Smart answers to interview questions (with examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many interview questions are open-ended and require tailored and detailed answers. Thanks to giving personalised answers, you provide the hiring manager with a good idea of your professional abilities and skills. Using effective interview response methods allows you to craft professional and intelligent answers that demonstrate your strengths during a job interview. In this article, we discuss what smart answers to interview questions are, list a few common interview questions and provide sample answers to them.

Related: What are interview questionnaires?

What are smart answers to interview questions?

Smart answers to interview questions are effective and intelligent answers through which you present yourself as a highly qualified candidate during a job interview. Often, smart answers are responses that you develop following the STAR technique. This technique allows you to provide detailed and concise answers to competency-based or behavioural questions that test your skills. For example, interviewers may choose them to determine how you handle various types of workplace issues and situations. When using the STAR method, there are four key elements to talk about:

  • Situation: Firstly, you start by describing the situation and when it took place. You may also provide information on what caused it.

  • Task: Then, you discuss your role in that situation and any tasks involved. In this step, you can briefly explain what the goal for the task was.

  • Action: Your next step involves describing what action you took to handle the situation or perform the task. It's critical that you mention or demonstrate some of your positive workplace skills, such as problem-solving or communication.

  • Result: The last element to discuss is the result of your actions.

Related: How to use the STAR interview technique in competency-based interviews

Common interview questions with smart answers

Although it's usually not possible to predict what exact questions an interviewer may want to ask, reviewing answers to some of the most common ones can help you prepare for your upcoming interview. Here are some frequently asked questions with explanations and sample answers:

1. Why should we hire you?

This is a general question that hiring managers often ask at the end of interviews. It's not a typical behavioural question and for this reason, it requires you to concentrate on the interviewer's viewpoint first. Then, you can describe any workplace situation using the STAR method.

To develop an effective answer, think about the qualities and strengths that you can bring to the company. To prove your point, you can talk about any situations from the past when you utilised your skills to help your previous employer. Use the information that you obtained while researching the company to reflect issues or challenges that the company is currently experiencing.

Example answer: 'I've been a store manager for over three years and have over 150 hours in leadership training with a focus on customer service and emotional intelligence in the workplace. I know that motivating and encouraging the team using emotional intelligence helps them to exceed company goals and increases their overall satisfaction at work. As a leader, I believe I can help the team members reach their potential and reduce employee turnover by establishing an open and honest workplace.'

Read more: Interview question: 'Why should we hire you?'

2. Tell me about a time you failed at work. What lessons did you learn?

This question tests your self-awareness and the ability to stay motivated during challenging times. A smart answer shows you're accountable and can learn from mistakes. When describing a real workplace situation that took place and resulted in you failing, remember not to blame others for what happened. Instead, focus on discussing how the outcome helped you improve how you act and react.

Example answer: 'In my last role as a project manager, I was managing a project for one of our most important clients. I was so excited about that opportunity that I mentioned to the client's representative that my team can easily finish the project within less than a month, but it ended up taking three months. The client wasn't happy and it was challenging because I knew I was the only person responsible for this failure.

I took that experience and worked with my team to establish a new timeline and deadline approval process. After that project, all team leaders took part in establishing the timeline and it was only appropriate to inform clients about any deadlines or milestones when our entire internal team has approved the brief. During the next project I managed, we communicated to the client that it was likely to take six weeks to finish, but we ended up completing it in five weeks, which made the client happy.'

Read more: Interview question: 'Tell me about a time when you failed'

3. Tell me about a time when you set a goal and accomplished it

The ability to discuss your accomplishments and strengths can help you impress the interviewer and advance to the next round of interviews. The smartest way to answer this type of question is to decide which one of your achievements aligns well with the role's responsibilities or the organisation's mission. Whenever the question indicates that the hiring manager wants to learn how you achieved the goal, make sure to discuss the method you used and how you approached the goal-setting process.

Example answer: 'My previous employer would reward the most effective salesperson who reached the highest sales target each year. I wanted to advance to a leadership role, which is why I planned that winning this informal contest was an effective way to demonstrate my commitment to the role. I took into consideration the previous year's winning quote and added 20% to it, which was my initial goal for the year. Then, I created a spreadsheet to establish key milestones and track my results throughout the year.

Seeing how each sale I finalised contributed to the final result made me more motivated to accomplish the goal. It also allowed me to analyse my performance and eliminate any factors that could negatively affect my results. Thanks to this approach to tracking my self-improvement, I was able to reach my goal two months before the end of the year, became employee of the year and got a promotion, just as I had anticipated. It was a great accomplishment that boosted my confidence in the field.'

Related: How to set goals for yourself (and why it's important)

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

You can answer this question in a neutral or positive tone. As you develop your answer, remember that it's important to never speak negatively about your former manager or employer. To give the interviewer a smart answer, mention a reason that the hiring manager wouldn't be concerned about. For example, growth opportunities, career change or moving to a different location.

Example answer: 'My current job has been a great learning experience and I've developed many skills during my years with that company. I'm seeking a new opportunity with your organisation because it appears to align well with the direction I'd like to take for my career. I've heard great things about this company and I'm excited to develop my expertise further with this opportunity.'

Read more: How to explain your reason for leaving a job to a recruiter

Tips for giving smart answers to common interview questions

Depending on your background, experience and field, interviewers may ask you various questions about your duties or how you approach any job-specific situations. Here are some additional tips that can help you develop smart answers to other interview questions:

  • Focus on demonstrating your strengths. When giving smart answers to questions in an interview, make sure to avoid discussing or mentioning any of your weaknesses or negative qualities. Instead, focus on your strongest skills to demonstrate your value as a professional to the hiring manager.

  • Discuss employer's benefits. As you approach discussing the outcomes of the situation, talk about what benefits your employer experienced as a result of your actions. This way, you show the interviewer that you can prioritise the organisation's interest when handling challenging tasks or issues.

  • Learn to talk about negative results. When an interviewer asks about a situation that produced a negative outcome, showing how well you handled it demonstrates your strengths during stressful situations. As a result, giving a smart answer can increase your chances of securing the job.

Related:

  • Top job interview questions and answers: examples and tips

  • A practical guide to structured interviews with tips and questions

  • 5 strategic interview questions to ask candidates (and tips)

  • Informational interview questions (with examples and tips)

  • Unique interview questions to ask an employer (With tips)


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