How to Answer Common Interview Questions—Tell Me About Yourself | Preparing for a Job Interview

How to Answer Common Interview Questions—Tell Me About Yourself | Preparing for a Job Interview


To help you ace your next job interview, we’re going to study four mock interviews to see what works well, and what doesn’t work well in an answer. We’ll see four people, a teacher, a doctor, a social worker, and a marketing expert interview for a job. We’ll take some standard interview questions and study how they answered them to figure out how you can form your own compelling answers. Today we’ll study three prompts. First, tell me a little bit about yourself, then, tell me about a conflict you had at work and how you resolved it, and finally, describe a meaningful experience you’ve had at work. For my non-native English-speaking students, I’m going to go over some tips to keep in mind while practicing your interview answers. That lesson will be at the end of the video. For the first prompt, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” keep your answer brief. Let’s listen to an answer. My name is dan. I’m the father of two little girls. I’m a social worker. I love playing guitar. I love music. In my spare time, if I’m not playing guitar, I’m jogging, I’m out in the yard with my girls. I love camping. That’s all you need. It’s about 13 seconds. If you have children and you want to mention them, great. But you certainly don’t have to. He says a couple of things he loves: I
love guitar, I love playing music. He also uses the phrase ‘in my spare time’
to list a couple other activities: jogging, playing in the yard with his daughters. Come up with one or two sentences that begin with “I love”, “I enjoy”, or “In my spare time, I”. You can elaborate a bit, for example, I
love going to the ballet. I studied dance for about 12 years when I was a kid. Think of your answer and practice it in a mock interview. Time your answer. Aim for something between 10 and 20 seconds. If you say something that your interviewer can relate to, he or she might pick that up for conversation. Many job interviews these days will ask you about what you have done, not what you will do or would do. Asking a question about conflict at work would be common interview question. Conflict is inevitable; employers want to
know how you handle it. You might get asked about a time where you had to resolve a conflict with a coworker. Think of a very specific time and tell the story of it: what the conflict was about and how you worked it out. Let’s listen to an example answer. In my last job, I remember when I was working on trying to change some ticket pricing for our events. I had a colleague who was very comfortable with the old way of doing the pricing. So we had a huge conversation about the benefits of rethinking things and trying to improve the system and he had agreed. But then later on, he sent me an email that he was really uncomfortable, and really didn’t want to do it, and really frustrated. There was, there was a tone coming through to the email that it was something that he just really didn’t want to do and was very unhappy. Adrienne told us her story, she set us up with the details, and now she’s explicitly using the phrase “to resolve the conflict, I…” So to resolve that conflict, I made an appointment with him the very next morning, and went down to meet with him in his office, and had a really clear and direct conversation. I love the details she’s giving here. She spoke with him the very next morning. That says to me, she didn’t let this conflict sit there and get worse. Right away, she went to him in person to have a conversation about it. She took the time to do this face-to-face. She talks about having a ‘clear’ and ‘direct’ conversation. That’s great. Disagreeing with someone can be hard and trying to talk about it, even harder. Communicating clearly in these situations is important. And had a really clear and direct conversation about what his concerns were, and what he was thinking, and how we could move forward, and we came to a compromise that we could address his feelings. But also, I brought him on board with the ideas that we had come to, and made him feel comfortable with how we were going to resolve the situation. The way she describes it, it sounds like she really listened to her coworker and cared about his thoughts and feelings, why he disagreed with her. That’s a really positive trait. Sometimes when we disagree with someone, it’s hard to see their side. But she listened to his concerns, addressed them, and ultimately they were able to come up with a compromise. Here’s another person answering the question. She talks about working on a project with a supervisor. He told me one morning “I think we’re going to have to possibly go in a different direction and use something completely different”. Okay, I was angry. I felt upset. I wanted to react. I was sad. But I made myself go very slowly, and I was calm, and then what I decided to do was ask him questions. And one question I asked him was: can you help me to understand why? Lisa talked about the reaction she had, but how she stopped herself and began to ask questions. This is just like what Adrienne said she did. Asking questions is a great way to resolve conflict. When you better understand what the other side is thinking and feeling, it can help you figure out exactly how to come to an agreement. And as he spoke, I realized that he really didn’t have enough information. I wasn’t quite sure how to point that out to him, but I did say: “You know, before we leave this idea and just change, I would like a chance to present to you why I think we should keep what we have.” and it turned out that he was willing to look at it. He admitted he hadn’t read some of it, and he ended up coming back to me and saying: “You’re right, I think we should keep what we have.” She asked to present her side. In the end, her supervisor understood and
