The #1 concern I hear from my clients about their job search is the interview. Most people are worried about how it will go, and rightly so. After having conducted thousands of interviews, I know from first-hand experience that there are all sorts of candidates out there.
Some freeze and lose their words. Others think they’ll wing it – until they get asked an unexpected question and become tongue-tied. And some people are so humble they can’t even see their greatness and accomplishments enough to discuss them.
Regardless of where you land about your feelings related to interviews, the bottom line is they’re a required element of the hiring process. If you’re not ready to ace the interview and convey that you’re the person they’ve been waiting for, you can kiss the possibility of landing your dream job goodbye!
But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here are my top tips to ensure you’re as ready as you’ve ever been to have a great interview.
Tip #1 – Humanize The Interview
I spent my entire corporate career in human resources and interviewed thousands of candidates. What struck me the most was how robotic and un-human the process was. It seemed that candidates were telling us what they thought we wanted to hear and, for whatever reason, glossed over or simply didn’t tell us about the human they are.
That’s why I always suggest you “humanize” the interview. To me, humanizing the interview means showing up as the real human you are, and pulling back the curtain a bit on what brings you joy and what kind of an employee you will be.
Step 1 in humanization is to know your values! Your values are a core element of the human you are, and even though you’re a professional accountant, marketer, engineer, developer, or any other title – it’s you, the human, who will show up to work day in, and day out. So why wouldn’t you share?
In addition, your values and your personhood often translate into the way you perform your work and build relationships. If you’re an attention-to-detail person, you’re going to double and maybe triple-check your work before submitting it. If you’re outgoing and gregarious, you’re more likely to build relationships throughout the company. If you’re Mensa smart, you’ll probably come up with amazingly intelligent ideas!
If you’re not sure exactly what your core values are, a great place to start is my free core values assessment here. It can help you choose, evaluate, and rank your core values, providing you with an effective list of what really matters to you.
Bottom line, stop telling people what you think they want to hear and speak more from the heart. Tell them the person you are. That goes a helluva long way.
Tip #2 – Tell A Story
Everyone loves a good story – and that goes for hiring managers too. That’s why we all get so obsessed with Netflix shows and end up binge-watching our current favorite in a weekend.
I always tell clients, to be prepared for your interview you must have a minimum of 5 stories at the ready. These are stories from your past work experience. They can include things like:
- Your favorite project
- A time you failed or fell short of expectations
- A time you had a conflict with a co-worker, boss, client, colleague etc.
- A time you learned something new
- A time you disagreed with a direction you were given
In addition to having at least 5 stories about your experience, you also need to be prepared to answer these questions hiring managers typically ask:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why did you leave your last job OR why do you want to leave your current job
- What are your strengths & weaknesses
- Why do you want our job
- What is your compensation range
Before you walk in the door of any interview, be prepared with your stories, and make sure these are stories you know inside and out. Based on how the interview is going, the job itself, who you’re speaking with (manager vs. co-worker, for instance), or how much time you have to answer, you’ll know what details to leave out or to go deeper on.
If possible, make it funny. If not, make it interesting or unusual. Successful interviewing is all about reeling the hiring manager in and getting them pumped about you being on their team. If you tell a good story, they’ll want to spend more time with you automatically.
Tip #3 – Preparation Means Preparing YOURSELF
Most people already know that they need to prepare by researching the company, the job description, and the interviewers. But what they often neglect is preparing themselves.
This doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T research the company, the job description, and the people interviewing you. Do a quick Google search of the company and see what comes up – good, bad, or indifferent. Be aware of any current news. This type of initiative can be impressive to some people and shows you did your homework.
But above and beyond all these typical interview preparation steps (which you can easily Google if you need a primer), make sure you do the following to REALLY prepare yourself for that interview:
Know Your Core Values
As I discussed above, know your core values and know how they align with how you show up as a human professional at work. Be able to communicate how your values show up at work and how you honor them.
