At last count, there were no less than 97,361 perspectives on how to ace your next interview, and there’s probably some good advice to be found in all of them. But let’s think about prepping for your next interview a bit differently by including some new perspectives and techniques.
Rethink Answers: Tell Stories
The human mind is wired to engage with the imagery, drama, and emotion that’s conveyed through a compelling story. The set of problems, challenges, background, actions taken, and results achieved becomes an integrated memory that is typically recalled in its entirety – that’s not what happens when we give a simple answer to a question.
When preparing for your interview, consider which parts of your work experiences are aligned with the new job – and those that aren’t. Then think back through what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve done to overcome challenges and achieve results, and what outcomes resulted. Assemble each of these into separate mental stories, note the key points and the way it unfolded in a document, and “get your story straight” by telling it to yourself or a partner who can give useful feedback.
Develop your interview character (the person in the story, you!) and remember the situations that really stand out to you. Practice those stories but be sure to develop your interview character in a way that reflects the broader aspects of hiring decisions as well. Hiring managers typically look for confidence, energy, can-do mindset, positive body language – these are elements that you need to be aware of when you are telling your story and throughout your interview. Are you an engaged, active participant in your story? Are you conveying your confidence and decision-making abilities through your story? Will the interviewer see you as the person you’re describing in the story? That’s the general idea.
During the interview, tell the most appropriate story when answering a question or as part of the overall conversation – use them to build a connection, help them relate to you, help them understand what you bring to the table. You’ll create meaningful impressions with the interviewer that they’ll remember when discussing your background with the hiring team or comparing you with other candidates.
One of the most essential elements of interviewing is being authentic, generally taken to mean “being ourselves.” Not bad advice, but let’s take a look at a more enlightened interpretation and be sure that being ourselves doesn’t stop us from becoming the newest hire at Dream Jobs, Inc.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) shared useful insight on authenticity that helps us think differently about what the term means – and that can be useful as we think about being authentic in interviewing.
HBR’s broader perspective on authenticity involves three elements: being true to yourself, making value-based choices, and aligning your thoughts and emotions with your words and actions. The article addresses the topic from a leadership perspective, but a couple of the perspectives shared are directly applicable to interviewing.
First, there’s a fine line between relying on our authenticity as a compass to make decisions and to help navigate our careers (positive) and allowing it to become an anchor that prevents us from adapting, growing, and changing (negative).
We’re interviewing to step forward into a more senior role with more responsibility, more demands, different job competencies, and bigger challenges. Hey, that’s why the paycheck is larger.
These are changes – and if we’re too stuck in being “who we think we are, no matter what”, that may close our mind to all changes, even positive changes or new opportunities.
The better approach is to expand our authenticity to include new information and experiences – we’re not abandoning “who we are”, we’re adding insights and experiences that help us learn, grow and move forward in our careers.
Be authentic to your core beliefs and experiences – we all need that compass. Just don’t let that authenticity become an anchor that prevents you from growing, adapting, and learning as required to take that next step forward. Consider this and how it relates to your perspective before and during your next interview.
Rethink Interview Prep
Yes, it’s a good idea to think through expected questions and how you’ll respond to them during your interview. But what about those questions that we didn’t expect? Being able to provide a solid, meaningful response to unexpected questions can make a big impact on your interview outcome.
You’ve likely seen an improv comedy act, where one or more comedians respond to situations thrown to them from the crowd. Believe it or not, simulating that general experience is a great way to prepare for the unexpected question or problem-solving exercise that may pop up during your interview.
The basis for this is simple: Improv comedians don’t know what will happen beforehand – they must adapt to it on the fly and respond in real time. Sound anything like an interview?
Approaching your interview preparation using the improv format goes beyond the basic element of rehearsing expected questions – the idea is to prepare you for what you aren’t expecting. Work with a partner or use an online interview simulator (examples below) and work through some unexpected questions. Developing your ability to respond effectively is the key, not the question itself. The skills you learn will prove helpful throughout your career – giving presentations, participating in meetings, even being the interviewer next time. Hey, we never know what a candidate might say, right?
Interview Simulator Apps