Being prepared to answer questions can always be a nerve racking thing for those not as comfortable with doing so. Whether they are raised during an interview session, or after giving a presentation, knowing how to answer questions is a necessary skill. If you mess up that part, it can hurt the credibility of everything else you have previously discussed. Of course being prepared for any possible question that could be thrown at you is impossible, but there are ways to be better prepared to handle the situation. Bruna Martinuzzi at Open Forum lists ten tips, some of which I would like to discuss here.
Listen Attentively – Listening skills are tough, and not everyone can effectively accomplish what is needed to really listen and properly comprehend. First, you must empty you mind of any pre-conceived notions of what the question is going to be about. Do not start formulating your answer after only a few words into the question. Clear your mind and absorb the full question first. Once you hear the entire question, and only when that has occurred, can you skillfully formulate an adequate response. Oftentimes we anticipate what we think the question will be, and start formulating the answer before fully grasping what is asked, and that clutters our thoughts and our responses.
Focus on the Trigger Word – While still maintaining that clear mind, be sure to pay attention for the trigger word in the question. That is the word that will be the focus of your response. “For example, say you're confronted with this statement: ‘I don’t believe there's enough evidence to show us the benefits you just mentioned.’ The trigger word here is ‘evidence.’ If you didn't listen carefully for the trigger word, you might easily go off on a tangent and start repeating the benefits,” Martinuzzi states.
Always Give the Short Answer First – I know I fall for this problem all of the time, and that is, going too deep and too wide way too quickly. When someone asks for an answer, do not go into a long drawn out roundabout way of explaining it. Give the quick answer, and ask if they need you to elaborate further. Doing so may get them to clarify or restate the question in a manner that allows you to better focus the answers to suit their needs.
Know When to Stop – This goes along with what I was saying above. Do not over complicate things by explaining things in way more detail than the asker needs. If you keep beating them with the same response over and over, it will hurt your position. Keep it simple, and move on unless they ask for additional information. Plus, offering too much information may be damaging to your situation too, so keep it focused.
Use a Structure – When asked a question that you may not be fully prepared for, it can help greatly if you approach your answer by using a structure that helps you better formulate the response. Martinuzzi offers some suggestions worth repeating on this:
Use the rule of three. Let's say you're asked to elaborate about your business. You can describe your company in terms of past, present and future by saying a few words about your company history, your current offerings and your ideas for the future.
Use the PREP template. This is a popular template from Toastmasters. It involves four parts: P: Point—State your point to the question; R: Reason—Mention a reason for your point; E: Example—Give an illustration that supports your point; and P: Point —Reinforce or recap your main point.
Be an anchorman. Quickly organize your thoughts by following the anchorman's format and answering all, or part, of these six questions, as appropriate: who, what, where, when, why and how.
These are just a few of the types of tips you could use to help you answer questions whether they arise as you are seeking a new job, or pretty much in any other professional setting you may encounter them in. Having some ideas on how to approach any question scenario is much better than simply taking it as it comes and trying to wing it.
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