Align Your Values
Align your core values and accomplishments to the problems that the company is trying to solve. Said another way, based on the person you are and the professional accomplishments you’ve achieved, how will you help this company be better? What makes you a great employee? Let them know how you will approach the work and problems ahead.
Tell Stories To Answer Questions
Be sure you’re prepared to tell stories that answer direct questions, be prepared with your 10 stories, and then for extra bonus points, include your core values within the stories you tell.
Tip #4 – Use Eye Contact To Exude Confidence
Look into my eyes! It sounds like something a hypnotist might say, but it’s also good advice when it comes to the interviewing process. Make sure that you look into the eyes of your interviewers during the conversation, not the floor, table, lights, or your own feet.
Making eye contact helps build trust, and it makes you exude confidence. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of body language, and it’s also one of the hardest to master. Making eye contact shows that you’re engaged in the conversation, paying attention and that you’re comfortable speaking with other people. And while it may seem like a small thing, making eye contact can make a big difference in how confident you come across.
One trick to making eye contact is to focus on the person’s eyebrows. It sounds strange, but it actually works. Focusing on someone’s eyebrows allows you to make eye contact without feeling like you’re staring them down.
If you struggle with looking into people’s eyes while talking, practice it in mock interviews with a family member. You can even practice in front of a mirror and look into your own eyes. Make a conscious effort to adjust your body language until it feels natural.
Tips #5 – Be Specific When Answering Questions
We’ve all watched politicians get asked one question and then answer a completely different one. And while it might work for them, it won’t work for you during the hiring process. Businesses are looking for candidates who can respond to questions on the fly and give meaningful answers in real time.
This is where the prep work comes into play. When you know your stories inside and out, each story can typically answer a multitude of questions. Instead of trying to remember details from years ago, you’re simply recalling which of your stories fits the question, and then BOOM! You drop some knowledge and wow them with your answer.
I can’t stress enough that you need to be specific in your answers and your stories. There were many times I’d ask a candidate to give me a specific example from their experience and they’d answer with me generalities. Nope – not gonna work!
In those moments, I would tell them – I appreciate the overview, but I’m asking for a specific time you did the thing, please give me a specific example. You might be surprised how many times people were BS’ing me and didn’t have the experience they said they did – and that became apparent when they didn’t have a specific example they could tell me a story about.
Being specific is a skill you can develop over time. If your ability to give straight answers requires further work, keep practicing in those mock interviews you’re doing. You are doing them, right? Keep trying until you’ve mastered it so you can excel in your next interview.
Tip #6 – Use the STAR Framework for your answers
Now that we understand successful interviews include knowing our core values, preparing stories that involve our core values (using eye contact), and being specific with our answers, it’s time to bring it all together. This is where using the STAR framework comes in.
When helping my clients prep for an interview, I work with them to use the STAR framework to help them refine their thoughts into an organized structure. The STAR framework stands for situation, task, action, and result.
It’s a helpful way to organize your answers to make the most impact. When using STAR, we are able to:
- Organize our thoughts better
- Ramble less during the interview
- Answer questions in a meaningful flow
My general rule of thumb is that your answers should be around 2 minutes. If you’re unsure how long an answer takes – practice! As awkward as it might be, try looking in the mirror or record yourself answering. Time it. Watch your facial expressions. Listen to the cadence and tone of your voice. This practice is eye-opening!
Summing It Up
So what have we learned? Well, firstly, the interview process is not easy. Having the right job interview skills will help you enormously. And these skills aren’t always the obvious ones!
If I have one final piece of advice, it’s to prepare by rehearsing. Before showing up for the real thing, do plenty of mock interviews, talk in front of the mirror, rehearse the stories in your mind, and speak your stories out loud in the shower, driving the car, or wherever you feel comfortable.
If you need help with your interviewing skills and you’re considering hiring a career coach, get in touch here. I coach my clients with a proven framework that draws on my 20+ years in HR and talent acquisition. I’ve worked with thousands of job seekers nationwide to find careers they LOVE.
Reach out and let’s get you ready to rock that interview!