When the Interview is YOU – Part 1 of 3

By Tom Davidson

This blog series will help you start now and be ready to blow their socks off in any interview and look at  types of significant events that you should look for in your past that would help you be ready for an interview in the future!

As a successful leader, you will not only be part of interviewing others to join your team or organization, but you will periodically be interviewed yourself for new and challenging positions. Whether this is for a promotion or change of organizations, you need to be prepared for the challenge. Don’t wait until the opportunity is upon you to get ready! By then, it will be too late to follow best practices for these critical junctures in your career. This blog series will help you start now and be ready to blow their socks off in any interview.

Document Your “Stories”
Most contemporary organizations use a technique called “behavioral interviewing,” and even if they don’t, preparing for such an interview will put you head and shoulders above other candidates. The premise behind this interviewing technique is this; past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. A behavioral interview question sounds like the following: 

“Tell me about a time when…”

The exact wording may vary, but the essence will be the same. By asking you for a true example that illuminates your experience with some component of the job, the interviewers get a much better read on your readiness for the position. Prior to behavioral interviewing, hiring managers relied too heavily on unstructured questions that had very little validity like, “What’s your management style” (unreliable self-reporting) or “What would you do if…” (unreliable hypothetical). In fact, the correlation coefficient (a measure of validity) is orders of magnitude higher for behavioral questions over unstructured interview questions.

When asked a behavioral interview question, your job as the interviewee is to give a true and vivid example from your past, including:

  • The situation you were facing
  • The action you took
  • The result of the event

If you are not prepared for such questions, you will flounder, fumble for an example, and appear less competent than you really are. You don’t want that. You want to appear confident, truthful and ready for anything. So, here’s what you do:

Record Your Stories – It’s best if you keep a journal or some other personal record of significant events in your work history so you don’t have to rely on your memory when it’s time for an interview. What you record are the following:

  • Events that you are most proud of
  • Events that were the most challenging
  • Events where you learned something important

Record Them All – While you’re logging your stories over time, don’t worry about how you will use them; that’s covered in later blog entry in this series. Jot them all down, any significant event that meets one or more of the above criteria will be useful at some point. If you are just now preparing for an interview and don’t have a record of your significant stories, here’s a stretch assignment; come up with 20. Force yourself to think back on every job, even summer jobs and internships, to come up with a healthy number of stories to draw from in your interview.

Record Them Thoroughly – Because the interviewers will be looking for a “complete” story, including the situation, action and result, be sure to log all three parts of the event. You may remember bits and pieces of the story later, but you are most likely to forget the results. These can be quantitative (e.g., goals reached, budget saved, returns gained) or they can be qualitative (e.g., communication improved, teamwork enhanced, quality noticed by customers).

For bonus points, consider adding one more component to your stories and be ready to spring this on the interviewers – what you learned from the event. Even if the outcome was not “positive” or “successful” in the traditional sense, if you learned something and can articulate that, most good hiring managers (at least the ones you want to work for) should appreciate your honesty and value your learning mindset.

In addition to the examples above, what are some other types of significant events should you look for in your past that would help you be most ready for an interview in the future?

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