Doing well in a job interview is hard work, and like any skill, takes lots of practice to improve. It can be extremely stressful, but becoming comfortable with it – and better yet, GOOD at it – will help prepare you for a myriad of other difficult conversations in the workplace.
I’ve been through many interviews, of all kinds:
- Phone interviews
- Panel interviews (several interviewers, and me)
- Group interviews (one interviewer, many interviewees)
- Back-to-back sessions
- Skype/video interviews
- Interviews I didn’t realize were interviews (coffee meetings, etc.)
- Written tests
- Interactive games
And the QUESTIONS. I’ve been asked bizarre hypothetical scenario questions, the same question worded different ways, and I was once asked to play with a toy and convince the interviewer it was something it was not (I got the job).
So, I’ve had some experience. And now I want to share the tips I’ve cultivated over time that have helped me to leave each interview feeling like it went well (one of the best feelings ever)!
1. Prepare your stories
This is the best interview advice I ever received, from a boss I absolutely loved and still adore (Connie, you are the best).
She taught me to have multiple stories to tell, which could be applicable and interchangeable for many questions.
Previously, I would run through a list of standard interview questions and plan an answer for each one.
By preparing stories that could work interchangeably for different questions, I was able to reduce the amount I had to practice (5-10 stories instead of 15-20 answers). It also ensured one important success factor: that I could be flexible when dealing with curveball questions.
If you have answers memorized, you’ll almost certainly trip up if the questions aren’t what you’re expecting, and it’ll be harder for you to think on the spot if you’re trying to remember a script.
Notice my differentiation of story vs. answer. Telling a story is WAY more engaging for the interviewer, and helps demonstrate your variety of skills, instead of just the one they’re asking about.
If you need a little more insight, I’ve provided an example at the end of this post.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Once you’ve prepared your stories, it’s time to practice. And the best way to do this is to say them OUT LOUD. My dad taught me this – it’s not enough to just write them and read them a few times.
Say them out loud until you sound natural and comfortable, and you aren’t scrambling to remember important details. It might feel weird to be talking out loud to yourself – but you know what feels worse? Blanking on an interview question, or being so nervous and uncomfortable that you shorten it down and miss the point.
3. Do your research
This might seem pretty basic, but as someone who has played the role of interviewer, I’m constantly surprised by how many people don’t do a simple Google search before coming to an interview.
Learn about the industry, the company, and do everything you can to learn about the team and position (a possibility if you’re looking for a role internally).
I also like to do a LinkedIn search to learn about the interviewer, and to try and work in questions about them in the interview. People feel more at ease when they’re having a conversation, and more often than not, people like talking about themselves J It also provides an opportunity to show your skills as an active listener.
“I hope you don’t mind – I did a little preparation before our interview, and I noticed on your LinkedIn that you earned your X designation! That’s so awesome – do you find that it’s helped you on this team/in this role/etc?”
Whatever you ask, be prepared with follow up questions! Don’t ask for the sake of asking – you should be genuinely interested.
Keep in mind: they may not remember everything you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. Thanks, Maya Angelou!
4. Adjust your attitude
People tend to put so much pressure on themselves before an interview, which can result in them overthinking it, and bombing when the time comes.
Instead of focusing on it like a test or exam, adjust your attitude and see it as a conversation. Because that’s really what it is! It’s a conversation for the interviewer to learn about you, and if you’re a good fit for the role…but it’s also a chance for you to learn about them, and if they’re a team worth joining.
Once you shift your perspective, your whole demeanor will change, and that will show in the interview. Remember: body language matters. Dr. Albert Mehrabian is known for his breakdown of human communication which found that only 7 percent is done through spoken words, while a whopping 55 percent is through body language, and 38 percent is tone of voice. While some disagree on those numbers, all agree nonverbal communication dominates verbal.
So relax a little, and remember: it’s just a conversation.
5. Power pose
Connie, thanks again for this one. It really, really works! Watch the video to show the EVIDENCE of why it works.
The number of times I’ve locked myself in a bathroom stall to pose like Wonder Woman is pretty comical. Again, you’re going to feel a little silly, but you’ll also feel strong and CONFIDENT.
You GOT this. And if you totally bomb – don’t worry. We’ve all been there (I have a few embarrassing stories to share too). You’ll learn from your mistakes, and be better next time. You can always reach out to me if you want to practice or need help with prep.
Thank you so much for reading! And if you want an example of a story I prepared, which is interchangeable for multiple questions, click on “read more” below.
Here’s a (very condensed) story I prepared, which could answer several different questions:
“Tell me about a difficult project you’ve
“What have you done that shows initiative?”
“Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership”
- My team has been in place a long time, and because of that, we have many legacy processes in place that haven’t changed because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” (setting up the story)
- One example is the process we use to produce X document.
- X document is extremely important at our company, because it keeps our senior leaders and board of directors informed
- A significant amount of manual work is dedicated to researching the information, ensuring it falls within copyright guidelines, formatting it into X document, and sending it at the same time every day. Our team of four was spending three hours a day producing this ONE document.
- I knew there had to be a better way (demonstrating initiative). I worked with our company’s innovation team and developed a partnership to build a web app that replicates and automates many of our team’s manual tasks.
- It resulted in a new process, which now takes only two team members (vs. 4), and 1.5 hours (vs. 3). Our team now dedicates this freed up time to more valuable work.
- This project was difficult because it involved learning concepts that were completely unfamiliar to me (demonstrating overcoming difficulty), it involved me having to motivate and rally the team to embrace this change (demonstrating leadership), and I had to manage it on top of my other responsibilities (demonstrating time-management as a bonus).
Get in touch if you’d like some help turning your experiences into stories J I’m always happy to help people navigate their career, because it’s not easy and you can’t do it alone! I certainly haven’t. Pay it forward xo