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How to Answer Any Interview Question – Part 1

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Job Interviews Tips from Public Relations Experts

I am always interested in different opinions when it comes to job interviews, resume writing and so on. Today, I came across an interesting article titled, “How to Answer Any Interview Question”. In this article, media consultants who coach executives and politicians on how to handle media interviews and apply these techniques to provide tips to job seekers on job interviews.

Having public relations and media communications experts provide their advice on job interviews is a fresh approach. Professionals with these types of backgrounds provide a novel perspective on job interviews since they are trained to handle questions under pressure and communicate key messages to the public.

The Q = A + 1 Technique

While I agree with some of the points including having a structured examples ready for behavioral interview questions, I am not so convinced with some of the other suggestions made. In particular, Jeff Braun, vice president and general manager of the Ammerman Experience, a Stafford, Texas, media interview-training firm suggests using a technique called Q = A + 1: Q is the question; A is the answer; + is the bridge to the message you want to deliver; and 1 is the point you want to make. This technique is believed to give the job applicant control over the interview since the + allows you to transition from your answer to the important points you want to convey about your qualifications.

Possible Concerns

As mentioned, I am not convinced of the Q = A + 1: technique in a job interview. Now, this may be due to the fact that I have limited media training and don’t really understand what the author is suggestion. However I have been in thousands of job interviews and the idea of using this technique raises many concerns.

Firstly, the transition and additional point may increase the possibility of over answering. Anyone who has had to hire for a living will tell you that over answering is likely the most common job interview mistake made. Over answering occurs when the applicant answers your question but then gives additional information that dilutes and in some cases compromises the original response. Perhaps it is the natural anxiety from a job interview that causes the propensity for verbal diarrhea. Regardless of the reason, I can’t tell you how many times I have been in an interview when the applicant provided an excellent answer by simply answering the question but then goofed it all up by saying something extra. And I would just sit there as HR, and judging by the look on the hiring manager’s face, think to myself, “you should have quit while you were ahead”. Yes, knowing when to stop is very important when responding to an interview question.

Not to belabor this point, but let me give you an idea of how common over answering is. In the production of our job interview course, we interviewed professionals at various levels from junior to senior executive (CFO, VP and directors to be exact). We recorded these mock job interviews, evaluated and timed the responses. Regardless of the level of the candidate, the average response was 5 to 7 mins. Now there is no rule set in stone as to the ideal time for a job interview answer. Having said that, let me tell you that the attention span of your average interviewer is much less and after a few minutes if you haven’t answered the question, you will likely lose their interest. In the ideal world, the hiring manager’s interest and attention level when listening to your response would never wane. Unfortunately, there are limits to a person’s attention span.

Now the next concern I have with this technique is that by adding the transition, extra point, and controlling the interview, the hiring manager may see this as manipulative.It may also raise concerns over your sincerity and honesty.Let me put it to you this way, PR experts teach this technique to politicians to handle questions from the media.So when you see a politician use this technique do you trust what they say?If not, why would a hiring manager be any different?

My last concern with this technique kind of relates to the above point, in that most interviewers do not like to lose control of the interview.More accurately, most interviews I know like to feel that they are in control over the interview.That is not to say that all interviewers have been potty trained the same way, rather the word is facilitate.Most interviews need to feel like they are leading or facilitating the interview.As such, I believe it would not a positive for a candidate if the interviewer perceived they were being led and did not control over the interview. A good interviewer understands that a job interview is a two way street and strives for this balance. Unfortunately, many managers are given the responsibility to hire without the training, experience and opportunity to develop their job interviewing skills.

Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that all job seekers ramble and not assert their presence in an interview. Likewise, I am not saying that all interviewers are control freaks with no attention spans. What I am saying is that after being in a thousand interviews, whether alone or as part of a panel, and after many debriefs with hiring managers, I have observed that a many candidates tend to over answer. That is they continue to talk after they have provided a great answer and in some cases decreased the effectiveness of their response. I have also observed that many hiring managers will start to get restless and glance away after 2 or 3 mins in a candidate’s response. These same hiring managers also appear more comfortable when feel they are leading and facilitating the interview.

So I have now outlined some of my main concerns with this suggested technique. In my next post, I will present some alternatives to the Q = A + 1 Technique that will allow the job seeker a way to influence and direct the interview without the concerns mentioned above.

For more practical resume writer and job interview tips see our online job interview and resume writing courses. So until our next post, we wish you much luck and success in your career search.