You’re looking for a new role and, after some time searching, you secure an interview. So far so good - congratulations! How do you go about preparing for the interview? You might not have been in an interview situation in a while. You may be concerned about how many other people have applied. You might be feeling the pressure. How will you stand out from the crowd?
After having researched the organisation and swotted up on the skills required for the role, the first port of call is usually to practise responses to typical interview questions. Don’t! Consider the mindset that you are putting yourself into if you prepare in this way. It’s a more passive state of mind, i.e. the interviewer asks the questions and you then answer them to the best of your ability. You are immediately taking on the role of question responder rather than thinking carefully about the messages you need to land during the interview. This is also a reactive role where the interviewer is firmly in the driving seat. If you’re feeling at all under confident about this interview, then this approach will sink you even further down.
By focusing too quickly on building up set responses, we lose the opportunity to take a step back and really put ourselves under the microscope to consider what we are like as employees. How do we add value? What’s important to us in the workplace? What are the principles that guide us at work? What are we like to work with?
Rather than thinking about the questions and how to answer them, start with what you want to say. What key messages do you need to get across during the job interview? You can then start to think about how these key messages will fit with responses to certain questions. Essentially you are turning the process on its head by thinking about what you want to say rather than what you might need to respond to. What are the key things that the interviewers absolutely need to know about you that will persuade them that you are the right person for their organisation?
Step one. Brainstorm with a cuppa.
Consider these questions: What are the most important things that this organisation should know about you as an employee? What’s important to you in the workplace? What are your guiding principles at work? What kind of workplaces do you thrive in?
Grab a cuppa and jot down all your ideas.
Step two. Sieve. What’s important and what’s just fluff?
Take some time to review your notes – essentially you are popping them into a sieve to see which bits are worth keeping. Think about which pieces of information are really important and which are just ‘fluff’. You could try ranking them or, if you’re feeling brave, asking a friend or colleague to work through your notes with you to see what they think is most important to know about you.
Step three. Evidence. No evidence – don’t use it!
Now that you’ve condensed your notes, where’s your evidence? Have you got examples or evidence to support any of the notes you have made? For example, if you have noted that integrity is one of your guiding workplace principles, can you give an example of this? If not, then it’s probably not worth keeping it on this list.
Step four. Reflect, build confidence, practise questions.
Now you have a good set of notes on ‘you as an employee’ with plenty of supporting evidence. Just having this list as a support will help to build your confidence. You can now start to take a look at potential questions and see where some of the information you have recorded will fit.
Step five. Say it out loud.
Finally, record your responses. Yes, I’m serious. Press record on your mobile phone and capture your responses. You’ll soon see how long (or short!) your key messages are. You’ll also quickly hear parts where you sound less comfortable with what you are saying. This gives you the opportunity to revisit your notes and rework some of the things you want to say. You can delete it all afterwards!
Good luck with your job interview and drop me a line if you need any help.