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On Interviewing, Part 1

We typically don’t practice interviewing very often, yet each interview we do have is pretty important. Here are three quick tips for interview preparation.

Tip 1 – It’s best to think of an interview as a two-way discussion. Yes, often a stressful discussion but remember not only are they checking you out, but you are also checking them out. One of the most critical actions you can take to prepare for an upcoming interview is to research the company. It’s easier than ever to get on the internet, enter a search word and come up with relevant information. Most companies have a web page of their own where you can read up on company history and recent press releases. Be thinking about questions you can ask during the interview as well. Make relevant observations about what is going on with the company, and ask your interviewer to comment. You may also want to consider asking some questions like the following.

  • Is this a newly created position?
  • What do you think is the most important thing for a new hire to understand about this position? This company? Or this department?
  • Why did the previous person leave this position?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the new hire?

Tip 2 – Another good way to prepare for the interview is to put together 3-5 power stories and a couple of lessons learned stories. Power stories are your stories about times you solved problems or positively impacted your work. Keep your power stories in a notebook in Evernote and save them forever. These stories are essential to think about before the interview for potential responses to behavioral interviewing questions often used by skilled interviewers. Behavioral interview questions are ones that ask you to describe times in the past when you solved this or that type of problem.

A suitable format for the stories you give as a reply to the question is to describe the problem, describe the action you took, then tell the result. This is called the PAR technique for Problem, Action, Result. Once you write these stories out, list in the margin the characteristics these stories demonstrate. Then you have ready answers for some questions like “Tell me about a time when _____?” or “What is your biggest strength and why?” Don’t forget to rehearse your answers out loud. It is best to have someone ask you the questions to practice most effectively or do a selfie video to critique yourself. At a minimum, record your answers in your voice recorder or leave a message on your phone so you can hear yourself and adjust as needed.

Tip 3 – One often overlooked key to good interviewing to have clear starts and stops to your questions and answers. This helps to set a good rhythm for the discussion. It also demonstrates your ability to be concise and listen to others. Don’t be afraid of a few seconds of silence after you finish your answer. A good interviewer will use silence as a tool to get you to rattle on about stuff you did not intend to reveal. Also, silence is an essential tool for you to learn to use as well, especially come negotiation time.

To learn even more about job interviewing strategies, I recommend the books by Carole Martin, The Interview Coach. A great one to start with is Boost Your Interview IQ.

On Interviewing: Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5