How to Answer a Question the Interviewer Didn’t Ask

Part of the stress that comes with a job interview is the knowledge that the hiring manager has a list of questions she may ask, and you don’t always know what’s on the list. Sometimes, however, as you strive to highlight your skills and accomplishments, you might find that there are a few questions you’re hoping she’ll ask — but you’re not sure if she will.

Should you give up and play it safe by only answering what you’re asked? Definitely not.

An interview is an exchange of ideas and inquiry into your fit, so it’s well within your right to take the conversation where it needs to go to get the job. If you struggle to make sure every interview highlights your strengths, here are a few ideas for structuring your interview to answer the unasked questions:

Identify the questions that are likely to be asked

Make a list of questions you know the interviewer is likely to ask. You can do this by performing a web search such as “[Job Title] + Interview questions” or referring to your notes from past interviews to see which questions came up.

For example, if you are interviewing for a copywriting position, you may receive questions about what you write, how often you write, what you’re reading and how you stay creative or energized throughout the day.

Identify the questions you need to answer

Review your resume and cover letter and consider your job history. Which significant moments, concepts and accomplishments are important to bring up in the interview?

For example, as you interview for the copywriting position you’ll want to highlight moments in your career when your work was particularly well received by your boss and clients. You will also want to include data that relates to how your work helped your clients achieve their goals (landing page conversions, SEO traffic, etc).

Identify overlaps within the list

Compare the lists to each other and see if there are any obvious connections. If your interviewer is likely to ask “Tell me about the most recent book you’ve read,” prepare an answer that links your most recent reading to an accomplishment at work.

For example, “The most recent book I finished was The Copywriter’s Handbook. I used information from that book to help a client achieve a 700% ROI on their social media investment. This creates an obvious link between the interviewer’s question, your answer and how you apply your skills at work.

Use unasked questions as questions for your employer

If you still have unasked questions that need to be asked, consider whether or not you can rephrase or include them as questions for your employer.

For example, if you want to highlight your experience coaching other copywriters at your job, you can weave this into a question about your prospective workplace’s mentoring environment.

When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you can say something such as “At my current place of work, I coach other copywriters on how to engage with clients. My students have achieved more than any other coach. Does your workplace currently support this kind of mentoring relationship?”

If the interviewer’s workplace does offer this experience, it will help her see how you could contribute to the current initiatives. If it does not, it will help her see how you could take leadership in that area and grow the company’s policies.

The job interview represents a significant opportunity for you to present your skills, accomplishments and unique fit for the working environment. It’s not likely that you can fit all of that into the pre-chosen questions of the average interviewer. Add an edge to your interview by planning and answering the unasked questions in a way that continues the conversation and highlights your abilities for the hiring manager.