agreed with her. Think of a work conflict you can talk about. Did you ask questions, did you really
listen to the other party? Make sure you highlight this as you talk through the resolution. Both Adrienne and Lisa told stories about
a specific conflict. Interviewers want you to do this. They don’t want to hear how you handle conflict in general. Listen to Jeff’s answer here. First of all, I would say that working within teams, invariably there’s going to be conflict that that arises. One of the ways that I’ve found very helpful to deal with conflict within teams, especially in the leadership position, is to sit down with both parties, provide them a forum to talk to each other, have them listen to each other, and then try to find common ground and ways to move on. Essentially in a team, what you’re trying to do is allow team members to function at the level that they should be functioning, and the other team members have to allow those team members to do that. If not, then conflict will arise. But if you kind of help people understand what their role is within the team, and what they should be doing, that goes very far to helping reduce conflict. He talks about why he thinks conflict
arises and how to handle it. It’s an articulate answer and it makes sense, but he doesn’t tell a story about a conflict. Now he’s going to basically say the same thing, but using a specific example. So one particular conflict that I helped to mediate among our team was among a provider and a RN care manager, or registered nurse care manager. Both felt responsibility for taking care of a patient. Both had an understanding about what they thought needed to happen in order to move forward, and both thought that the other person was standing in the way of their ability to do that. So I think one of the biggest issues with working within teams is sometimes, even though you’re working together day to day, you’re not actually talking to each other. So when they were able to actually talk to each other and explain how they wanted to move forward with the care of the patient, then conflict was able to be resolved. That’s something I can more easily remember, there were two parties involved in caring for a patient, they both had their own ideas about how to do that. When Jeff brought them together to talk it through, a resolution was found and the conflict was resolved. Employers want the details in your answers. As you work on your own answer, to a question involving conflict at work and how you resolved it, don’t leave out the details. What was the disagreement about? When it was resolved, what was the resolution? You might get the chance in an interview to talk about a meaningful professional experience that you’ve had. This gives you the chance to show that you’re invested in the work you do, that it’s not just a job, but something you spend time doing
because you care about it. Depending on the position, this could be
really important to your employer. Employers want to know that you’re invested. Let’s listen to how Lisa responds to the prompt, tell me about a meaningful professional experience you’ve had. One time I went with a family, I’m a teacher, and they did not speak English. They had been to the doctor and I just felt like the doctor was not seeing an important issue with the student. I volunteered to go along and interestingly, we were at a hearing specialist, and the student took some tests and the results, I was not pleased with. When the doctor presented the results, I said: “Have you even listened to him speak? Could you please listen to how he speaks?” as soon as the doctor listened to the student speaking, he realized the tone of the students voice did sound like someone that had hearing problems, and it changed the whole trajectory of the whole thing. What ended up happening was that student got placed in a school for that was specifically for people that had hard, that were hard of hearing, and it changed that child’s life. So I was so happy that I was able to give that gift of time to that student and that family. Lisa’s story is about a time outside of work, but work related. This is not a requirement of her job, but something she did for the student because she saw the need. That shows a huge commitment to the children she teaches. Let’s hear Jeff’s answer. So I would say what the one of the most meaningful professional experiences that I’ve ever had is establishing a care model within our health system for folks with complex health and social needs. These are patients that have a lot of chronic disease, they have a lot of psychosocial burdens, and typically they were just not being cared well in our system, and they were caught in a revolving door of inpatient admissions and being discharged, and then coming right back in, sometimes before they even got to see
