Ace that job interview with these career management tips
Job searching involves time spent researching the market, applying for roles and preparing for interviews. This article provides tips that will help with the preparation, enhance performance on the day as well as a structure to capture any learnings for your future benefit.
Before the interview. Essential tasks include writing up your CV, reviewing the role profile and matching your skills and experience against the requirements as well as researching the organisation. However, many forget to prepare a compelling elevator pitch. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than 20 to 30 seconds, perhaps an elevator ride between several floors, hence the name. The elevator pitch should be engaging, jargon-free and memorable.
Here is a simple approach to creating a brief persuasive speech that you can use to spark interest and encourage someone to get to know you better. Get a big sheet of paper and write your answers to the following statements:
- Who you are.
- What you do.
- How you make a difference.
- Why it matters.
The final point is vital as it sets out who benefits from your abilities, experience and strengths. Thinking about the value you create or problems that you solve for various stakeholders will enable you to create a truly compelling proposition.
It is helpful to practice saying your elevator pitch out loud and to ask for feedback from another person. Play around with it so that you become comfortable with the wording. Keeping it short means you are more likely to remember it and saying it out loud means it will become a simple statement of fact.
The day of the interview arrives. You are keyed up and utterly focused on delivering a captivating pitch that demonstrates you have what it takes to become a valuable member of staff. Interviews are often a blur because our stress hormones have us on high alert as adrenaline rushing through the body. Help yourself by eating a healthy breakfast or lunch or snack an hour or so before the meeting. Keep hydrated by sipping water and avoiding too much caffeine.
As you wait in reception, calm your nerves by thinking S.T.A.R. This stands for:
- Stop and notice what's going on in your body, mind and emotions. It is natural to be nervous. Observe and recognise the feelings then let them go without judgement or criticism.
- Think about your strengths and remind yourself that you have prepared for this interview.
- Activate resourcefulness by remembering one of your significant achievements and how you felt at the time - perhaps self-assured, confident and capable. Focus on accessing these emotions now.
- Remember to breath – try box breathing to calm your stress response: breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and breath out for the count of 4.
Arriving in the interview room, smile, shake hands and make eye contact with the interview panel. Engage with all the interviewers rather than focusing just on the person who has asked the question you are answering.
Being keen and enthusiastic is excellent, but don't let your eagerness run away with you. Be clear and concise in your responses. Structure your answers with 2 or 3 main points of examples from your experience. Explain how you achieved a favourable outcome by focusing on what this was and the specific benefit to your stakeholders. State clearly your personal contribution using 'I' rather than 'we'.
Don't assume that the interviewers know all the detail of what is in your application and forget to highlight your successes. Conversely, it can be tempting to give too much information. Instead, remember to focus on the critical aspects of your experience and abilities as they relate to the post.
Demonstrate that you have done your homework and understand the organisation's mission. Be prepared to talk about its significance to you. Remember to ask questions as it helps demonstrate that you are keen and want the job. Be positive but don't exaggerate your experience or make claims about your abilities or qualifications that you can not evidence.
Post the interview. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback as the best interviewers will take the time to do this and you are likely to learn something useful. Write up the impressions that you took away from the meeting while the interview experience is still fresh in mind. Here are some questions to start you off:
- What was good about it?
- What did you find surprising or odd? (Dig deeper into what's created these impressions).
- Could you see yourself working with these people?
- When you review your CV to date, is this a desirable organisation to add to your history?
- When you review your values, motivations and drivers – is this organisation and job likely to satisfy you?
- What might be the potential impact of the role on your personal and professional life? Does this excite or worry you?
- What's your instinct telling you – then dig for evidence to either support or dismiss what comes to mind.
Now stop and review. Then start a new page entitled: "What I want from my next role is …." Let your thoughts flow onto the paper without self-editing. Once you have finished, ask yourself "What else?" and keep going until you feel there is nothing left to write.
Take a break. Drink some water, go for a walk, call a friend. Do something different. Then come back to your work and compare what you have written about the job interview and organisation with what you want your next role.
This exercise will help you clear your mind and help you to objectively assess how far this particular job and organisation match up to what you want going forward. Now you are in a positive and resourceful frame of mind to consider your next steps.