Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure – Confucius
Would you disagree with Confucius? What about Polish-born American film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who once said a universal truth about achieving success when he said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”?
Success is undeniably based on preparation. As far as interview preparation goes, it increases your odds of success by:
- Increasing your confidence: Being well-prepared for your interview boosts your confidence and puts you at ease.
- Reducing your anxiety: Being unprepared often causes anxiety. Which candidate is more likely to feel anxious before and during their interview, the candidate trying to “wing it,” or who took the time and effort to be prepared for their interview?
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- Improving your performance: Being prepared will make you appear professional, impress your interviewer, and put you in an excellent position to sell (An interview is a sales meeting) your qualifications and compatibility.
- Communicating confidently: Knowing what the employer is looking for and how you would fit into their culture allows you to communicate your strengths, experience, and career goals more effectively.
- Making better decisions: Preparing for an interview provides information and knowledge that you can use to ask relevant and insightful questions about the position, the company, and the management style of your prospective future boss, allowing you to better determine if the company/position/future boss is right for you.
Preparing for an interview starts with the bare minimum.
- Research the company.
- Be familiar with all the details of the position (ensure you understand the job description and expectations of the position).
- If possible, try out the company’s products and/or services.
- Without being creepy, learn about your interviewer(s).
- Brush up on being able to answer common interview questions by being able to:
- Tell the interviewer about yourself regarding the position.
- Convincingly explain why you are interested in the position and the company.
- Point out how your skills and experience (results you have achieved) make you a good candidate for the position.
- Recite three to five STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) stories.
These five action items are the bare minimum you should be doing to prepare for an interview. However, regular readers of my columns will know I strive to go beyond “the bare minimum.”
Imagine interviewing so well that your interviewer asks you at the end of the interview, “Can you stay another 30 minutes while I call HR to cancel my other interviews and have them prepare your onboarding papers?”
Twice in my career, I have asked a candidate this question; thus, such a scenario is not outside the realm of possibilities. If you want a shot at a chance of being hired on the spot, then further prepare, beyond the bare minimum, for your interviews by:
- Being able to explain your daily work routine.
Walking your interviewer through your day will provide them with insight into how you work and your priorities (e.g., looking for opportunities, coaching, maximizing results, safety, process improvements) and your time management skills.
- Know your strengths and how to quantify them.
Your strengths are your unique selling points (USPs).
The most important thing you can do when preparing for an interview is to know your strengths and provide quantitative evidence (e.g., numbers, testimonials, work samples) to support them.
Some tips for identifying your strengths:
- Consider what you are naturally good at and what comes easily to you
- What are you praised for?
- What are your unique skills, abilities, and innate talents?
- What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Once you have identified your strengths, research how you can quantify them. For example, if you consider yourself a great communicator, look for ways to back that up with data or specific examples. Perhaps you have high success rates when it comes to projects requiring excellent communication skills. Did your boss, colleagues, or clients give you positive feedback? Support your claim with concrete evidence.
No: “I take inbound calls.”
Yes: “I handle 60 to 80 inbound customer calls daily and have an average handling time of two and a half minutes.”
No: “I fundraised for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.”
Yes: “Since 2014, I increased fundraising contributions for the Heart and Stroke Foundation by 25 per cent, raising $7, 750,000 in 2022.”
Numbers = Results = Value
- Recount the challenges you have faced.
This is where your STAR stories come in.
Your ability to overcome workplace challenges demonstrates your professionalism, ability to think on your feet, and aptitude to overcome obstacles.
Think of all the complicated or unfamiliar projects, or situations, you took on and learned from or fires you put out. Then create a STAR story for each.
Your goal is to convince your interviewer that you can handle difficult situations and learn from them.
BONUS TIP: Before your interview, familiarize yourself with several non-political current events to help you make small talk and establish rapport.
Confucius and Samuel Goldwyn provided the starting point for this column. I will now end with a quote by South African golfer Gary Player, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
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