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10 common interview questions to prepare for in advance | Expert column | Inside Business Columns

10 common interview questions to prepare for in advance | Expert column | Inside Business Columns

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Interview preparation is demanding work. Working at your current job, searching out additional opportunities, networking, and following up with contacts is time consuming and can leave little time for interview preparation. To help with interview preparation and presenting your best, true self in an interview, follow these tips.

DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT. Professional dress for a job interview is necessary and it helps present yourself as a dedicated and serious candidate. For both men and women, dress in a comfortable, conservative, modern, and professional manner. Comfort is vital in business wear. If you aren’t comfortable, if you are hot or cold, then you will not be your best answering the interview questions. The first part of a great interview answer is looking the part.


In your interview, the use of interview panels or interview teams is the most common. Use LinkedIn, Google, and other online search tools to learn about your interviewers ahead of time. This is critical so you understand if they have or do not have a military background, their prior work experience, any recent publications or speaking, and their professional interests. The second part of a great interview answer is knowing your audience and their interests.


Have extra copies of your resume, a portfolio with 2 pens, business cards, and any preparation notes for last minute study. Also bring a bottle of water to the interview just in case of a cough or thirst. The use of a portfolio to sketch an answer to a question or to write down follow up questions is professional and invaluable. If you feel a work sample is required, bring a minimum of 5 copies and distribute them at the conclusion of the interview. Passing work samples out during the interview takes valuable time from you that is better spent having you answer questions and discuss your qualifications.

FORMAT YOUR INTERVIEW QUESTION ANSWERS. The use of a standard response format for interview questions is to make yourself memorable as a candidate while in the interview. A standard response format makes it easier for the interview panel to understand your skills, how your previous experiences will make you successful, and other attributes that you bring to the company.

The STARS (Situation, Task, Action, Result, and Skills) format to answer interview questions is one of the most common.

• Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work.

• Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation.

• Action: Describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or co-worker did.

• Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken.

• Skills: Skills you used to be successful – includes both hard (technical) skills and soft skills (leadership, teaching, etc.).

• A final summary line to reinforce your success & results for the question.

Preparing in advance for these 10 common interview questions is a terrific way to have an outstanding interview even if you are nervous.

1. How does your background make you the ideal candidate for this position?

2. Provide an example of how you lead a team to success on a project?

3. Provide an example of how you taught a group or groups a new skill? How did you measure the outcome?

4. Describe an instance where your first project plan was not successful? What did you do to change the outcome?

5. Give a detailed description of how you created an innovation and how did you convince others it was a promising idea? Why was it innovative?

6. Describe an instance where you saved money or reduced cost for an organization. How did you go about implementing the change?

7. How have you dealt with an unhappy customer? What did you do to make that customer happy and retain their business?

8. Illustrate an instance where you had to deliver unwelcome news to your boss. How did you do it, what was the outcome, and what did you learn?

9. Provide an example of how your military training will make you successful in this position. How do your military skills help make you an ideal candidate?

10. What are three things that you would tell a candidate interested in this company about our products? How do our products make us superior to our competitors?

Having a powerful base of pre-prepared answers using the STARS format is a way to interview success.

Chad Storlie is a USAA member community blogger and a retired Army Special Forces officer. He is an adjunct professor of marketing at Creighton University. Follow Storlie @CombatToCorp or at USAA Member Community.


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