The more you prepare, the more you will be authentic
Interview preparation is absolutely essential! You cannot skip this step, however tedious it might appear. Preparation helps you to overcome nervousness. That way you can be authentic and natural when talking about yourself. Preparation also helps you to become enthusiastic about your own story, your unique skills, and qualities, the things you have accomplished, the challenges you have overcome, your aspirations for the future and especially, that value that you can bring to a potential employer.
Remember that if you’re not totally convinced about the value that you bring, neither will the interviewer. Be willing to demonstrate your leadership skills during an interview. Prepare to show up as a confident professional, rather than someone looking for a job. Developing a strong belief that you are worth hiring is your first task!
You will encounter many styles of interviews and assessments: competency-based, presenting a case study, doing group work, demonstrating performance field work, psychometric assessments and so on.
To start with, it’s essential that you master the process of the basic interview, the one where you talk about yourself. Here are a few tips!
How to prepare
Interview preparation is done in three areas:
• Preparing the content of what you will say during the interview
• Preparing yourself emotionally so that you feel confident and serene
• Rehearsing out loud many times!
It is impossible to predict in advance the order of the questions in an interview, so you have to be prepared to talk about yourself, your work experience and your competences, from different perspectives and in any order. The goal is to master the content of what you are going to say and to master the emotional stress of interviews so that you can say it in any order, backward and even standing on your head!
But before that, you have to envision what you really want for your future and recognize the strengths you have that will take you there.
Find a lovely place where you can relax and think
Many people start interview preparation in front of their laptop, furiously typing away, fine-tuning their CV, checking their LinkedIn profile, revising their cover letter, scrutinizing the potential employer’s website for the umptieth time and generally getting stressed out about how the interview might play out.
My recommendation is to, first of all, find a beautiful place where you can relax and think about your career goals, what you want to achieve, your guiding values, who you are, your skills and strengths, the challenges you have already overcome in your life and who you want to become in the future. Yes, it’s time to ask yourself, and answer the important questions!
Even if you are desperate for a job right now, it is best to get yourself in a quiet, pleasant space where you can feel better and connect with what you want your future to look like. Visualize the best outcome for you. That will be your guiding light, your inspiration, what you want to work towards in building your career. Start preparing for your interview from higher ground.
Stand from the position of someone offering a great service or product (that is you, your skills, your education, your experience, your energy, your commitment), rather than being a candidate who is begging for an opportunity. This doesn’t mean you should come in boasting, but it is key to be simply aware of your own strengths and your ability to grow further.
As you think about these important matters, take notes on your phone or on a small pad so you don’t forget the important ideas, then go home, take out your laptop and start writing!
Write the content
What you might say in an interview is much more than what is in your CV and cover letter. So it’s worth the effort to write your content. It doesn’t mean you will have to memorize it word by word, but by writing it down you will set the boundaries of what you want to talk about and what you want to leave out. This way you will avoid the risk of rambling on into unchartered territory that you hadn’t planned to mention at all! Write down your content, then say it out loud, by yourself to start with.
Practice builds confidence
Practicing out loud is essential to get the concepts, ideas, and descriptions rolling out of your mouth smoothly and confidently. Once you’ve said your content out loud many times, partner with a friend or colleague to practice your interview skills until you feel comfortable with what you are saying. Yes, you have to practice a lot – once is not enough!
Here’s what goes in your content
1. About yourself in general
Prepare to talk about yourself in general terms including:
- Your current situation
- Where you want to go, your professional goals, aspirations
- What you want to accomplish and contribute to the company that might hire you, to society, to the world
Companies are looking for talent, technical skills, and also personal qualities. Besides your education and experience, they want to see you as a human being. Will you be a good team-player, will you be a good boss, will clients find you likable, are you flexible, do you have strong ethics? Make sure you can talk about yourself also in more personal terms, besides your professional capabilities.
2. Historical perspective of your work experience
It’s unlikely that you will have to tell your work experience in chronological order all in one go, but you must learn how to do so anyway. Make sure you’re not reciting it like the dates in a boring history assignment! To inject some passion in the way you tell your story give a brief description of each job and focus on
- The most important responsibilities
- Your key achievement(s)
- What you learned and enjoyed the most
3. Job description perspective
Analyse the job description of the position you are applying for.
