If you’re worried about “hard” questions in your next job interview, don’t be.
Instead, career expert and resume writer Andrea Gerson says you should think about the job interview as a chance to tell the story you want to tell. She told us that you can bend the interviewer’s questions to suit your purposes by preparing ahead of time, instead of stressing about which questions will come your way.
“Most people think that they go into the interview and that they are at the mercy of whatever question the interviewer throws at them, so they feel like they have to answer the question as it is posed or framed,” said Gerson.
“But really, what I advise to my clients is that each interview question is a chance for them to tell a story that highlights an accomplishment or a strength that they have,” she said.
You do this by providing an anecdote that not only offers the insight you want to convey, but also answers the question being asked.
Questions such as “Who’s the most challenging client you’ve had to work with?” and “What would your last boss say about you?” provide you with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your strengths with a personal story.
These questions “become the perfect canvas for narrative examples that showcase a winning moment in a person’s career, while minimizing the need to think on one’s feet,” said Gerson.
Other common interview questions that could potentially be re-framed include:
Why do you want to leave your current company?
What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
Why should we hire you?
Gerson advises her clients to brainstorm various anecdotes in order to make the most of these questions. In fact, she will help them come up with a list of about five solid stories that can highlight where a person either succeeded or developed.
“That way, once they have some solid answers, they can practice tweaking each answer to each particular question,” she said.
However, showcasing your strengths is different from spinning your answers. Interviewers want to get to know the real you — and it does neither of you a favor to misrepresent your interests, talents, and accomplishments.
Janelle Gale, VP of Human Resources at Facebook, told us that she isn’t interested in know-it-alls, and asks specific questions to weed out people who think they’re the smartest in the room, such as “What would you have done differently?” or “What did you learn in the process?”
“If someone hesitates for a really long time and can’t come up with an answer, or if they spin it so that what they learned actually makes them look good, that tells me that they are closed off to learning,” Gale said.
In an interview, she said that she wants to hear about some difficulties, and she wants to see “a level of vulnerability and reflection, as well as a strong demonstration of intellectual curiosity.”
In other words, she isn’t looking for you to be perfect — she’s looking for you to want to get better.