(By Lily Zhang)
“When a hiring manager asks, “What’s your greatest strength?” or “Tell me about yourself,” he or she really means that plus, “and how that will that benefit me and my company?” Knowing this, one great way to conclude an interview answer is to relate it back to the position or company“.
After submitting your job application and waiting an agonizing amount of time, you’ve finally landed an interview for a position you’re absolutely thrilled about. Congratulations! If you’re serious, you’re probably going extraordinary lengths to research the company, talk to current and past employees, and prepare stories for those pesky behavioral questions you’re likely to get in the interview. That’s great!
But, even with the most prepared interview candidates, I’ve found that a lot of people still make one critical mistake. They’ll deliver absolutely fantastic and relevant stories, and I’ll be completely hooked—all the way up until they end with, “and… yeah” or just an awkward pause.
So, how exactly can you prevent yourself from flubbing the end of your answer? Practice definitely makes perfect, but rarely will you be able to prepare for each individual question the interviewer will ask. With this in mind, here’s the plan for how to conclude an interview response that’ll get you through most interview questions.
Option 1: Connect to the Position or Company
When a hiring manager asks, “What’s your greatest strength?” or “Tell me about yourself,” he or she really means that plus, “and how that will that benefit me and my company?” Knowing this, one great way to conclude an interview answer is to relate it back to the position or company.
Something like this would work well: “…and that’s why I’m actually so exited about this position—I think it’ll be a great opportunity for me to use my knack for detail-oriented work,” or “…and that’s in fact what drew me to apply for this position: the chance to contribute to a company that values transparency.”
Option 2: Summarize and Get Back to the Question
You won’t always be able to bring it back to the position or company (nor should you—it’ll start sounding too formulaic), so here’s an option that will almost always work: Summarize and go back to the original question. This is especially effective if you have a tendency to be a little long-winded, as it’ll show that you were focused on answering the question all along.
For example: “So, in general, you could say I take a very lead-by-example approach to leadership,” or “Going back to the original question, I do make every effort to learn about and see the issue from the other person’s point of view before taking any action when faced with a conflict.”
Option 3: Ask Your Own Question
Lastly, to mix it up a bit, you can try finishing some of your responses with your own questions. After all, an interview should be a two-way street. And, the best part is, you’ll likely make a better impression and build better rapport with your interviewer if your interview feels more like a conversation than a Q & A session. (Unless, of course, the company is a bit more buttoned-up and clearly has a script of prepared questions to ask. Then, just let them do their thing.)
So, if you’re asked how well you work in a team setting, you can talk a bit about how you do, give an example, and then wrap it up with a quick question like, “As I said before, working on teams really helps me be more productive and creative. Actually, while we’re on the topic, can you tell me a bit more about how the team operates here?
Now that you have an idea of how to finish up a response to an interview question, it’s worth practicing this a few times before the big day. The idea is that you should be able to use these general rules of thumb even when faced with an interview question you’ve never heard of before, but, as with all thing related to interviews, a little practice never hurts.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng
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