One of my favourite activities as a career coach is preparing clients for interviews. They often come to me saying that the very thought of an interview gives them sweaty palms; recalling horror stories of mental blocks as soon as they’re asked a question; oblivious about how to efficiently prepare; and having minimal ideas about the process and what an interviewer is assessing. Fortunately they leave experiencing the opposite and frequently go on to get the job.
In the modern employment market we generally see behavioural or competency-based interview formats which you can recognise by their request for examples or use of words such as “Tell me about a time …” This format is underpinned by the concept that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, ie. if you have successfully got an outcome in a previous role you are likely to be able to do so in their context.
Preparation is really the key to success. Here are a few tips that can make a big difference to your ability to effectively answer interview questions and stand out above other applicants.
- Develop a suite of your achievements/experiences (aka examples) using a model such as CAR (context/action/result) or STAR (situation/task/action/result). It is impossible to know exactly what questions an interviewer(s) will ask but if you have a comprehensive pool of examples to demonstrate the outcomes you have achieved in your roles, you will be well positioned to answer any question they may ask you.
- Note the competencies you demonstrated in each of your examples so that you can offer an appropriate example when you identify the competency being assessed by an interview question.
- Ensure that you use a specific example. Candidates have a tendency to generalise eg. “I often communicate with difficult people – I ask them what the problem is; listen to their perspective; observe their non-verbal communication; offer my view on the situation, etc.” If you want to maximise your interview results, it is preferable to talk about a specific interaction in more detail – eg. “I have had a number of experiences dealing with difficult people – for example, one of my colleagues at ABC Company frequently spoke to me, and other members of the team, with a dismissive tone which made me feel that he didn’t value our opinions. The situation escalated one day when he did this in front of one of my client managers. It had got to the point that I no longer wanted to work in the team. One day I met with my colleague and told him about my observations and how I was feeling. The colleague was surprised and indicated that he appreciated the feedback. From that point forward the colleague changed his behaviour and we were able to maintain a very effective working relationship.”
- Review and refresh your examples in the lead up to your interview, particularly taking into account the competencies required for the role.
- Take your notes/examples to the interview with you. While it is perfectly acceptable to refer to them, sometimes just having them can help candidates to feel more secure.
Any questions about this blog, interviews or career guidance can be referred to Donna at Career Vitality on 0419 120 601 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck with your next interview.