As a career coach I've seen that people are usually on one extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to how they feel about the job interview process; either they hate them and dread talking about themselves, or they think that once they get an interview they are pretty much guaranteed a job offer.
Job interviews are incredibly stressful regardless of how you feel about them. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not effectively preparing the best stories for their interviews. I ask my career coaching clients who come to me after bombing interviews "were you able to share what you're best at?" and often they chuckle and say it would've been nice to have an opportunity to share their strongest character traits and their unique expertise. The issue is that the quality of interviews cannot be based upon the quality of questions asked. Instead, you need to have stories at the ready that you can share regardless of the direction the interview takes.
The most effective way to discuss your past is to ensure that you're focused on the future. When you're asked hypothetical questions in an interview it can be tempting to only talk about the future, so the key is to make sure you're building a bridge between your past experience and the new opportunity. You want to remove any doubt that you're capable of doing the job. A lot of that is shown by the examples you share. You want them to be able to picture you as a member of the team.
Using the S.T.A.R. method, you can prepare your stories to make sure you are effectively sharing your best stories, instead of waiting to be guided to what you think of first when asked questions in interviews.
Think of a time you solved a problem, learned something, managed a crisis or identified a solution. Talk through in 2-3 sentences the setting of the story. You don't need to include timing, names or anything identifying the company you were at because the interviewer doesn't care. The only exception is for name dropping an impressive company or client.
This is where you clearly identify the problem. Every industry and company is looking for problem solvers. Make sure to include examples of how you took action without being asked.
This is where you want to spend the most time. As you talk through the actions you took to solve the problem, you want to use "I" language so that it's clear the role that you played, while also speaking to the overall team effort.
Most people don't ever speak to the results they've produced. If you turn your story into something quantifiable you'll stand out from most of your competition.
Here's an example from a former client:
Situation: I’ve never worked remotely, other than a day or 2 here when I was sick or traveling. Like many companies, that changed in 2020. I struggled with work/life balance. Since my workspace was now in my living space, I didn’t have the separation like I used to. I found myself working evenings, weekends, through lunch breaks, and constantly checking for any urgent emails or calls.
Task: I knew several other employees were feeling the same way and started to think it was expected. Since my coworkers look at me as a leader, I reached out to our HR Manager and scheduled a call.
Action: The HR Manager was very receptive and empathetic. She opened up and said she felt similar and promised she’d bring it up to the Executive team. Less than a week later, we received an email from the President of our company, stressing the importance of work/life balance, provided a list of best practices the HR Manager created, suggested culture changes, and more. During our next Ops Meeting, we discussed ways to find balance. After the meeting, we received invites to complete work/life balance online training and we started a Wellness Challenge.
Result: Even though I felt vulnerable, the HR Manager listened and followed through. I’ve made small but significant changes to my work/life balance. This is one example of how I recognized a weakness and by reaching out for help, I was able to strengthen not only myself but my team members as well.
I encourage my clients to write down their stories, practice them out loud and refine how they respond so that they're ready regardless of what they're asked. If you take the time to prepare yourself you'll feel even more confident as you go into your next interview.
If you need more guidance as you prepare to land your next job, schedule an interview prep call.