Top tips on how to prepare for an interview, and stand out and impress your interviewer

From seemingly simple questions to making your answer the perfect length, interview like a professional with these top tips

Ariel Conant |

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Maybe you’re considering a summer job or an internship. Or maybe you’re applying to a new school or getting ready for university admissions. No matter what you’re applying for, it’s likely an interview will be part of the process.

As common as interviews are, we know they can be nerve-wracking. There’s no way of knowing exactly what the interviewers will ask you, so you will never be 100 per cent prepared.

But that doesn’t meant there’s nothing you can do. Young Post has some tips on how to tailor your answers so no matter what you’re asked, you always have something to say.

That is the question. Or is it?

Some interview questions are easy and straightforward. We hope you already know the answer to questions like, “What is your name?” and “How old are you?”

But what about questions like, “What sports do you play?” or “Do you have any hobbies?”

These questions might seem straightforward, but they’re actually more complex than they might seem.

Your interviewer probably isn’t interested in whether you play basketball or not, or if you spend your free time playing video games. Questions like this are designed to give you a chance to show some qualities about yourself. The interviewers will care more about whether you are a team player, or if you are passionate about something, or whether you are good at balancing school work with extra curricular activities.

So while it may be tempting to give a simple answer to these seemingly-simple questions, first stop and ask yourself what the interviewers really want to know.

Know thyself, and show yourself off

Coming up with an answer to these tricky simple questions is not as hard as it might seem. But the first step is to know yourself, and know what’s most impressive about you.

Start by brainstorming three positive qualities about yourself. Are you hard-working? Passionate? Are you a good leader? Do you help motivate people around you? Everyone has positive qualities, and it’s up to you to figure out what you’re good at.

And be honest with yourself. If you do everything last minute and never know what’s happening next, then “organisation” is probably not one of your top qualities.

But maybe you’re great at getting things done quickly and with very little planning, so you can count “adaptable” as one of your attributes.

We all have our flaws and our features, and it’s up to you to figure out your strengths and how to show them to others.

Three is a magic number

Never underestimate the power of three. As humans, we love lists. They’re easy to understand, quick to read and simple to remember.

See what we did there? We listed three things that are good about lists. Four good things about lists would be too long and awkward for one sentence, and two things would seem like something was missing. Three is the perfect number.

Keep this in mind when answering interview questions. Have on hand three positive qualities about yourself that you can apply to a variety of situations, and be able to explain them appropriately.

Piecing the puzzle together

So how does this all work in practice? Let’s take our sample “simple” questions for example.

The interviewers ask you “What sports do you play?” and you answer “I play basketball.”

You have answered the question, but you haven’t told the interviewers anything about yourself, or given them the information they really want to know.

Consider the following answer:

“I play basketball. It’s my favourite sport because I love being on a team. Even though I’m not the captain, I like helping to motivate the other players and cheer them on when they score. I also really like having a sport to balance my study time. I plan my time well, so my basketball practice rarely conflicts with my schoolwork. But mostly I’m a very social person and like having the time to relax with my friends, and basketball is a great way to make new friends through the team.”

This answer is not as simple, but shows much more about you as a person. Now the interviewers know you are good at motivating your peers, have time-management skills and are friendly and social. Those are three positive qualities about yourself – and you’ve shown them all through one answer to one simple question.