A job interview is that test. It’s smart to prepare and practice before you’re ever offered an interview. What if someone calls you today for a quick phone screening? What if they say “Can you come in tomorrow?”
Here are some tips to guide your preparation.
1. Know your brand. What is it about you that stands out, that makes you the right candidate for the job? What’s your unique selling proposition? Communicate these key points early and often, throughout the interview and all your job search communications.
2. Strategize your answers. Gather up a long list of common interview questions, including behavioral interview questions and questions specific to your occupation, and plan answers that are both authentic and strategic. Don’t memorize scripts, but do write a few notes or a keyword outline for each question. Keep this list in your computer, add to it, and use it as a guide with which to practice your answers out loud.
3. Use every interview question as an opportunity to sell yourself. Whether the question is about your strengths, your weaknesses, or even what kind of magic powers you’d most like to have, give an answer that shows qualities that make you the right person for the job. Questions about weaknesses or mistakes are an opportunity to show self-awareness, coping skills, learning ability, and a willingness to go the extra mile to overcome difficulties. Off-the-wall questions give you a chance to show creative thinking and a can-do attitude.
4. Ask yourself “What are they really trying to find out with this question?” Let’s say a recruiter asks, “What kind of supervisor do you work best with?” Do you think she wants to know your preferences so they can coach your future boss about what you want? No way! She wants to know whether you can adapt successfully to the highly imperfect human being who would be managing you. Answer with this in mind.
5. Tell success stories and give specific examples instead of making vague claims. Use the SOAR format for your examples: Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results. Whenever possible, quantify the excellent results you’ve achieved, or offer specific “evidence” of the quality and impact of your work.
6. Ask good questions, informed by the research you’ve done about the company. Then relate yourself and your skills to the answers you hear. “You said your top priority is shortening time to market for key products. Let me tell you about how I’ve made that happen in my most recent position.”
7. Close the interview by saying you want the job (if you do), and asking about next steps. It’s a pet peeve of employers that candidates often fail to say that they want the job.
These tips may seem obvious, but most interviewees fail in some or all of these areas. Practice and feedback and crucial. Working with an interview coach is a smart investment. You can also practice on your own or with a buddy.
Be the candidate who nails all of the above, and you will stand out!