4 answers

Is it ok to give a generic answer to an interview question?

Asked New York, New York

I am always stuck on the interview question asking me to tell the interviewers a time I was working in a group that I demonstrated leadership skills. The only answer I can come up with is the ghosting of a member and how I reached out to the member to resolve the problem. Is this answer too generic? Is there a better approach to this answer? #job-application #interviews #advice #career

4 answers

Cassandra’s Answer

Updated Laredo, Texas

I agree with the other responses. Be prepared to answer the questions with details. As a career counselor, I help students with interviewing skills. I tell them to use the STAR method when answering the question:

"Tell me about a time when you were working in a group and demonstrated leadership skills."

In this case, let's break down the answer:

S - state the problem. You can say something like:

"I was working in team of 5 students for a work assignment and the deadline for the presentation was in xx weeks."

T- tell what happened. Explain the events that led up to you demonstrated leadership skills. Maybe something like:

"I took the initiative to email everyone to set up a meeting time and location at the University library meeting room. During those meetings, I would assign each person a section of the presentation."

A- What actions happened that YOU did. For example:

"At one of those meetings, one of the team members did not do their part and we had 2 weeks left. I spoke to the team members to remind them of how important it is that everyone does their part. I then set up another meeting where WE ALL met in the campus computer lab to do our powerpoint slides and research.

R- Result. As in what happened? What was the result of what YOU did and how did it impact the assignment or work. This could be negative (in that case what did you learn from it and what would you have done differently - this shows that you take ownership of your mistakes and can learn and grow from them) and this could be positive (what did you learn from the experience)

So you response could be something like:

The team felt that they were a part of the group, and our group got an "A" from the professor. Then we had to do a peer evaluations on each other and my peers commented that they valued my leadership skills and helped them feel a part of the team.

I hope that implementing the STAR method in answering your questions is helpful in the future.

Good luck with your interviewing!

Cassandra recommends the following next steps:

  • Always be prepared to answer the questions in detail.
  • Utilize the STAR method in answering questions such as: tell me about a time when you...
  • Practice, practice, practice. Go to your career counselor at the university and ask for a mock interview.

Chris’s Answer


Having spent some time recruiting myself, I can tell you that generic answers are never what the interviewer is looking for. At the same time I can tell that you are starting to get into a specific experience with your answer. I would spend some time brainstorming your experience and see if you can iron some details on how exactly you where able to pull that coworker back in and how you would utilize those skills to drive and motive people you would be supporting in future roles. You always want to go into a interview with a game plan on what skills you have that you want to talk about and what previous experiences highlight those skills. You never know the exact questions that you will be asked, but generally you can use the questions to hit the points you've prepped for before your interview.

Chris recommends the following next steps:

  • Prep prep prep! Take some time to write down your skills and previous experiences you want to talk about!

Agata’s Answer

Updated Los Angeles, California

everyone is different, including you...it will not be "generic" if you stick to the truth and be yourself; everyone reacts different, they want to know how YOU handle it...if it still feels "generic" give more specifics and details and put your heart into it, the interviewer will know whether you are honest or not...the question might feel "generic" but your answer doesn't have to be

Agata recommends the following next steps:

  • be ready to tell a story of how you handled a difficult situation

Alice’s Answer


Do not provide a generic answer. Interview is the only time where companies are giving you the opportunity to speak. Interview is the only opportunity where you can share with hiring manager on your passion, your thoughts and what you can bring to the company. A common interview question is "Tell me about yourself ?" Someone who really wants the job will share as much as she can about what she did in her previous employment (including internship experience) and she can share on her strength and her leadership experience in school project. A lousy answer to this question is "My name is xx and I just graduated from University. I love dogs and I love people." The interviewee must take this opportunity to share about her working style, working attitude and passion at work. Her response will shine when she gives specific answer.