can answer yes to all the following questions, you should be on your way to a successful interview!
Am I showcasing my relevant experiences?
You want to highlight your ability to contribute in and meet the requirements of your target role. For example, after hearing your response to the prompt “Tell me about yourself,” your interviewer should know two or three reasons you are qualified for the job.
Here is another example: when your interviewer asks you, “Tell me your greatest strength” or “Tell me your biggest accomplishment,” select an example that showcases skills or experiences that will reassure them that you are equipped to do the job.
Am I answering the question?
Prepare six to eight stories that could be used for various interview questions and that illustrate your relevant capabilities and experience. Then, when your interviewer asks you a question, decide which of those stories best fits and answers that question. Matching your story to what the interviewer asks is important.
And to clearly reinforce that you are responding to the interviewer’s query, repeat key words from the question in your answer. For example, if your interviewer says, “Tell me about a time when you convinced someone to adopt your way of thinking,” your response could begin with something like “A key time when I convinced someone to adopt my way of thinking was…” or “I’d love to tell you about the time I convinced the SVP of my department to shift sales strategies….”
Am I selling myself?
The interview is a great opportunity to really highlight your strengths and accomplishments. When sharing your stories, clearly describe your role in each project and outline how you contributed. The interviewer does not care so much about what the team did that you were a part of; they care about what you did personally.
Use “I” statements to demonstrate ownership of your work and accurately convey your actions. Be specific with the benefit and impact of what you did, and focus on informing, not bragging. If you are concerned about not appearing humble, try using phrases like “I was proud when…” or “I was honored that my work was….”
Am I structuring my answers effectively?
Make your answer easy for the interviewer to follow. Use a PAR (project – action – result), SAR (situation – action – result), or STAR (situation – task – action – result) behavioral interview framework.
Concise answers (of 90 to 120 seconds, maximum) in which you take an “answer first” approach (i.e., describe at a high level what the story is about and what you achieved before going into the details) will be most effective. From there, succinctly explain the point of tension that you faced (i.e., what you had to overcome or what was at stake in the situation), and devote sufficient time to outlining your actions.
Am I communicating my thought process?
Interviewers ask behavioral questions (e.g., “Tell me about a time when…”) to gain insight into your past decisions and how you arrived at and acted on them.
When you outline the key steps you took to address a situation, be sure to also explain what specifically you did and why you chose to do it. This will help your interviewer better understand how you think and thereby give them some idea of how you would likely respond to and act in similar situations in the future.
This idea is also behind your answer to the “Tell me about yourself” prompt. Your resume tells your interviewer what you did, but in your interview, you get the chance to more fully explain your motivation for taking a specific role or making a certain career decision.
Am I demonstrating confidence and enthusiasm?
Interviewers want to hire candidates who are truly excited about the job they are pursuing. Your tone and body language play an important role in conveying this to the interviewer.
To ensure that your demeanor and delivery are communicating your genuine interest and enthusiasm, practice sharing your stories aloud with peers, friends, family members, and/or career center coaches and have them offer constructive feedback.
To learn other strategies for improving your interview performance, sign up for a complimentary 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission Career Coach.