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How to Answer Hard Pageant Interview Questions

Miss Millard, Miss Draper and Miss Riverton 2017 looking fabulous and confident for the 2017 Miss Utah interview competition. Photo: @miss_millard Instagram.
Miss Millard, Miss Draper and Miss Riverton 2017 looking fabulous and confident for the 2017 Miss Utah pageant interview competition. Photo: @miss_millard Instagram.

Ever lost sleep thinking about the types of questions you’ll be asked in interview? Stressing about the possibilities of an upcoming interview is likely something we’ve all done at some point.

However, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life is that there are always opportunities to be found within challenging situations. You do not need to be fearful of hard pageant interview questions. Instead, consider them a unique opportunity to share your opinions with the world. (Read: The 10 Toughest Pageant Interview Questions and How to Answer Them)

Overcome those fears and shine in your interview by following this easy-to-navigate formula for answering difficult pageant interview questions. Read on to see how you can effectively implement this four-step strategy to wow those judges!

How to Answer Hard Pageant Interview Questions

Let’s review a few things before we dive into the formula.

Why exactly are hard pageant interview questions challenging? The reason is that they are high-gain, values-based questions, which give us both the challenge and opportunity to deliver thoughtful, meaningful information on a whim.

High-gain questions eliminate the possibility of short and sweet answers while exposing some of your values and beliefs to your interviewer.

There’s typically no correct answer when considering hard questions. The judges are looking at how you work through the question to develop a solid answer that lends a glimpse into who you are as a person.

To give a judge that glimpse, the biggest part of preparation is that you have to know yourself and what you believe in from the very core. You also need to be practicing these values. Don’t claim that you highly value community but never actually get out there and volunteer. You’ll eventually get tripped up in the question because you have no relevant life lessons to back that claim. (Read: How to Promote Your Platform Through Community Service)

The hardest of interview questions usually circulate around controversial topics and current events. These questions require some strategy, analysis and critical thinking to devise an appropriate response.

Let the below step-by-step formula serve as your strategy when you are asked a hard pageant question:

1. Acknowledge
2. Answer
3. Elaborate
4. Summarize

Acknowledge

The first stage of the formula is to acknowledge both sides of the issue. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and while the judge isn’t looking for you to mirror his or her exact beliefs, an answer that is sensitive to both sides allows you to begin on safe, neutral ground. (Read: How to Handle Politically Controversial Questions)

Acknowledge the question by giving a very brief narrative of why this particular event or issue is relevant. Perhaps share a quick personal anecdote to peak the judge’s interest. If you’re feeling unsteady in developing your answer, this also buys you a little time before you actually answer.

“Have an opinion of the core topics you are seeing in the news,” said Jesse Ladoue, Miss International 2013 and Pageant Planet’s own Queen of Coaching, in a recent Pageant Planet podcast. “Building an opinion on those overall topics is so valuable and I always say you get bonus points with me as a judge if you can bring in a real life example.”

Miss Rhode Island USA 2017, Kelsey Swanson, ready for interview at the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Photo: @pageantprep Instagram.
Miss Rhode Island USA 2017, Kelsey Swanson, ready for interview at the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Photo: @pageantprep Instagram.

Answer

This ingredient of the formula can be both the easiest and hardest. Many times when I’ve judged in the past, contestants get so far off-track in other details surrounding the subject or their own personal story that they forget to actually answer the question.

Before words spill out of your mouth to answer a hard question, pause. Breathe. It really is okay to just take a moment! What feels like eons when you pause isn’t as bad as you think. Filler words and statements hurry your answer, while a brief moment to collect your thoughts shows confidence and peaks your judge’s interest. The judge will know in that brief moment that he or she has something worthwhile to listen to. (Read: 5 Ways to Show Your Charm in Interview)

In the first step, you established trust with your judge by acknowledging both sides of the issue, validating each position. If you acknowledged a current events issue, you established credibility with your judge by giving a brief background or story. Do not lose your credibility by failing to answer the question or even worse, delivering overly rehearsed answers. (Read: 5 Tips to Nail Your 60 Second Pageant Interview)

Particularly in platform-based pageants, it’s easy to anticipate the types of hard questions you may be asked. Rehearsing verbatim answers at home is one of the top ways to demolish your pageant interview and cause you to lose a judge’s trust. Instead, have a few short bullet points that you can pull from if a certain question comes up, and develop your answer from there. (Read: What Is The Best Way To Not Sound Rehearsed In Pageant Interview?)

