Preparing For A Job Interview – It’s Your Story

It’s happened – you got that call.  Someone wants you to come in for a job interview.

You may have been looking for a job or a head hunter called you out of the blue, either way, a date is looming and you want to be prepared.

I’ve had several clients who’ve requested coaching to prep for their interviews.

They don’t need my help researching their new company, they want help feeling confident, prepared and ready for anything.

Why we need help prepping
You’d think we would have all the answers in an interview– after all we are the subject of the questions and who could know our experience better…

Unfortunately, interviews aren’t that straightforward. It’s amazing how hard it is to think of examples when you are under the cosh.  Toss in a difficult interviewer, a stressful or distracting environment, some unexpected questions and wham, you want to excuse yourself and run for the hills.

So what can you do to prepare yourself?

First, take time to re-look at your CV.   Check you have stories, stats and a simple explanation for the jobs you have listed.

One of the first places people come unstuck is when they get asked questions about things on their CV that they’ve forgotten they put there.  Basic, but important.

Rehearse your stories
Then think about your skills and what you want to do in this next job?

If you are looking for a management role, don’t get distracted talking about the things you did on projects or the tasks you have down pat.

When they ask about your current role, shape your answers around management, about the times you’ve motivated or encouraged your team.  Tell them about how you got your team focused, developed a vision and helped them accomplish difficult goals against the odds.

Spend some time thinking about when you’ve looked at the future of the business (or your department.)  Be prepared to talk about when you anticipated something and helped your team prepare for that.

You’ll also want to be ready to talk about how you’ve handled a difficult staff member or turned around an underperformer.

If this next job is a step change, look for stories and examples of how you’ve already done part of that new role and what you learned. Talking about what you’ve learned indicates that you’re flexible and willing to do things differently.

Being prepared with your stories takes the pressure off finding those in your mental file in the interview.

If you want to give this a go, try some of the sample questions below and see if you can tell credible stories to answer them.

How to cope if you get stuck
Sometimes we draw a blank in an interview – we just can’t come up with an appropriate answer.

One of the best ways to get back on track is to repeat the question back – it engages your mind in a different way and buys you a few seconds of thinking time.

Then add a qualifier if you need more time to think:  “How would my colleagues describe me? I haven’t thought about that before, it’s a good question.”

You don’t have to answer everything immediately, take a breath and collect your thoughts.  You will sound considered when you answer and they will be happy to wait a moment for you prepare.

Don’t talk non-stop
And speaking about filtering your thoughts, you don’t need to share your whole thought process out loud.  Aim to tell your story in half the words, when an interviewee rambles on they always loses points.

Equally, don’t be afraid to put in a full stop and stop talking.

I’ve worked with several clients who started out with a strong answer and then it just dribbled into meandering thoughts as they look increasingly uncomfortable.

Give your answer and wait – or ask your interviewer what they think – this is an excellent way to move from the cat and mouse of interviewing into a more comfortable, mutual conversation.

Buying as much as selling
The most important thing I ask clients to consider is that they are “buying” this new company and role, as much as they are “selling” themselves and their experience.

You want this new job to be the right one, not just the one that came along.  It should allow you to learn new things, give you interesting challenges and be a role where you see your impact on the company.

What do you need to know to find out if you would be happy there?

Think about the questions you would be preparing if you were interviewing THEM.  What do you want to know about the culture, organization, chain of authority or responsibilities before you’d consider taking this job?

Some questions you might want to ask are:
-What’s the decision making process?  How many people are consulted and who makes the final decisions?
-What is the company’s position on investment – is there money to invest in people, technology?
-How clearly are the roles defined, will my manager and I overlap in what we do?
-How many are in this team and how long have they been there?
-What value does the management expect this role to add?
-Why did the last person leave?

And while you’re on the couch
Let’s get physical – consider your body language and how you appear when you’re sitting in their offices.

Don’t collapse, slouched in the chair.  It makes you look less confident.  Don’t hook your fingers behind your head with elbows out – it makes you look arrogant.  Don’t fiddle – not with your hair, your tie or your pen.

Do try to mirror the body language of your interviewer if you can, it will set them at ease unconsciously.

Don’t let your voice slip up at the end of sentences. 70% of managers researched say they find this extremely annoying.

Coping with your nerves
Butterflies are ok, nervous shakes aren’t helpful.

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions, increase our confidence and lower our fear with this simple exercise: Click here

And for more ways to fool your body into being calm, have a look at this post on 4 tricks to manage your emotions.

BEST of luck on interview day.  If you want some practice here are a few trial questions to get you thinking.

Some interview questions to contemplate
Tell me a little about your last job, what was your favourite part of it?

What did you like least?

How would your colleagues describe you?   What’s one thing they’d say you could improve on?

Why did you choose our company?  What interest you about this position?

What’s the strongest thing you’ll bring to this job?

What will be the biggest difficulty for you on this job?

What kind of a corporate culture do you want?

Give me an example of solving a p?roblem in your team.

What are you like when stressed, how do you cope?

What do you want from your boss?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years

How do you handle conflict?

What’s the most difficult situation you’ve faced at work?

Tell me what you are most proud of achieving with your staff?

How do you promote teamwork?

How do you inspire your team?

What does leadership mean to you?








    1. Thanks Silvia, that’s a great point and thank you for adding the link, there are some good ideas about how to approach your answers. Thanks for you note.

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