How to Answer Anecdotal Interview Questions

Anecdotal interview questions don’t need to be any more alarming than any other type of interview question. Like open ended questions which are often present in standard behavioral or situational interviews, anecdotal interview questions are purposeful. Hiring managers ask you to tell stories about previous experience to help determine how well you’ll be a fit for the job. When navigated correctly, they can be a great tool to helping you sell yourself as the best candidate for the role for which you’ve applied.

Anecdotal interview questions helps the hiring manager decide if you’re a qualified candidate for a positon. When you’re asked an anecdotal interview question, this is a perfect chance for you to provide examples of previous experiences that help set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

As a transitioning service member, this might be challenging to start. After all, the jobs and duties you performed in the military generally don’t translate well to the civilian sector. However, with the right practice and a positive mental attitude, anecdotal questions will become easier and easier to answer.

It’s important to remember that employers ask anecdotal interview questions so they can verify what you’ve said on your application matches your level of experience. Generally, the questions surround situations where you used a particular skillset. For example, if you’re applying for a management positon, a hiring manager might ask something like, “Tell me about a time when you utilized your leadership abilities to move a project forward.”

The challenge you face is being able to speak about your duties in language that a hiring manager will understand. When you’re responding to anecdotal interview questions, the best approach is to tell a story. The key difference here is that you should have a few compelling stories at the ready to help highlight your skills and showcase exactly why you would be an asset to the company. As with all interviews, successfully answering an anecdotal interview question means a lot of forward preparation.

Before you head in to an interview, carefully review the requirements for the job. Make a list of your skills that match those requirements. Then consider the job functions your performed during your time in the military and look for correlations.

Next, construct storylines that help showcase your skills as they respond to the requirements of the job. Describe situations and your responses as well as the positive outcomes you helped to generate. It might feel awkward at first, but practice telling these stories out loud. Just like crafting a quality elevator pitch, when you’re comfortable telling these stories, it will show.

Most importantly, remember to keep your anecdotal interview stories short. The hiring manager doesn’t need to hear every single detail, just the relevant ones to the job requirements. When you practice answering anecdotal interview questions enough that they become natural, your confidence will shine. Make you answer succinct, to the point, and make sure you describe how you handle the situation. Tailoring this framework to your specific experience will help provide you with a starting point to crafting your own responses to anecdotal interview questions and will ensure you’re one step closer to landing the job.

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