The classic interview non-question is: Tell me about yourself. It’s not a question and it’s not considered to be a very good interview question, since it is vague and not specific.
Yet it has one thing in common with the very best interview questions in that it is not a question at all. The very best interview questions are behavioral competency-based interview questions. Behavioral interview questions probe into past behaviors as the best predictors of future results. A behavioral interview question comes in this format: “Give me an example of…” To make it an even better question, the interviewer is asking a behavioral competency-based question, which would be the following: “Give me an example of when you delivered (competency or skill)…”
The candidate corollary to the best interview questions is the best interview answer. The best interview answer is to answer behaviorally, even if you have not been asked a behavioral question. And do it in a way that specifically targets a key competency or skill required for the role.
Here is an example: You have been asked a closed-ended question such as: “Are you a team player?” Technically, “Yes” (or even “No”) is a valid response. Most candidates answer in the affirmative, but then deviate into theoretical (“Yes, in fact I have a very strong belief in supporting my team and doing whatever I can to make the team successful…”) or hypothetical (“Yes, if something comes up that requires my involvement, I am always the one there to support my team to make it happen…”) answers. Yet it is missing an opportunity to give a solid behavioral answer. Here is the foundation for an example of a great answer:
“Yes, I am very much a team player. Let me give you an example from a recent project I was working on with my team…”
Not only has the candidate answered the question, the candidate has also offered up a competency-based example of being a team player. And by making it time bound to a recent example, it has higher validity than something done years prior. Whenever possible, keep your answers as recent as possible unless you are being specifically asked about experience earlier in your career.
So answer behaviorally with a competency or skill, whether asked or not. By answering behaviorally, you will make the interviewer feel brilliant (since they were able to probe deeply into your background, far deeper than other candidates) and provide the interviewer excellent anecdotal stories to back up why you are a great candidate for the role.