What’s the best way to prepare for your job interview? When you’re having a high-stakes conversation, you want to make sure you give yourself every opportunity to succeed. But, are you over-preparing for your interview? Or using outdated strategies to help you create your future?
Working with thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, MBA students and job-changers in my coaching career, I’ve discovered what they don’t teach you in Career Services. Here are five innovative strategies that can accelerate your opportunities, drive new results, and create both ease and confidence in your next interview. Which ones have you tried, and what’s worked best for you? Be sure to share and comment with your thoughts and ideas!
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- Consider These Questions First: what questions do you know you’re going to be asked in the interview? Write ‘em down, Gunga Din. Questions like: “What is your greatest weakness?” or even, “Why should I hire you?” are a good start. But how about some more creative choices – what have you got? My dad has always told me, “You practice like you play.” As a former kicker and punter for Indiana University, he knows the importance of practicing before the big game. How about you? Practice at a high level and you’re playing to win. Don’t stop with basic questions in the job interview process – that’s incomplete preparation. Write out the five questions you hope you won’t be asked. Look at the things you don’t want to discuss – and talk them through with a coach or mentor. And then, write down the questions you hope you will be asked: the questions that show you at your best. The idea here is a simple one, related to confidence. What if you could walk in to the interview, and when you are asked a tough question, you smile and say, “I thought you might ask that!”
- How You Can Overcome Your Nerves In Your Next Job Interview? It’s not a question of over-confidence – as they say, pride goes before a fall. But really, preparation leads to relaxation. Take time to research the company. Visit the LinkedIn profiles of the hiring managers. Visit Glassdoor and get a feel for what the culture is like. But don’t believe everything you read online – that’s just a starting point. Practice being a detective as you prepare for the interview process. Because there might be a crime about to be committed: they might not hire you! What theories or ideas do you have about the company, the culture and the nature of the work? Practice asking clear-headed questions – like a detective trying to unravel a mystery. Has your career coach helped you to know how to ask high-impact leadership questions, and develop your natural curiosity? If you really get curious about how you can help your potential employer, you’ll take your attention off of your nerves. Based on what you’ve read online, especially regarding your boss or the hiring manager, what questions do you have? How would you conduct yourself if you weren’t nervous? Plug that in to your next practice session. When you’re at your best, you can ask (and answer) the kinds of business-related questions that show you are curious, insightful and well-informed.
- Don’t Manage Your Mental State: According to this article in Forbes, the best place to focus is on managing the psychological aspects of the interview process. Is that really the best place to put your attention? If you’re busy managing your emotions, how will you manage to get the job? (”I felt great, but they hired the other guy” doesn’t look like winning to me). Consider an alternative theory: focus on service, instead of your mental state. This quick question will show you why. Ask yourself which is more valuable to the interview process: demonstrating how you can serve your next employer in a powerful way, or making sure that you are taking deep breaths and smiling? If you’re focusing on yourself, and managing your psychology, are you really concentrating on what matters most? When you concentrate on the wrong things, you get the wrong result – even though you might feel great about yourself afterwards. Managing moods and making money are two different things – which one are you most interested in? Trying to control your psychology is like trying to rope the wind. Put down your lasso and go for what really matters: pay attention to the results you can create for the person right in front of you. Because sharing your purpose is more powerful than managing your personality.
- Find a New Elevator Platform: there’s some debate about the importance of the elevator pitch. Of course, the elevator platform has been replaced with the social platform. Shifting your perspective on the pitch idea can make an elevator speech into a powerful tool. Because, if you’re looking for unexpected results, your pitch isn’t a pitch at all. Your story – your elevator pitch, if you will – is just a way to start a conversation. Nobody wants to be pitched, but everyone wants to connect. Before you concentrate on your content, what happens if you think about connection? Whether via text, tweet or talk, connection is the context for a powerful conversation – even with someone you are meeting for the first time. When your elevator pitch focuses not just on your background, but on what you can do for the person right in front of you, you’re headed for the top floor. If everyone wants to connect in a conversation, why not start there? And if you want to know if you’ve got a great elevator pitch, don’t focus on your words, your personality, your hand gestures or the sound of your vowels. Look at what your listener does when you are done talking. Are they interested? Engaged? Intrigued? There are three words that can let you know if your pitch has really been delivered. That three-word response? “Tell me more…” When an interviewer says, “Tell me more” that’s your clue that you’ve created a conversation – and that there is interest in learning more about your background, your experience and your potential fit. What’s the “tell me more” you’d love to hear in your next job interview?
- Picture This: Human beings process images 60,000 times faster than text. And 90% of data presented to the brain is visual. Why not use these statistics to your advantage, and videotape yourself answering some tough questions? Turn your phone around, make your own personal YouTube channel while you take a look at your list of questions. Ever learn anything new watching YouTube videos? Yep – me too. So get ready: if you’ve got the guts to watch yourself, you will be stunned at how much you can learn. Maybe start off with “Why should I hire you?” and speak your answer into your phone. On playback, you can see (and hear) what the interviewer will. Look for the following elements – the elements that top performers and leaders exhibit in the job interview:
- Connect your experience to the position at hand: Is your interview story just a long walk down memory lane – leaving your interviewer standing still, and wondering where all this is going? Or do you bring the past into the present, and help your interviewer to see you in their future?
- How does your answer set up a “tell me more?” Or, are you trying to tell everything – from birth up to yesterday- in your response? The camera never lies – and it will tell you that less is more. Take the advice of Hollywood pitch master, Brant Pinvidic, and keep your answers inside the three minute rule!
The secret to preparation isn’t practice – it’s understanding. Because, without a deeper understanding, you might just be rehearsing mistakes. Think about it: If you know what questions you might face, you’re better prepared to get out of your own way. But watch out: there’s a question to avoid in the job interview process! Especially when it shows up inside your own head. Here it is: “How am I doing?” That’s a question that takes your attention away from the service you can provide, and the investigation your inner detective is conducting.
When that question shows up, concentrate instead on how your interviewer is doing. Stop wondering if you are awesome or not. Concentrate on how you can create a more powerful, compelling and clear solution for your job interview. When you get out of your own way, you take your attention off of yourself in the job interview, and you can see what really matters. That’s when you connect the experiences of your past to a new potential future. And where you find the service that your next employer really needs. Because, in the job interview process, whoever tells the best story wins.
Article by: Chris Westfall via Forbes and contributor at Careers