Preparing for a job interview is something most people really just don’t want to do. We all know it and feel it, so I won’t waste time on the “whys”.
Instead, let’s agree that being prepared for an interview allows you to:
- Better understand the employer’s needs and the role they’ve advertised.
- Know how you fit those needs and how you are going to make the employer know it too.
- Have a vision of how you want to appear, what you want to say and how you can try to steer the interview and outcome where you want it to go.
This exercise is all about talking and rehearsing, so you get really clear on the stuff above and can convey it pretty well at interview. (I’ll be adding more exercises and tips on www.you-me-we.com, so keep an eye out).
Investing this bit of time and effort will put you ahead of other candidates and make it more likely that you will get the job offer.
Let’s take the first step!
This exercise will get you in tip-top shape for interview (and is literally exercise!)
What you’ll need:
- A job you want to apply for and some ideas on why you’re the right person for it.
- Some time, ideally about an hour.
- Somewhere to walk, ideally somewhere nice, the beach, countryside or just a bit of open ground. Hopefully with not too many people around, but this depends really on how easily you are embarrassed!
- Some paper and a pen, to make notes if you need to.
OK, are you ready?!
How to do it:
Really, you do “just what it says on the tin” of this article – walk and talk.
Put one foot in front of the other. And put one question in front of one answer.
This is a role play where you are both the interviewer and the candidate.
The questions you will ask yourself may come from:
Standard ones you can think up yourself, which are often asked. Also, think about specialised questions relating to your role or industry. Finally, look up some “hard interview questions” on the Internet – which are typically behavioural or relating to difficult scenarios – and choose some you feel are relevant.
It is really important to talk out-loud – although you can talk quietly! – and not just “think” the answers to yourself. Actually talking out-loud forces to say the words for real, get a feel for the tone and length of answer and helps to reinforce the points in your mind and memory.
You as interviewer: “Tell me what you think you could bring to this role?”
You as candidate: “When I saw this role advertised, I immediately thought “this is for me”. I see your company is looking to diversify into the Widgets market and I’ve a proven track record in delivering growth in this area. In Company X, I led the Widgets team and this would position me perfectly to help your company…etc”
As interviewer: “What challenges do you think you’d face in this role and how would you overcome them?”
As candidate: “I think finding my feet with the existing team would take a little time. But, I think anyone else would face the same and I’ve some ideas how to speed that along and to get working together quickly. Bigger picture, due to competition in the Widgets market, customer focus and quality are really key and I’d…etc”
Interviewer: “What would you say is your greatest weakness?”
You: “Eh….um….I find it hard to get out of bed some Saturday mornings…?”
You stumble, you fall…what now?
Well done! This is exactly why you are here: to fail and to learn
What better place to fail than out here where it doesn’t matter?!
Better for it to happen beside the sea, than beside the CEO.
So, you just pick yourself up, stand straight, figure out a better answer and try again, see where it goes:
You: “I am someone who is quite driven and, in the past, I had a tendency to become impatient when some team members didn’t deliver as well as I had hoped. When I thought about it more I realised that those people brought loads of benefits in other areas which I hadn’t really thought about. I first actively praised them for those contributions, then started working to coach them in how to deliver better by…etc”
Sometimes you’ll need to answer the question more than once to get an answer that you feel is good. While preparing for a senior role interview a few years ago, I must have had a dozen failed tries at a question which was particularly thorny and difficult for me. I stuck at it and finally found something that worked. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep trying till you get there (or run out of path to walk on!)
Getting to a good place and feeling ready
By trying and failing, fixing the answers to questions which cause you problems, improving the answers are already good, you’ll get better and better.
And there’s no need to be hard or too demanding on yourself. The point here isn’t to memorise exact answers or knowing a script word for word. That would be impossible and would also seem totally stilted and unnatural when you “regurgitate” it in interview.
It is about having a good idea of points you want to cover, how they might join together (at some point, even if you have to work to create an opportunity to say them in the interview). It’s about developing a sort of verbal muscle memory where themes and points flow on from to another, allowing you to effortlessly hit all the points you want to. And on the points you want to avoid, that you are able to see the red flags in the distance allowing you to steer the conversation in other directions.
And when you are in the interview, you will be on familiar ground, feeling fine and know where you are going, what you want to say and will be ready for the questions, easy or hard! Sure, unexpected questions may come up, but you will be more relaxed and ready to deal with them, possibly by re-using some of the points you which you prepared and rehearsed.
Have my ideas and tips helped you today?
Hopefully you will find loads of useful tips and productive exercises here www.you-me-we.com, but it is important for me to get feedback and reflect on the material here.
It’s obvious stuff? Yes
It’s ridiculously easy? Yes
Do most people do it? No!
Preparing takes effort and many people prefer to spend their time doing something else – socialising, watching TV, being busy with something else, anything else except that! Which I understand and accept. It’s fine, their choice and maybe the interview will go well for them anyway.
Will you prepare? I hope so. You can see the benefits and are prepared to invest a bit of time and effort in being your best and in your future. An hour or two isn’t long and can make a huge difference.
Will it pay off for you? It will definitely give you an edge. And even if it goes against you this time, you’ll know you did everything you could, have improved yourself and will be building from a strong base when the next interview comes around.
So, I hope this article has helped and best of luck with your interview!