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Ace your interview and get the job

Let’s acknowledge from the start that interviewing is weird. No one wants to be there. The interviewee wants to be working in the actual job; the interviewer wants to have someone working in the actual job. To get to that shared goal, we need to get through this artificial, stressful situation. This post provides some tips and tricks to get through it.

This post is based on research, feedback from students in an interviewing class I teach, and my own experience both as an interviewee and interviewer. If you are interested in a further discussion on this topic, send me an email at tom@thomasmstrong.com .

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As I have previously stated, the hiring manager or panel wants to know if you will be a good fit for the team, if you have the skills to do the job, and if you have the drive and imagination to help their organization. Chances are high that the questions they ask you will focus on getting that kind of information. In order to be ready for that, you need to do your own research on the skills needed to do the job and the culture of the organization. You will use this knowledge to highlight your skills and working style in your answers to interview questions. In those same answers, you need to get the point across that you are a hard worker and will bring that to the new job.

At its most fundamental, the job of an interviewee is to tell stories that will let the interviewer(s) see how you would do in the job. In answer to a basic question like “Why are you interested in this position?” you tell the story of your career so far and how this job will take advantage of what you know, allow you to develop new skills, and most importantly, have positive impact on the bottom line mission of the organization.

The most important thing you can do to get ready for the interview is to develop your stories and practice them. Your stories should hit all the highlights – your individual contributions, how you work on a team, how you reach out to others, how you overcome obstacles, how you learn from failure and then succeed, etc. For each story, share the Situation, your Behavior, and the Impact from that. This is the Situation-Behavior-Impact model that works so well for feedback. Even better, wrap up each story by making the connection to the job you are interviewing for and how you will apply that same ethos once you have the job. Follow the advice to show, not tell. Here is what I mean by that. Don’t tell them you have good organizational and communication skills. Show them via a story how you used those to do something good in a previous job, school, or volunteer organization.

I recommend you really think about and practice anywhere from 5 – 8 stories. Each should have a similar format. Using SBI, each of your stories should address how you worked toward a goal and achieved it, overcoming challenges along the way. If you have a great story where you did not achieve the goal but learned something to keep you from failure in the future, that is good too. In the interview, you will then simply choose an appropriate story and then craft it to answer a question. Even if your story is applicable to another question, it’s best if you simply state “in addition to that other story I told, here is another time I . . . “ In this way, you demonstrate your depth and breadth of experience.

There are a couple of other points to make about interviewing. As far as dress, jewelry, perfume/cologne, etc. – your goal is not to distract or detract, but to make sure the focus is appropriately on your skills, fit, and drive as demonstrated through your answers to questions. With that in mind, make your decisions accordingly. If you have basic questions about the job, try to get the answers during your pre-interview research. Asking your own questions in the interview should be to enhance your chances. One good question could be “I’m interested in why you chose to interview me, could you share what made me stand out?” That puts the interviewer in the position of highlighting your good qualities too. So too would the question "What would have I done in the first 90 days to make me the best hire you ever made?" Make sure to end the interview by making your pitch. Ask for the job outright, or at least let them know that you really want it and remind them, briefly, of your traits that make you a great candidate.

Finally, have a good understanding of how others perceive you. You might be asked a question about that. Even if you are not, though, make the point that you seek out feedback from others to continually improve yourself. By showing that you are continuing to grow, you demonstrate that while today you are interviewing for one job, in the future you will be ready to take on more responsibility. As an interviewer, I am always impressed with people who show me that they can grow as the organization grows.

Now, go make it happen -- Tom

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