Going on a job interview can be anxiety provoking. However, the art of the job interview is a learned skill. Like any skill it improves with practice and a successful strategy. The more complete your game plan the more confidently you can present yourself and the value you have for a potential employer.
Practice – Practice – Practice
You have refined and polished your resume. You have focused your search on specific employers and industries. However, some of the potential employers seem beneath your skill level or too far afield from your experience. Your first inclination is to dismiss them for the “perfect job” which you are sure is on the horizon.
Don’t dismiss opportunities to interview based upon superficial and narrow criteria. You never know when an interview for a “not-quite-right” job will result in a surprising match, a referral to another opening, or an entirely new position tailored to fit your unique experience and abilities.
Why you should interview as much as possible:
- You need the practice. You may have not interviewed for a while. You need to refine your story and improve your communication skills, which require practice. That means interviewing as much as you can.
- Interviewing will target your job search. By getting out there and interviewing, you’ll learn about new trends, positions, and opportunities, your perspective will shift, and you’ll see new paths that you were previously unaware of.
- Interviewing will enhance your network. As you engage your network for interview referrals and recommendations, you will not only strengthen existing connections, but you’ll meet new people who are connected to your network.
- Interviewing may lead to unexpected opportunities. If you have the skills and impress in the interview, that carries weight in the organization. Employers want to place good people and may even refer you to opportunities outside of the firm.
Develop a compelling story
You are in an interview and the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” How do you answer? What is your story? Is it memorable and appropriate for the interview?
Most people do not tell their own story well. Your story is much better than you may think. The way your life has evolved; the things you’ve learned; your achievements, failings, and dreams—these things are unique to you and much more interesting than you realize. Sharing your well-thought-out story is a powerful interviewing technique. Putting together your story takes a lot of work and practice.
- Take a comprehensive inventory of the chapters of your life. Think about major events, memories, and turning points that shaped who you are. Make notes about your feelings, expectations, and frustrations, or what you learned, accomplished, and experienced. Organize your chapters by time periods or jobs.
- Uncover the themes in your story. What emerges as your passion? Mentoring others, doing research, helping a specific type of client, advancing knowledge in your field? What gives you joy? Are you a teacher, a leader, an entrepreneur, a risk taker?
- Reflect on your career path. How have you arrived where you are today? Why did you make certain choices? Who helped you along the way? What motivated you then and now? Have your career goals remained the same or have they changed? Are you someone who likes new projects? Or executes the details of someone else’s vision?
- Tailor your story to the job. Think about personal stories that show how you handled change, made choices under pressure, or learned lessons from mistakes and failures. Anticipate the questions and have answers at the ready
Interviews range from conversations lasting a few minutes to several formal meetings, sometimes with more than one interviewer. Interviews allow you to demonstrate that you are the right candidate for the job, but you are not alone if interviews make you nervous. The better prepared you are, the more relaxed and comfortable you will be when the questions start coming your way.
- Do your research. Gather information about the company and the position available. Try to specifically relate your experience to the duties the job opportunity entails.
- Handle logistics early. Have your clothes, resume, and directions to the interview site ready ahead of time, to avoid any extra stress.
- Let your references know about your job search. Get in touch with your references right away to seek help and to avoid surprises on either side.
Be ready for the most likely questions
To get to the motivations and working style of a potential employee, employers often turn to behavioral interviewing. An interviewing style which consists of a series of probing, incisive questions.
Sample behavioral interview questions include:
- Describe a situation in which you didn’t meet your stated goal, how did you handle it?
- Tell us about a situation in which you encountered resistance from key people, how did you convince the person or people to do what you wanted?
- Describe a situation in which you took the initiative to change a process or system and make it better, how did you identify the problem? How did you go about instituting change?
Prepare for this type of probing question:
- Review your research about the company and the position.
- Make a list of key attributes for this position.
- How were those key attributes useful in previous employment situations?
- Identify several compelling stories to illustrate resolutions of issues and problems
- Practice answering the interview questions and follow-up questions so that you are very familiar with several detailed examples/stories. Rehearse key points
Ask questions during the interview
Being prepared and asking great questions about the position and the employer shows your interest during the interview. You can’t just be an effective responder. You need to assert yourself, too. By the time you reach the interviewing stage, you should be clear about what you want and what you offer to the company.
- Interview questions to ask about the company
- What exactly does this company value the most, and how do you think my work for you will further these values?
- How does this company define and measure success?
- What is your philosophy regarding on-the-job growth and development? o Where would the company like to be in five years?
- Interview questions to ask about the job
- What are your goals for the department?
- What’s the most important thing you would like for me accomplish in the first 60 days? o How will you judge my success?
- Who are the key internal customers? Any special issues with them?
- Interview questions to ask the interviewer
- How long have you been with the company?
- What do you enjoy most about working here?
- What has made you a success at your job?
- Bonus interview questions to ask
- What is the next step in the hiring process?
- When is the anticipated starting date for this position?
- Whom should I reach out to if I have any further questions?