I once showed up to an important job interview with the Australian Stock Exchange armed with enough pieces of paper to compile a small book. They probably thought I had taken a wrong turn and was supposed to be in the ‘launch a public company’ department.
I wasn’t. Actually, I was there for a fairly routine job interview as a project manager.
I made sure I put in the preparation time. A lot of preparation time! I started off as any aspiring soon-to-be-interviewed candidate would, by asking the obvious question:
What questions are they likely to ask me?
Several hours (and Google searches) later, I had my stack of job interview questions…lots of them. Not to worry; I plowed through them, tried to remember as many of my past roles as possible (memory not too good these days!), and noted down my responses, careful to follow the situation-action-outcome protocol.
So there I was, facing off with my two interviewers, armed to the teeth with loose bits of paper. I seemed more nervous than expected.
“Can you tell me about a time when you had to influence someone that you had no formal authority over?”
Now, where did I put that response? I know I’ve got it somewhere… Lots of paper shuffling happening as my interviewers look at each other, not impressed.
Needless to say, I did not get offered the job.
Interview preparation is essential, but it needs to be the right sort of preparation. Here are my top three important job interview tips to help you avoid a similar fate.
1. Select the Right Role
This may sound like an obvious statement to make. Alternatively, it may sound like it has very little to do with the actual job interview. The reality is the number one step you can take to help yourself in a job interview is by going for a role that is right for you. A role that genuinely excites you is going to be far easier to talk about in an enthusiastic way.
Enthusiasm is a trump card in job interviews. It’s very difficult to pick holes in enthusiasm. Every negative thing that the interviewers might find about you is likely to be followed with, “Yeah, but they were REALLY enthusiastic.”
Try this the next time you are out talking to someone you’ve just met. Find out what they’re passionate about (i.e., their hobby or favorite sport) and start asking them about it. Notice how they immediately become more engaged, friendly, and interested. That’s enthusiasm. Tough to fake it.
If you’ve chosen the right role, then there should be strong alignment to your strengths. The role needs the skills that you have in abundance. Again, talking about your strengths is a lot easier than answering questions on topics that you are not so hot on. The simple reason is that your strengths are recurring patterns of thought or behavior. What this means is you are likely to have consistently demonstrated your strengths throughout your life and career.
Under the intense pressure of an important job interview situation, scenarios involving your strengths are going to be much easier to remember because they have happened more often and are positive experiences.
2. Understand Your Key Message
As much preparation as you do, it’s tough to know exactly what form an important job interview is going to take. A lot of the time, you may not even know how many people you’ll be facing. Structured interviews can feel like skiing away from an oncoming avalanche. “Tell me about a time when…?” “Can you recall a scenario…?” “What did you do on your third birthday?”
Regardless of which approach is taken, your responses will generally fall into one of three categories:
- Talking about past scenarios and how you demonstrated certain strengths, knowledge, and behaviors.
- Providing your view on a topic.
- Giving more general information about you.
For each of these response types, you need to be clear about what you want to say and how you can emphasize your strengths, values, interests, and ability to excel in the role.
It’s critical that you identify the key messages you want to convey in the job interview. These messages should capture the ‘essence of you.’ What are you selling? What are the key strengths you bring to the table? What evidence do you have to support these strengths? Why are they relevant for this role? The same goes for your values, interests, and skills.
Thinking about key messages is also a great way to reduce stress and not commit the same mistakes that I made in the example above. Rather than feeling that you have to prepare responses to 50 likely questions you really have to prepare 5-10 key messages that you want to convey for this interview.
Even if the panic sets in, if you at least convey these messages, then you leave the room safe in the knowledge that you gave them ‘you.’
3. Dig Deeper into the Role
If you’ve done your homework and preparation right, then you are walking into an important job interview fairly confident that this is the right role for you. You’ve ticked off strengths, culture, values, interests, skills, etc., and you feel this is a good match.
However, there is one small piece of the puzzle still remaining:
What on earth are you going to be doing for 8+ hours a day?
Funny how many fail to focus in on this small matter of what you will actually be doing hour after hour, day after day? Look around at a lot of the advice out there on interview questions, and you will find some great questions that potentially make you look very clever. The problem is the majority of those questions don’t help you paint a clearer picture of your day to day responsibilities, reporting lines, and any pain points that you will soon own.
This is your chance to dig deeper and ask the pertinent questions about the role and its daily activities. This is your chance to confirm your own understanding and research as to whether the role aligns to those things you are seeking.
The job interview is a key part of landing a job and your chance to show your new employer that not only do you know what you are after, but also you know what you bring to the table.
So leave the paper at home, work on your key messages, and don’t forget to double check whether this is the right role for you.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Come Recommended.