The Single Best Way to Answer Every Job Interview Question

What's your storyRalph Baer scribbled on a note pad and changed entertainment forever. What was on that piece of paper?

CNN’s Doug Gross says Baer imagined a “game box” to let people “play board, action, sports and other games on most television sets.” With a $2,500 budget, Baer ultimately created the first video game console and launched what is now a billion-dollar industry.

The hidden lesson in what Baer wrote that day? A few words on paper can transform our careers, too. Because stories, which already work great on cover letters and reference letters, can help you nail a job interview, too.

Before your next interview, walk into the room with three things:

  • A smile
  • Pen and paper
  • Three success stories

Those stories, in addition to letting your personality shine, will demonstrate in vivid detail why you are right for this job at this company. They will also turn a typical Q&A interview into a dynamic, memorable conversation.

For example, let’s say you want a job as an client manager at a tech/IT company. However, your experience so far is three years of your career at a nonprofit; you don’t have experience in the private sector. Doesn’t matter. Your stories can still carry you.

Before the interview, jot down three great stories from your life that show you know how to lead and solve problems. It can look like the list below — except your handwriting is probably nicer than mine.


how to answer interview questionsThen, as the interview goes along, look to weave the three stories into your answers. Many interview questions focus on ability or past work experience so you will have opportunities.

The key is to have storytelling as your go-to strategy from the start.

In my example, I chose two stories from the workplace and one from someone’s personal life. No, the person may not use all three stories in an interview, but they remain on standby if the conversation allows for them.

No. 1: The Fire Alarm Incident

Question: Why are you interested in the project manager position at our IT firm?

Answer: I have spent the past three years at a nonprofit and gained a lot of great skills running different programs and events. I’m ready for a new challenge, and I prefer fast-paced environments like your company where I need to think quickly. In fact, let me tell you a good story.

About six months ago, our nonprofit hosted its annual fundraising gala. Five hundred people, black tie affair, the whole nine yards. Right as we’re about to announce our record-breaking donation total, the fire alarm goes off and wouldn’t stop blaring. Everyone’s looking around for what to do so I jump on the microphone and calmly ask 500 PEOPLE to exit the banquet hall and go outside.

The fire department came, searched the place and didn’t find anything. Then I herded all 500 people back into the room and kept the night on track. So I have definitely handled stressful situations and stayed calm when everything broke down. And I’ll be poised again when a client has a critical IT challenge.

Boss thinks: OK, this person can certainly get through a rough day at work. Excellent.

No. 2: The Sick Day

Question: What’s your greatest strength?

Answer: I think my greatest strength is I’m resourceful. A year ago, half of our team at the nonprofit got sick with the flu. It’s an eight-person team so we were down to four employees for an entire week. We also had a huge program that weekend — a jump rope for health event with over 250 children.

With only four of us in the office, we had to use our time and energy wisely. I handled online sign-ups and coordinated with the caterer. I directed two of my co-workers to oversee the awards presentation and music. And our fourth co-worker was our intern, Kacie. I quickly taught Kacie how to work the phones and answer questions from parents and the media. We worked hard that week, but the four of us got it done and the jump rope event was a success. So I like to think I know how to make due with what I have…and not miss a beat.

Boss thinks: Wow, what a strong manager. Poised and everything.

No. 3: The Camping Trip

Question: What do you like to do outside of work?

Answer: I’m big into the outdoors. Last weekend, my friends and I went camping in Shenandoah National Park. We set up our tent in what we thought was a remote part of the mountains. After an hour or so, this huge group of people showed up in “Lord of the Rings” costumes. Apparently a local acting troupe is doing a “Lord of the Rings” play and came out to the wilderrness to practice its lines. So we had Frodo and Gandalf walking around our campsite all weekend. It was weird and also hilarious.

Boss thinks: Great stuff. Didn’t expect to hear a story like that!

Do you see the power of stories? You can’t prove your ability unless you provide on-the-job examples. And if the boss asks about your personal life, you have a story ready there too. Plenty of people like the outdoors but no one else would ever talk about the “Lord of the Rings” situation. It’s yours and makes you different!

The best part: you can answer a lot of common interview questions with a story:

– Why should we hire you?

“Let me give you a good example of my work performance…”

– How do you deal with stressful situations?

“Let me tell you about this one time where stress, for a short time, was a real issue…”

Is there a moment when you exercised leadership?

And finally, when the boss says “Do you have any questions for me?” you go with the four questions every millennial should ask in a job interview. Again, they show you’re unlike every other person who asks typical fluff like “How much vacation time will I have?”

Instead, you drop a gem like “I see we can expect a huge growth in the Internet of Things in 2015. What does that mean for the company and the services you provide?”

Bam. You just crushed the interview.

You can be like everyone else. Or you can blow away the competition. Be as storyteller in your next interview, and watch what happens!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at News to Live By!


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Danny Rubin headshotAbout the Author: Danny Rubin is the creator and writer of News To Live By, a blog for Millennials that highlights the career advice and leadership lessons “hidden” in the day’s top stories. In one short-and-sweet column, Danny recaps a top news story and explains how it can make us better at our jobs. He’s a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Business Insider, and his work has also been featured in The New York Times. Follow News To Live By on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Thank you!



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