their family doctor again. So building on some work of others around the country, I was able to establish a new health care delivery model that took into account the fact that psychosocial barriers actually play a big role in the reasons why these folks are admitted frequently. And if we dealt with those barriers, then often, we could prevent them from being hospitalized as frequently. I like Jeff’s answer because in it he talks about an incredible change that he brought about, a huge undertaking, he established a new care model within his health system. And he’s found an opportunity to talk
about that not in a bragging way: “I’m great because I established a new care model”, but rather, “it was meaningful for me to be able to establish a new care model.” Even if you’re not directly asked a question about a meaningful experience, see if you can connect a sense of meaning or satisfaction to your achievements as you talk about them. Let’s hear how Adrienne answers this question. In my last job, I had the opportunity to manage a truly superstar employee. And most colleagues are wonderful to work with, but you have these experiences where there are one or two who truly shine, and you really click with, and it was just a really wonderful chance to collaborate with her, and make some real change within the organization. With the two of us working together, we were able to have a lot of great ideas and both of us were able to then shine more. Being able to provide her input on her projects and help her along and guide her a little bit, and then see her really shine, presenting to her colleagues and grow in her position was really meaningful for me to be a part of. This a great, she’s talking about a strong working relationship with a co-worker, and in almost any position, you want someone who works well with others and values working well with others. This also happened to be someone that Adrienne managed, so she was able to talk about that skill too, how, with her input, this person was able to really shine in her role. That’s a good manager. As you think of your answers to various common interview questions, think about the different kinds of things you can highlight in any given answer: leadership, a great idea, ability to work well with others, ability to respond quickly to a situation. Make sure that your different answers show different strengths rather than all speaking to the same strength. In the next two videos, we’ll pull different common questions from these mock interviews to examine effective answers. Whose answers were the best, and why? And after you’ve really figured out how to give a top-notch interview, we’ll get into negotiating salary. For my non-native students, we’re going to get to your English lesson in just a minute. If you haven’t already, be sure to click the subscribe button and the bell for notifications. I make new videos on the English language and American culture every Tuesday and have over 600 videos on my channel to date focusing on listening comprehension and
accent reduction. While you’re waiting for next week’s video, a great next step would be to check out this “get started playlist.” I want to talk now about how to practice answers to common interview questions. This will be especially important for my non-native English-speaking students, but it does apply to everyone. For each interview question you study, brainstorm the various ways you could answer any given question or prompt. Perhaps more than one conflict or meaningful experience comes to mind. Think through what you would say for each question, and pick the answer that you think is best. Don’t tell the same story twice in an interview. If the same example works well for more than one prompt, don’t use it for both. Choose one and come up with another supporting story for another question. You want the interviewer to know as
much about you as possible. Once you’ve chosen your topic, record
yourself talking about it. I always try to get my non-native students to record themselves talking as often as possible, and even for native speakers, it will be useful to identify something like rambling or losing focus when giving an answer. You may find that a different word choice or something like that would work better when you go back and review your recording. Non-native students can study ideas they had difficulty expressing and take the time to find a way to be more clear. Maybe write down specific phrases that help you articulate ideas. Any words that you’re not comfortable pronouncing, practice them. Use an online resource like Youglish or Forvo to hear examples of native saying the word, and practice it slowly. Train it into your muscle memory. You can actually be a great coach to yourself when you go back and listen to a recording. You can notice where you speech is choppy: study that and think about smoothness and what reductions you could be using but aren’t. These will help smooth out your speech. Recording yourself, critiquing yourself, it’s such a simple tool that most people underutilize. After you’ve recorded yourself a few times, and made adjustments, you’re ready to move on to a mock interview. Go ahead and record that too. Anything that you didn’t like? Study how to make your answer better, or
easier to understand. Drill those phrases over and over. Being fully prepared for an interview is certainly a lot of work, but it will set you apart from the crowd. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

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