For many people the job interview is a highly stressful event that they’d rather bypass altogether if they could. A common fear I hear over and over again is the fear of not being able to recall a memorized answer; the ‘blanking out’ problem. Read on dear reader; I can help with this.
First of all, put aside the idea of having to memorize all the answers you plan on using in the interview. It’s way too much pressure on yourself – on any of us – to memorize 10 or 12 solid answers. It’s also probable that you’ll be asked at least some questions which differ from those you practiced anyhow, and so you’d have to think up something on the spot in the end.
Let’s make a fresh start on preparing for future interviews. Get yourself a pen., paper and a job posting you’re interested in. Those that take the time to get these 3 things and follow my instructions will benefit much more than those who just sit and read on. You do want to benefit as much as you can don’t you and succeed in interviews where you’ve run into problems in the past? Great.
So you’re back? Great.
Now look at that job posting. On the paper, print one of the key job expectations; what the employer will be expecting you to do. Now underline whatever you’ve put down as a kind of heading. Now take a moment and think back in both your paid and unpaid work and recall an experience where you did something exactly like that. So if you put down, “provide excellent customer service” as your heading, you would put beneath it a brief recollection of a time in your past when you provided a single customer with your very best customer service.
As you write down your example, it is critical to be as specific as you can rather than just a general example. So rather than saying, “I provided great customer service when I worked in retail”, say “I remember working at the ABC Shoe Store and a woman came in and was very upset. She’d been to 7 stores in the mall but no one had helped her get her shoes. She had very odd-shaped feet and needed extra wide shoes. I listened to her then measured her feet and brought her two pair to try on. She ended up buying both pair and was delighted as it had been an exhausting day for her.”
Now, you can imagine trying to recall that story word for word and then realizing that this is only one answer of many you might need would be hard to do. If this is your approach up to now, I agree the interview would be a scary thing to avoid!
Here’s the next and critical step: find a trigger word or phrase. Look at the example you put down and read it again. As you read it, ask yourself if you find one word or phrase that will in the future trigger the whole story and make it easier for you to recall when you need it. In my example above, perhaps my trigger word is, “Bunions”. (This is a sometimes painful growth on the feet and something the woman had in the shoe store).
So now beside the heading which I’ve underlined, I’m going to write my trigger word and I encourage you to do the same. My example looks like this:
Excellent customer service: Bunions
This process is now to be repeated for each of the key responsibilities the employer has put into their job posting. If you have 5 or 6 key responsibilities in the ad or job posting before you, you’ll have 5 or 6 headings on the paper eventually and one story under each heading that demonstrates your past experience . You’ll also add a trigger word or short phrase that will help you recall each story.
It may not make sense to anyone but you, but if you take just the headings and trigger words for each, your list could might look like this:
excellent customer service: bunions
resolve problems: goldfish
organization: pick up sticks
confidentiality: Zumba class
flexibility: ice storm
Now anytime you try to learn something new, there’s a good chance it seems odd and requires some effort to master. This method I’m sharing with you is no different, but it is highly successful – and so are the people who use it.
The key now is not to memorize the great answers you have but to recall the trigger words you’ve attached to each core or key responsibility the employer is looking for. I think you’d agree that the interviewer is probably going to ask you questions about the things that are important to the job you are interviewing for rather than questions unrelated to the job you are applying to. So in this way, you and I can predict with great certainty the questions we’ll be asked.
By having a trigger word ready, it becomes easier for your brain to take the trigger word and access the right story from your memories and bring it foremost in your mind when you need it most. This way, you blank out less and perform better.
All the best!