Improving Your Interviewing Skills

One of my favorite titles for a book on interviewing is: Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed by H. Anthony Medley. Interviews make most of us nervous for many reasons, but I think the main reason is that we don’t really know what will happen.

What I hope to share with you in this and other articles about interviewing, are not only ways to “ace” the interview, but ways to feel more relaxed and in control by doing your homework—being prepared.

Let’s begin by reviewing what we know…and should know about interviews.

What is the purpose of an interview? To answer this question, you need to think about interviews from the perspectives of a potential employer and a potential employee.

The purpose of an interview—from a potential employers’ point of view is:

  • To figure out if you can do the job, and
  • If you can work with them, and if they can work with you.

The purpose of an interview—from your point of view (i.e., as an applicant for the position) is to assess:

  • If you can do the job, and
  • If you can work with them.

As you prepare for, and participate in interviews, it is helpful to keep these in mind.

You have worked hard to get to this point in the hiring process, but you will have to work even harder to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the position, and how you will contribute to the company’s success. And, you will need to do so in a way that engages the interviewer.

While this can feel like a daunting task, it is helpful to break the interview process into 3 steps: Before, During and After.

In this article we will begin to address the preparation work that is required in the Before stage. Your job is to:

  • Anticipate the questions you will be asked, and practice your responses
  • Research the company and interviewers, and figure out how you are going to use this information in your interview
  • Be prepared to share examples of your accomplishments

So, this is what you need to do to get ready. There isn’t one right way of preparing, but I will share some ideas that other students have found to be useful in their job search.

Anticipate the questions you will be asked, and practice your responses

Most interviewers (i.e., especially HR) ask the same questions, such as:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “What are your strengths…and weaknesses?
  • “How would your manager describe you?”
  • “Why should I hire you?

Use Google to search for “typical interview questions,” to find more questions—as well as suggested ways to respond to the questions. While I cannot cover all of the possible questions, I can tell you that when responding to questions, you should think about what it is the interviewer is trying to find out by asking the question. For example, when you are asked, “What is your greatest weakness.” they want to see if you will be honest. Are you sharing a true weakness, or fabricating one, such as “I am a perfectionist.”? Most interviewers will know this is a canned response. The question behind the question is: What are you doing to work on your weakness?” That is the question you should be answering.

Many people stop preparing at this point. I encourage you to practice saying your answers/responses OUT LOUD. And, as you do, think of the interview as a conversation, rather than an interrogation

Research the company and interviewers, and figure out how you are going to use this information in your interview

The interviewer wants to know what you know about the company, and why you want to work there. Do not show up for an interview unprepared. Do your research to find out as much as you can about the company. This will prepare you to demonstrate your interest in the company, as well as how you will contribute to its’ success.

Be prepared to share examples of your accomplishments

The interviewer wants to know what you have accomplished in prior positions. They will use this information to determine if these accomplishments demonstrate the skills they need. Start with identifying accomplishments that directly relate to the requirements for the position. Then, compose a “short story” to illustrate the process of achieving results.

A handy way to think about your accomplishments is to use the following:

“SOAR”

S=Situation, O=Obstacles, A=Action, R=Results

By framing your accomplishments using this model, you will provide the interviewer with evidence of how you used your skills to achieve concrete results.

As you can see, this is a very large topic, so I will be sharing much more information in future articles and blogs. Stay tuned!

For more tips on interviewing, take a look at Jessica Hagy’s humorous article: How To Nail An Interview, In 6 Simple Charts YOU LANDED AN INTERVIEW.CONGRATULATIONS! NOW WHAT?