Miss Oasis 2017, Kelsey Prince, ready for interview at the 2017 Miss New Mexico pageant. Photo: @kelseyprincess Instagram.
Miss Oasis 2017, Kelsey Prince, ready for interview at the 2017 Miss New Mexico pageant. Photo: @kelseyprincess Instagram.

Elaborate

Elaboration is my favorite part of the formula. This portion allows you to extrapolate on your answer and gives the judges a glimpse of who you are deep down. This is why you are in the interview room to begin with!

Giving detail to your answer should be authentic and from the heart. This is your chance to display your values and find that opportunity in the challenge, as mentioned earlier. Respectfully divulge details to your answer that support your opinions, such as any facts or figures that you may be aware of or how you came about your stance on this topic.

The challenging part of hard questions is that the judges aren’t looking for the right answer. There typically isn’t one. They’re looking for a genuine answer, which will be communicated strictly dependent on how you choose to look at the issue. (Read: 4 Tips To Sound Genuine in Pageant Interview)

Tactfully explaining your answer will garner so much more respect than an answer that attempts to simply appease the judge. Instead, give them a glimpse of who you are as you elaborate while remaining true to your principles.

“Having an overall impression of what your take is on the topic, judges can never trip you up if you understand and value your own opinions and can back them up,” Ladoue said.

Miss Maryland Earth United States 2017, Fiona Nagy, poised and ready for interview. Photo: @301cosmogirl Instagram.
Miss Maryland Earth United States 2017, Fiona Nagy, poised and ready for interview. Photo: @301cosmogirl Instagram.

Summarize

You’re almost there! The last element of the formula is to summarize and conclude.

Here, you will respectfully reinforce your position on the issue and acknowledge both sides once more. This step is brief but allows the judge to understand that your answer is complete and that they can move on to the next question.

Contestants ready to complete their interviews at the 2017 Miss Junior Teen Florida United States pageant. Photo: @missfloridajrteenunitedstates Instagram.
Contestants ready to complete their interviews at the 2017 Miss Junior Teen Florida United States pageant. Photo: @missfloridajrteenunitedstates Instagram.

Side note

As a bonus, let’s touch on what happens if you don’t know the answer. This may indeed be a fear come true, but you’ll need to show the judge your ability to confidently work through the unknown. (Read: How to Answer Onstage Question Confidently When You Don’t Know the Answer)

Have no fear! Answering an unfamiliar question is actually quite simple. You’ll follow the same formula above, but just go about it a little differently:

Acknowledge that you lack familiarity with the topic. It is okay to ask for clarification or for the judge to help explain. You are, after all, human and cannot be expected to be a walking encyclopedia or world news site!

Answer with what you do know about the topic or a similar topic.

Elaborate with facts, figures and/or examples of what you do know. Engagement in the question will show a high level of confidence.

Summarize by restating that you don’t know a whole lot about the topic, but that you’re interested in learning more. And most importantly – do it! If you are asked a question that you know nothing about, your number one task for the next pageant should be to make sure you learn as much as you can about said topic.

Miss Coastal Empire's Outstanding Teen 2017, Carley Vogel, ready for interview, placed third runner-up at the 2017 Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen pageant. Photo: @misscoastalempiresoteen
Miss Coastal Empire’s Outstanding Teen 2017, Carley Vogel, ready for interview, placed third runner-up at the 2017 Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen pageant. Photo: @misscoastalempiresoteen

Going Forward

Your formula for successfully answering hard pageant questions has been outlined in an easy-to-follow, four-step formula that can be applied to three main scenarios: controversial topics, current events and even topics you know nothing about!

Sprinkle this formula with dashes of authenticity, knowledge, respect, tact and above all else, confidence, and you’ll cook up a great answer in no time! (Read: The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence You MUST Know for Interview)

Mental preparation and being sure to “practice what you preach” are large components. You have to know yourself, your core values and live them daily in order to deliver authentic answers. If you’re honest with yourself, your answers will be genuine. (Read: 7 Strategies to Mentally Prepare for Your Pageant)

Just like sports and hobbies require practice, so do your pageant interview skills. Communicating effectively in your interview should be practiced in preparation for the big event. Don’t forget that effective communication involves both your verbal and non-verbals! (Read: 5 Body Language Mistakes You Are Making in Interview)

Mock interviews with an experienced Pageant Planet team member can help you prepare for different interview scenarios. Check out our one-on-one coaching and/or VIP memberships here!

Good luck!

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4 thoughts on “How to Answer Hard Pageant Interview Questions

  1. Very helpful and encouraging article to prepare oneself for the ramp walk for finals. Thanks

    1. So glad you found it helpful!

  2. immensely helpful. Thank you.

    1. Glad it was helpful, Rachel!

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