If you’re like most people, preparing for an interview this might be in the week leading up to the meeting. If you’re like I used to be in the days before I really understood interviews, it will mostly be the night before.
Knowing what I know now about the best kind of interview questions and answers, I’ve come to appreciate how the best way to do most of your preparation for an interview and get your ducks in a row is nowhere near the interview, it’s actually all the time.
Why do I say this? It’s because the best interview questions are not about the stuff listed on your job description in terms of your responsibilities; the ‘what’ you do in your job. The best interview questions are designed to elicit the ‘how’ you do your job. Your future employer wants to know if your ‘how’ fits with theirs. They want to know if you have the kind of mindset that will add the kind of value they are looking for. What they want to know is, do you have the attitude that makes you a high performer to them.
To answer these questions you need evidence of how you’re different in the way you approach your work in real life examples from your work history. What is it about you doing your job that has made a difference to previous employers. If you weren’t there doing your job and someone else was doing it, what would the difference be. They want to know if you’re the kind of high performer who is likely to add value to their corporate culture and their team.
Gathering this kind of evidence even two weeks before an interview can be hard work. You will have obvious examples of achievements that may come to mind. But to find this evidence ready to reel off and apply to specific job interviews takes time and practice. So if you get used to preparing and storing great examples now you will make your life so much easier. My advice is to make it a habit, to be recording examples of your best work as you go along.
If you can collect examples of your best as a matter of routine, you’ll not only make your life easier, you’ll be better prepared for appraisals or update meetings with your line manager. As we feed what we focus on, doing this will also increase your awareness of how good you are which is going to boost your confidence.
Employers love to hear about anything quantifiable that can be linked to your specific input. If you work in sales or any role where there’s an obvious output from your effort, it can be straightforward to log your performance when you hit or exceed sales targets. Most people will be able to remember those facts. What they won’t usually remember enough of is the detail of how they did that. If you can tell a great story at interview and illustrate a problem you handled for example in customer service, exactly what the customer said, what you did and what the result was, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour.
With your examples, make sure you are noting the benefit what you are logging to your employer. In the days I recruited PR professionals, I would listen to candidates telling me about the social media campaigns they managed. Average candidates could tell me how many likes a social media campaign on Facebook achieved. The star candidates would go a step further and tell me how those likes met the objectives of a campaign and what it achieved for their client’s business objectives. They wouldn’t just tell me about ‘we’ activity either, they would tell me in ‘I’ language how they did something different to achieve that.
Another reason I advocate this is because in today’s job market, you never know when you’re going to be approached for a job. In most industries, employers don’t wait for you to be ready to apply for a job. Most jobs are never advertised as employers they are more proactive than ever in their talent acquisition strategies and will headhunt or consistently network to identify and approach the best people. So what I’m advocating will help you be ready to talk about your experience and make the most of those opportunities.
This could seem like hard work, but if you make a habit of it, it’s no big deal. Think of it like this, as the wonderful James Clear says in his excellent Atomic Habits book, “habits are easier when they fit in the flow of your life”. I love this analogy he uses too, “Trying to pump up your motivation to stick with a hard habit is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it requires a lot of effort and increases the tension in your life. Meanwhile, making your habits simple and easy is like removing the bend in the hose. Rather than trying to overcome the friction in your life, you reduce it.”
So don’t sweat over your interview prep too much in the run up to an interview, make your preparation part of your usual work flow.