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December 22, 2016

4 Tips for Answering Influence Skills Questions in Interviews

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We’ve all been on that interview where a prospective employer asks you to “Give me an example of a time when…” It often feels as though the interviewer is just reading off a list of prepared questions. Well, he or she most likely is.

But what does the prospective employer really want to know?

These questions, also known as competency-based or behavioral interview questions, are designed to discover how you may respond in real-world situations. They’re useful for helping hiring managers weed out applicants who look good on paper from the ones who will deliver the results that they need.

Some examples of influence skills questions are:

  • Tell us about a major challenge you encountered in your current position. How did you adapt and overcome?
  • How do you handle projects that require a lot of initiative and team work?
  • What is your approach to dealing with an angry customer? Can you tell us about a specific time when you solved this type of situation?
  • How do you contribute to your organization’s long- and short-term goals?

Even though this style of interviewing has become increasingly popular, questions like these can still throw you for a loop. Here are four tips for answering these questions that will help ensure you project competence and highlight your value.

 

Reach for the STAR

The challenge with influence skills questions usually isn’t thinking of an example; it’s organizing your thoughts efficiently and communicating them powerfully. The STAR acronym outlines four steps to breaking down an influence skills question – no matter how complex it may seem. Keep this in mind when a hiring manager lobs one your way.

  1. Situation. Describe the situation or context of the example. For instance, “We were far behind our projected sales goals and had lost two key members of our team.”
  1. Task. What goal were you trying to meet? What obstacles were you trying to overcome? “We had three weeks to make up 50% of the difference.”
  1. Action you took. Take ownership and use “I” statements frequently. Remember, they are interviewing you – not your former coworkers. “I pulled some long hours running numbers and I discovered missed opportunities…” Also, specifics are crucial here. Try to use actual facts and figures instead of generalizations. “I analyzed three months of account revenue and found 30–40 instances of missed opportunities.”
  1. Results. Again, using “I” statements and specific facts, sum it all up. Example: “I restructured the working hours of the staff to allow for more coverage during high-volume times, resulting in a 35% increase in our closing rate and an additional $500,000 in revenue. My department ended up exceeding our goal by $10,000–$15,000.”

Follow STAR and the other tips outlined above. The next time an interviewer tries to surprise you with an influence skills question, you’ll be more than prepared.

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