Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today, I want to continue our look at tips for succeeding in a job interview in English.
In our last lesson, we talked about preparation for introducing yourself and questions about strengths and weaknesses. That’s all about you as a person, or your character. In this lesson, I’d like to home in on what you’ve done, or your actions and behavior.
The first big question you’ll get about what you have done pertains to achievements. As in: “what achievements are you most proud of?” Or “tell us about a recent achievement?”
Now, when you think back on your accomplishments, what should you choose to discuss? Well, rather than boasting about purely individual accomplishments, think of something that connects to the bigger picture. Or state why your accomplishment helped the company.
So, don’t just say “I oversaw an expansion of our department from four to nine people.” Link that to overall company goals, or say why that is an achievement. So you could add something like: “That helped support the company in its overall growth goals.”
Another important point when talking about accomplishments: give credit where credit is due, and demonstrate gratitude for others’ efforts. Yes, it’s a question about you. But most positions require teamwork, and so most companies are looking for team players. That’s why it’s a good idea to throw in something like “of course, none of it would have been possible without a stellar team of salespeople.”
Besides questions about your achievements, you’re likely to face questions about past behavior. Especially common is the question “tell us about a time when you demonstrated a particular quality?” For example, leadership, or problem-solving, or creativity. In this case, the interviewers want some evidence, or proof, of your abilities.
It’s a good idea to have some situations in mind before your interview. And you don’t have to think up different situations for every imaginable quality or characteristic. Instead, think of a few situations that you could use for different qualities. I mean, maybe there’s a particular time when your leadership, problem-solving, and creativity all came into play. You can bring that situation up in response to a variety of questions.
And when you discuss what you did, keep it to three simple parts: the situation, what you did, and the result. Here’s an example of this approach to a question about problem-solving: “Well, just last month we had a big project with a demanding client, and three developers got sick. There was no way we could finish on time without help. So I managed to flex some other projects and transfer some staff. In the end, we had good outcomes and happy clients.”
That was a response to a question about problem-solving. But notice that I could easily modify the answer to fit a question about leadership, or handling clients, or project management. That’s what I mean about keeping a few versatile situations in mind, especially if you’re not so confident in your interview English skills.
Okay, so there’s one more issue I want to address: questions about conflict. As in “tell us about a time you had to deal with conflict with a co-worker?” Or “tell me about a time you had a major disagreement with your boss?”
With questions about conflict, interviewers want to see that you can communicate, that you care about relationships, and – ultimately – that you’re not a jerk. For that last reason, the worst thing you can do is to throw someone under the bus or even just to sound bitter. So follow the same formula of: situation, what you did, and the result. And spin the conflict as a constructive experience.
For example, you might say something like: “well, a co-worker was talking about me behind my back. After a few tough weeks, I took her for coffee, and I asked her point blank what was going on. Turns out she felt threatened by my success. I managed to allay her fears, and now we get along great.” Does that make sense? Situation, action, and result, with a positive and constructive focus.
All right, so today we’ve focused on English interview tips for answering questions about your experience and behavior. That includes accomplishments, which should be connected to the big picture and shown to include others. We’ve also talked about how to answer behavioral questions using a situation, action, result response. And remember to think about some positive and negative situations beforehand, so you’re ready.
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.