When I read articles about how to nail a job interview, I often see good tips like "display confidence", "enunciate your answers", and "frame your answers in a way that relates your skills to the job". I was able to use many such tips during my job search earlier this year, but the tips that helped the most are the ones I learned from my career coaches. 

Today, I'll conclude my Three Things I Learned From My Career Coach series by sharing three phrases that have come in handy for me in job interviews. I'm talking about tactical, three to four word phrases you can use to improve your performance in an interview.

They're great to include in your scripted responses to common interview questions, and can help you avert disaster and sound more eloquent when used on-the-fly and in the moment.

"When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions" - Steve Jobs

PHRASE #1: simple and elegant

Think of something you've designed, a template, a database, a process, that solved a problem. Did it achieve the desired effect while neatly reducing complexity and inefficiency? Was it easy for everyone to understand and use? If so, we can describe your solution as simple and elegant. 

The phrase "simple and elegant" seems to have been around forever. We hear it on advertisements all the time. Why?

  • people value what it represents
  • these two words sound great together 

Tech industry website Techtarget defines the term "elegant solution" as "one in which the maximum desired effect is achieved with the smallest, or simplest effort. Engineers, for example, seek the elegant solution as a means of solving a problem with the least possible waste of materials and effort". 

When you want to showcase something you've designed, like a template, software, process, or other solution, that achieved maximum desired effect with minimum effort, describe it as simple and elegant to the interviewer(s). Sales people and advertisers have been using this phrase to promote their solutions for decades because it works. Job seekers can too.

Phrase #2: Meet and deal

Use this phrase to highlight your ability to successfully collaborate and influence within other cultures. For example, if you have ever...

  • traveled internationally to work with people from different countries and cultures
  • traveled domestically to collaborate with colleagues in a different part of the country with a different work culture
  • collaborated with others in a second language

...you may be viewed as someone who can successfully meet and deal with different cultures.

This phrase implies that you are a skilled communicator able to build relationships in different regions of the world successfully despite cultural barriers. If you often travel for work or work with people of cultures different from your own, you may find this phrase useful in your job interviews.

Phrase #3: And as a result

This is it, guys. The ultimate lifesaver interview hack. It comes from the acronym S.O.A.R. which stands for Situation, Obstacle, Action, Result. S.O.A.R. is a technique for turning your accomplishments into stories for your interview, and we all should be using it or a technique like it. These S.O.A.R. stories are sometimes called accomplishment stories. If you're not using an answer model like S.O.A.R. in your interviews, learn how. Career coach Linda Cattelan breaks it down for you in her article for humanresources.com.

The problem is when you start explaining the situation, but never get to the point of your story. Have you ever started to answer an interview question, then got tired of hearing yourself talk? It's because you were rambling. It's happened to me and it's no fun. So how do you avoid rambling and get right to the point of your story? You say this, 

"...and as a result..."

It's magical how saying this phrase will immediately set you up to finish your S.O.A.R. story. I think of it like a life jacket the coast guard tosses you when you're in trouble. You're drowning in your own words, all you want to do is finish your story and keep your dignity intact. What do you say?

"...and as a result..."

Boom, you're back on track and ready to explain the end of your accomplishment story. Confidence restored.

Generally, interview answers are most effective when they last no longer than a minute or so. Of course, rehearsing your stories is key, but if you find yourself approaching the one minute mark with no end in sight, use this phrase to wrap up and bring the story home. 

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Thanks for reading! Do you have any short phrases that have helped you nail the interview? Please share below.

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