Many people fear job interviews. What will they ask? What if the mind goes blank? Let me help you feel more confident, be more prepared and be a strong candidate.
Let’s assume you have already submitted your resume and because it matched up well with the employer’s needs, you have been granted an interview. You’re at the stage where you’re now preparing to interview.
Pull out the job posting. Note that it has two major sections it communicates; the job responsibilities and the job qualifications. If the job posting you applied to is short on either one or both, visit the company website, search online for similar job postings; in short, do your research to flesh out both what you’ll be expected to do in the job and the qualifications based on the level you are applying for (entry, mid, intermediate or senior).
Presumably you have the qualifications or they wouldn’t have invited you in. Don’t neglect to look them over, but concentrate on the job responsibilities right now. Look over the job posting see what you’ll be expected to actually do. Some things are going to come across as more important than other things. If it says for example you’ll do, “general office duties”, that’s not as significant as, “answer multiple phone lines, administer, set-up and organize electronic client files”.
Looking at the job responsibilities, first list the key or core responsibilities and make a second list of the less critical ones. Here’s one key thing to now understand: the interviewer(s) are highly likely to want to hear about your experience and expertise when it comes to the key or core job functions. It follows then that the questions they would be likely to ask you are going to be about these key functions.
So if the job posting called for superior problem-solving, leadership and negotiation skills, we can reasonably predict in advance the questions asked will have to do with these three items. Here’s another key preference of those who interview: instead of asking you questions about how you’d act in the future, they are almost certain to ask you about your past experiences. Past experiences are the best indicators of how you’ll likely act moving forward, whereas asking you how you might hypothetically act in the future just gets the interview answers the applicant guesses they want to hear.
So knowing that they are going to ask you about your past experiences, there are some important things you can do to prepare. For starters, you need an example of the core things they listed in the posting. So here’s what you do:
1. Skill: Problem Solving Example: Moments before the client arrived, retrieved the password- protected files from an ill co-worker and imbedded them in the presentation.
2. Skill: Leadership Example: You empowered an under-performing co-worker who modeled your behaviour and by doing so mastered new sales techniques.
3. Skill: Negotiation Example: Negotiated a trade deal with a supplier, reducing costs by 18%.
In this case there are 3 key job requirements, and for each one there is a specific example you’ve recalled that you can use to demonstrate for the interviewer(s) that you have the needed experience. You need to flesh out the stories associated with each example, and the best way to do this is to employ what is called the STAR technique.
Situation, Task, Action and Result are the 4 components of the STAR Interview technique. As you begin your answer, describe the situation you were in, what had to be done or the problem that had to be overcome. Move on to the action you took to resolve it and then finish by stating the positive result.
For each answer or story, don’t memorize the entire answer – that’s too stressful! Instead, come up with a key word or phrase that will trigger the story in your brain when you need it.
So you might think:
1. Problem Solving: Locked password
2. Leadership: Mentoring peer
3. Negotiation: 18% cost savings
The trigger words, associated with the skill or experience you want to access in the interview, will make it easier for you to recall those great stories when you need them. If needed, you could write down the trigger words or phrases on a small card put in front of you at the interview. If you feel stumped, a quick glance at these apparent odd phases or trigger words will help you access the memory files that house your great proof stories. Each story is delivered using the STAR technique.
I point out here that you are in fact, making very good educated guesses at the questions they’ll ask; and you’ll be right more often than not. Therefore, knowing the questions in advance, you can best prepare solid answers to prove you have the required skills and experience. This technique sure beats going in blind and ‘winging’ it; counting on your ability to think on the fly and provide your best answers.
Try it now by looking at a job posting, pick out the key or core experiences and then think about your past jobs and where you may have demonstrated the very thing they are looking for in the right candidate. Learn this process and you are well on your way to feeling more confident going into an interview, and you’ll interview better as a result.