The # 1 mistake job interviewees make is not spending enough time on developing answers to possible questions that may be asked. Let me share a shocking statistic with you: the average person spends less than 60 minutes preparing for an interview. You might be surprised that this is not enough time. In my opinion, 60 minutes is just winging it and it will not get you the job. So, why don’t job candidates devote the time to get ready for an interview? I have heard many reasons over the years such as:
- I don’t know. How could I possibly know every question that will be asked. There is massive knowledge available on the internet on questions that will be asked and tons of books on the topic.
- It’s too painful. Yes, work is a four letter word. Putting the effort in up front will actually boost your confidence and reduce your nervousness.
- It’s better to be spontaneous than rehearsed. Guess again, if you don’t have your success stories on the tip of your tongue, you will get tongue-tied. Spontaneity is for the very experienced and for those who have lots of options.
- My resume tells it all. Your resume does not reflect the way you carry yourself, the way you speak or reflect your confidence. In addition, how could a resume possibly capture everything you have done that would match what the employer is looking for?
- No time. I acknowledge that job seekers are pressed for time, particularly if you have a full time job. View your job search and getting ready for an interview as a project. Schedule time on your calendar for these activities. What gets planned, get’s done!
- It’s in my head. Many don’t find it easy to write out their answers in advance. However, there is research that proves the writing-brain connection. The simple act of writing with pen and paper and then repeating it back to oneself helps with retention.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these objections? I hope not. Here are my tips on how to prepare your answers to interview questions and an estimate of how long it will take:
- Research the questions. There is so much information on the Internet and books that will give you ideas on what questions may be asked. I encourage you to write out your answers to them. The simple act of writing out your own answers will help you remember what you want to say. Knowledge of the prospective questions will give you a head start over the other candidates.
- Know your strengths, brand and role. Every interviewer asks “what are your strengths?” A strength is defined as the combination of your knowledge, skills, and talent. Think about several jobs, tasks, projects that you have done in the past with great success. What are the strengths you used at the time? You probably have many more strengths, but keep it limited to what they are looking for. What are you known for…your brand. Your brand is a combination of your strengths, passion, attributes and differentiators. Know the role you are applying for. Matching your strengths to the competencies listed in the job description is critical.
- Success stories. Interviewers ask: “can you tell me about a recent accomplishment?” Prepare your success stories (at least three) of your accomplishments by using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method of storytelling. By using success stories during your interview, the interviewer will remember your stories before facts, figures, or data. It also gives them an easy way to describe you to others in the organization. The STAR method is great for not only describing your accomplishments, but also for questions like: describe a situation when you had to meet a challenging deadline; tell me about a time when you failed, how do you deal with pressure or stressful situations.
- Rehearse. I hear the groans every time I work with a client when I suggest rehearsing answers. It’s the old story…how do you get to Carnegie Hall…practice, practice, practice. Practice does make perfect, so please do it with a coach, a friend, or a family member and in private in front of a mirror. It will settle some of the nervousness, too.
How much time does all this take? My estimate is preparation can take 8-12 hours. So, carve out the time on your calendar to write out answers to questions and to rehearse. Do this over several days because doing it in one sitting can become overwhelming. As you craft answers to questions, you will find yourself going back and making changes. All good and confidence will be growing!
Putting in the time to write out your answers to possible questions will help you avoid the # 1 mistake interviewees make. You will be 99% more prepared than other candidates and it will differentiate you from them. Let others wing it, so you can shine.
I work with hundreds of clients each year to get them ready for their job interviews. I have kept a record of the most often asked questions from client feedback, and have narrowed it down to the Top 20 contained in my new book Answers to the Top 20 Interview Questions with downloadable answer templates. I get great satisfaction when clients come back to tell me that many of the Top 20 questions that we worked on together were asked and they felt prepared and ready to answer them. Even better news is that they got the job!
To Your Career Success,