Job Interview Prep Tips: Success Moments
I’ve had some comments lately from job seekers who got ambushed by their own work history. Or to be more precise, their inability during an interview to remember strong examples of things they actually did that would show their aptitude for the new job.
Most job seekers at least have some inkling that they may come up against eye-rollingly standard interview questions like Where Do You See Yourself Five Years from Now? , What’s Your Greatest Strength? , What’s Your Greatest Weakness? and Tell Me A Little About Yourself. But to answer those or most other question successfully, one of the things you need to do is help them see the connection between what you and you’ve done before and what the new job will require of you.
I wrote about the same basic idea in What Is a Behavioral Interview?
“A behavioral interview looks at things in your past as evidence of how you might handle situations in the future if you’re working for the company. They are based on the belief that your past behaviors can predict what kind of employee you’d be.
Of course, in a good interview, you should be using strong examples anyway to create a bridge from the past to the future for your potential employer. This is where your stories come in – stories of problems you solved, projects you led to success, new ideas that saved time and money, etc. In effect…your behavioral history.”
Even to answer the standard questions, being able to draw from your success moments is key to giving a strong interview. You want to leave a strong impression after an interview so that you stand out in their minds above all other candidates. And a great way to do that is with success stories they can remember.
Come prepared with a bag of your success moments
You have no idea what you’ll actually be asked. Some interview questions can get pretty far away from the standards. But at the very least, make sure you come prepared with a variety of your best success stories to choose from, if the opportunity presents itself. Usually, interviews – even phone interviews sometimes – give you a chance to tell at least one story that helps link your skills and attitude to the new job. You want to listen carefully to what they are asking, see if one of your stories fit, and then tell it in a way that helps them see the connection easily. Of course, don’t try to squeeze them all in. And definitely don’t make them more than a minute or two unless prompted to go on.
Please don’t assume you’ll remember the right story in the moment without some preparation. Preparation is the key to a good interview and also helps tame interview nerves. So here’s what you might want to do ahead of time to prepare:
- Sit down in a quiet place with your resume in front of you (to help refresh your memory).
- Take a moment to remember each job and things within that job that you helped make happen.
- This is also a good time to review the job description carefully and think about which of those skills / experiences they might be most interested in.
- On a clean sheet of paper, start listing everything you can think of where you improved something, led a project, helped save a company money, helped a company earn more money, solved a major (or minor) problem, came up with a new idea that worked, helped resolve communication problems, created a document or presentation that was especially good, played an essential role in developing a new program or method or product, etc.
- It’s important not to edit or censor any ideas. Write everything down that comes to mind. One thing might trigger another. And this is only for you.
- Now look at everything, and think of your best stories – ones that shows something about you a new employer would want to know. (Reminder: This is about how you fit the new job and not just something fun or cool. Unless you have good reason to suspect the fun or cool thing will also relate in some way to the job, company or interviewer. Careful research should help you there.)
- On a separate page or somewhere to the side put some words down to remind you of each of your strongest stories.
- Then practice telling them to yourself, to a friend, or even on a recorder or video. Don’t memorize them because you want to seem natural. But practice enough that you feel comfortable with your strengths and all that you have to offer your new employer.
And now, you have a bag of success moments to draw from if the time feels right. Not only does this exercise help you remember stories to use, it also reminds you of how much you have to offer your new boss. And considering how demoralizing job search can be sometimes, it’s good to remember what makes you so special.
Good luck adding a new success moment – a job offer!