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Want to Win in the Job Interview? Maybe the answer is to not answer the questions.

You're looking for a job. You've polished up our resume. After writing your resume the next step should be to prepare for the phone interview and then more detailed preparation for the face to face interview. Do you panic or are you prepared to pass the first test? If you get through the phone interview, next you'll be called in for the first face to face job interview.

Was your interview preparation reading and studying the latest interview book like, "85 Great answers to 85 Tough Interview questions," or something similar? Memorizing possible answers you get from a book because they sound "good" to interview questions will not show the real you. You will come across as memorized and stilted. Both things you do not want and both are guaranteed to knock you quickly out of contention.

There is another more effective approach to consider. First, let's think about what the employer wants. The employer wants answers to the following general questions. Do you have the skills and ability to do the job and make money for the company? How well will you work with the corporate team-will you be an asset or liability? And finally, will you fit in the corporate culture?

Which of the following is the best answer to the question, "How well do you take direction?" Answer #1 "I think I take direction well." Or Answer #2, "When I started at XYZ we had a staff meeting every Monday. We were formed in teams for an assigned task and sometime I was the lead other times others were assigned to lead the team. I worked well with everybody. In fact my boss complimented me about this several times and he even made note of it in my last performance review."

If you were the interviewer, I think you would give the candidate who gave answer #2 higher marks than the first answer. Why? Well, the candidate with the second answer was telling a story. A story that not only answered the question by provided other vital information about the candidate. The candidate told the interviewer about their skills that they were business (bottom line) orientated and they worked will within the team concept. All are important questions the employer wants answered.

It's valuable to use a shorthand format in setting up your stories. Using the S.T.A.R. proccess will produce the best results. S. stands for situation, did you initiate or define the problem or was it identified by someone else. T. stands for what task were you asked to perform. A. means what action did you take, were you a member of a team or did you have others working for you on the Task. R. will be the results. Be specific, you saved, for example $15,000 or completed the task under budget or you accomplished the task sooner than planned.

How do you do this? Take out a blank sheet of paper and write out personal stories and your experiences that you will use to answer the employer's questions. These small stories using the S.T.A.R. method will allow you to take the initiative in the interview and will permit your personality to come through. Don't go into a long involved recitation but keep each story to less than 20 seconds and not longer than 45 seconds or so.

To get a more complete picture concerning the candidate the employer will be looking for abilities and skills in the following areas: (1) Bottom line impact: made money, saved money, improved sales, improved quality, improved service; (2) Leadership skills; (3) Worked with a team, your contribution and results; (4) Failure or disappointments on the job and how you overcame them; (5) Greatest stress on the job and what did you do to resolve; and (6) Any career changes, how did you come to the decision and the results.

There are surely other areas where you'll be questioned but this list of six should get you started drafting your stories. Stories that will highlight your expertise and experience and tell the interviewer something about your approach to your previous jobs, how well you work in a team, and if you would fit into their view of the ideal candidate for the vacancy.

Many job candidates lose out because they were nervous and tight in the interview, they gave canned answers, or long rambling answers, and they are just not themselves. You on the other hand will come prepared with your "little stories." There is nothing to memorize, so you'll come across as relaxed and as close as possible to be natural and "yourself."

The interview will now be more of a conversation than an interrogation. This is vital because not all interviewers are skilled. They may have a list of pet questions that many times are lacking in helping them discover your competencies that are critical in the effective performance of the job. With your answers in the story format following the S.T.A.R. procedure you'll go a long way toward overcoming this deficiency.

So don't come to the interview to answer questions. Use your well thought out "little stories" to engage in a conversation with the interviewer that will highlight your abilities and fitness for the job. You'll be more comfortable with the interview process, your skills will be properly showcased, and you'll be in a better position to get an early job offer.


John Groth is a former HR executive and career coach. Go to Career Network Plus and find great resources, valuable articles and a free seven day career planning guide. Discover up to date career and recruitment strategies and visit our blog for the latest career information. .

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