- Learn how to describe your experience as it relates to the main tasks in the job description.
- Learn how to describe your strengths as they relate to the competencies required for the job.
- Make sure you can match your education background and relevant certifications with what is required in the job description.
4. Competencies perspective
The interviewer will ask you questions to understand your degree of competency in various areas of interest to them. So make sure you
- Read the job description carefully to identify the competencies they require
- Look at their website and check out the company’s competence framework
- Prepare a number of real examples of how you exhibit some of the competencies that are required in the job description (e.g. strategic thinking, people management, project management, results-orientation, team-work, analytical skills, decision-making).
5. Behavioural perspective
The interviewer will ask you questions to understand how you behaved in past situations because they believe that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour. Prepare some real examples of how you behaved in the past in typical workplace situations, for example:
- Setting and reaching goals
- Solving a difficult problem
- Working under pressure
- Dealing with a difficult client
- Managing a conflict with a colleague
- Motivating a team, or a supervisee
You can use the well-known STAR technique to structure your response to behavioural questions:
- Situation – briefly describe the context and situation
- Task – describe the task and the goal you that you wanted to accomplish
- Action – describe the specific action that you took
- Result – describe the positive result of your action
6. Strengths and weaknesses
Interviewers often ask you to describe your strong and weak points. These questions are often embarrassing and may destabilize you so you must absolutely prepare and rehearse out loud until the sincerity of your response is palpable. When you talk about a strength explain how this helps you in your work. Nobody expects you to be perfect so when you talk about a weakness be honest, and always accompany it with how you compensate for it. Interviewers are looking for your degree of self-awareness, and your willingness to improve on yourself.
Strengths – prepare to talk about 2-3 strengths, choosing those that are relevant to the job
Weaknesses – prepare to describe 2-3 weaknesses and how you mitigate them
Usually, they won’t ask for more than one of each, but if you have prepared 2-3, you can choose the one that is most appropriate for the conversation.
7. What do you know about the industry, the company, the profession?
Most of the interview revolves around you, your skills and your experience, but interviewers also want to find out how knowledgeable you are about the bigger picture in relation to the job application. Be prepared to demonstrate some knowledge about:
- Their industry – how it is evolving, latest trends, the global impact
- Their organization – what they do, size, the scope of their mission, growth, latest changes, mergers, competitors
- The profession of the job – what’s happening in the profession, has it changed in recent years, well-known professional associations, journals, leaders in the profession.
You should feel comfortable discussing these points, even if at a high level. Preparing for this entails doing some research on the internet, the company’s website, professional associations and the press to look for any relevant news.
8. Why should they hire you?
This is another typical question that comes up in an interview. They want to know what your unique contribution will be, what skills you bring, and how you might develop in their company. Prepare a response structured around these points that illustrate why they should hire you:
- For your competences and experience (you know how to do the job, you have done similar things before and can learn quickly )
- For the kind of person you are (your values, your temperament)
- For what you can contribute to their company (the specific hard skills that are useful to them as well as your competencies such as initiative, team-spirit, judgment, problem-solving, and the kind of results that you can produce).
9. Prepare emotionally
Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice out loud! Practice will boost your level of confidence in your ability to answer any interview question. The more you practice, the more you will be natural and able to improvise at ease.
Don’t rush into an interview, try and get a good night’s sleep, and get to the appointment EARLY. Just before the interview, do some mindful breathing or whatever technique you use to center and relax. If you don’t have a centering technique, learn one! It will be really useful to you in all areas of life.
Remember to avoid an “asking-for-a-job-please” position. You are presenting the most valuable asset that you possess: YOURSELF ! with all your skills, competencies, experience, education, and personal qualities. When you wholeheartedly believe in the great value of this wonderful asset, and how it will contribute to the company, you will transmit this enthusiasm to the interviewer without sounding boastful and you will make a lasting impression.
You can use this interview preparation strategy for one-on-one meetings, for panel interviews and also for preliminary video interviews where essentially you are talking into a camera.
Interviewers are positively impressed by candidates who have obviously made an effort to prepare for the interview. It shows that you really care, that you have taken your candidacy very seriously, and this encourages them to do the same.
Try out this interview preparation strategy and let me know what you think in the comments box!
©2018 Saba Imru-Mathieu, Executive Leadership Coach, Founding Partner, Leaders Today