Many people I listen to when discussing employment interviews, raise the issue of having difficulty coming up with real life examples from their past when responding to interview questions at job interviews. They are searching for extreme situations they have been in that highlight extreme responses and in many cases, they draw blanks.
Situations that require our skills to resolve, organize, lead, cooperate or meet targets probably happen much more frequently than we first imagine. Equally, we succeed in achieving successes on an ongoing daily basis much of the time but fail to recognize these moments and therefore fail to recall them when we wish to.
Let’s start with a very simple example; one I’m not suggesting would be interview worthy but an example nonetheless. Have you ever gone to get a drink on your break at work and after ordering found you are a tad short on the change in your pocket? That quarter you thought you had turns out to be a nickel? How did you resolve the problem? Did you decline the drink? Offer to run right back with the missing 20 cents? Borrow the 20 cents from a person you went with? Ask if you could pay them later the same day the missing 20 cents? Any of these work as an example of how you resolved the problem.
Interview worthy? No. An example of being in a stressful situation where there is a problem and you have to resolve it somehow, yes. Or have you woke up ill and had a full day of meetings planned with clients? What did you do to resolve that? Go in ill? Call in and tell the boss you wouldn’t be in and where he or she would find the names of people to be called and rescheduled? Just went back to bed and did nothing?
This gets closer to something you could use in an interview, but neither is some major hurdle that resulted in newspaper reporters banging on your door to get an exclusive interview with you because of the extreme skills you displayed in overcoming the issue at hand. Both do however show your judgment in action, your quick thinking or your ability to follow established procedures and level of personal responsibility.
You can find examples of your skills not only in the world of paid employment but also in the realm of volunteerism. If you are donating your time and giving of yourself with a non-profit organization, you are still required to have a level of accountability and punctuality. You are still showcasing your organizational skills, interpersonal skills, perhaps your computer proficiencies. Is your work – and truer to the point – are you yourself – valued and depended upon where you volunteer? That could be shared and score you points.
One of the key difficulties I often hear from people preparing for job interviews is that they fell ill-prepared for the questions they’ll face precisely because they don’t know what questions they’ll be faced with. Like I’ve said in my blogs before, you can anticipate with fairly good accuracy what many of those questions will be however. Yes, you can predict with a high degree of probability the questions in advance of the interview, and that in turn should guide you in coming up with some examples of your past performance to respond in kind to the questions.
If you are going for an IT job where the job posting specifically states you need problem identification skills and problem-solving skills, it’s a safe bet you’ll be asked to give examples from your past that clearly prove your accounting skills. Wouldn’t you agree? Oh you wouldn’t? Good for you. Yes I am being smart here. Sorry. You wouldn’t be asked to give examples of your accounting skills because the job you are applying for doesn’t require that skill set. It does however seem likely you’d best have a couple of situations in mind that prove or demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
So the smart thing to do in the example above would be to sit down now ahead of the interview, and recall some concrete, very specific examples from your past. Examples in which you were faced with a conflict or problem, and then next compose an answer that shows how you identified it, step-by-step worked on it, and then the positive outcome. Voila, you’re on your way to a good interview.
If the job you are going calls for leadership, be prepared for that question and pull out examples that show leadership. Whether in a time of crisis, a project with others, a sales competition, even a medical emergency on the street, situations that you’ve been in which demonstrate your skills and performance and match the qualifications the question is looking for are all good.
If you have difficulty coming up with your skills and stories from your past, I can assure you that a good Employment Counsellor can in a conversation, draw out your skills and name them just from hearing you talk about your past. This kind of skill identification will increase your self-esteem, your confidence and reduce your interview anxiety when it comes to answering questions if you feel anxious, unsure or don’t believe you are truly qualified somehow.
Starting today, look for moments in your daily life AS THEY OCCUR which show how you to respond to situations. Note them. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.