Answer Questions on a Structured Oral Interview

Oral interviews can be extremely nerve wracking, especially if you do not know the questions that are going to be asked beforehand. In some situations, the interviewer might provide the questions before your interview allowing you time to prepare. In most cases, however, they do not and you are left not knowing what will be said. Here are a few steps to help you through either situation.


  1. Prepare. If you received a list of the questions for the interview you have time to prepare your answers. Write your answers down for each question and memorize them. If you have memorized your answers you will be able to voice them in the interview with poise and confidence.If you do not receive a list of the questions before your interview you can prepare by asking yourself questions you think might be asked.
    • If this is a job interview for a specific position, ask yourself questions you think they might ask that would be relevant to the position and industry.
    • Write down your answers and memorize important sentences and words that have significance to the subject.
  2. Research. Do research on the topic of your interview - even if you do not know what questions are going to be asked. Researching will provide information you may not have known about the topic/industry and can help structure answers. Doing research will also show the interviewer you took time and effort in preparing for and better understanding the topic.
    • Researching can also lead to questions you may have for the interviewer after their questions are completed and it is now your turn.
  3. Listen. Some people tend to become overwhelmed in oral interviews and they forget to actually listen to the interviewer. Listening to every word of the question is very important and can help structure your answer. Listen for terms that sound familiar from your research… this can impress the interviewer if you answer using information from those terms.
  4. Ask questions yourself. If you are confused about what the interviewer is asking in a particular question it is OK to ask for clarification. This can help you fully understand a question instead of assuming you can answer it correctly.
  5. Take your time. Questions do not need to be answered immediately. Take your time and get your thoughts organized in your head before responding to the question. Some tricks to gain some time are:
    • Take a deep breath. Breathing stimulates the brain and calms nerves allowing you to devise words in a collected manner.
    • Smile and nod. Smiling releases tension and produces relaxing feelings in both the interviewee and interviewer, while nodding lets the interviewer know you were paying attention and understand the question that was presented.
  6. Keep eye contact. Keeping eye contact will let the interviewer know you are paying attention, alert and not easily distracted. Keeping eye contact can also help in understanding the question as you will have undivided attention to what is being said and will help keep your mind from wandering.
  7. Avoid sentence fillers. Avoid words such as “like”, “um” and “you know”. We often utter these words unconsciously when we are thinking of what to say next but they unfortunately weaken the structure of sentences. Words and sentences can be much stronger and have a greater effect if these sentence fillers are avoided as much as possible.
  8. Have a confident appearance. Although oral interviews are based on questions and answers it is always important to remember body language. Going into an interview with confidence will enhance your posture all the while relaxing your body and mind.


  • Avoid sentence fillers
  • Have a confident appearance
  • Listen
  • Ask questions
  • Research
  • Prepare
  • Take your time
  • Keep eye contact

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