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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent

HOW TO PREPARE ONCE FOR ALL INTERVIEWS



So, you know how when you first start your job search you think that if you could just “get your foot in the door” and nab an interview then everything will fall into place, and it will just be a matter of time before you find the right job?


BUT, then you realize that interviewing is its own beast and preparing anew for each interview is harder than you imagined?


After doing hundreds of mock interviews with my clients I have figured out a 3 step process that you do ONCE and so that you are 80% prepared for any and all interviews.


And yes, I will tell you the 2 additional steps you need to take to tweak this preparation for each individual interview so that you are 100% prepared.


I am assuming that you already know what type of role you want in which industry.


STEP 1: SKILLS


List at least 10 skills that you have that are relevant to the role/industry you are applying for. Note that many things you do can exhibit more than one skill. There are tons of types of skills but here are some of the main ones to get you started. Try to cover as many areas as possible:

  1. Hard skills - Technical skills (Coding languages, CRM platforms, Excel, HRIS, etc), teaching, training, sales, marketing, recruiting, data analysis, etc

  2. Management skills - Project management, program management, team/people management

  3. Presentation skills - Written reports, evaluations/analysis, powerpoint presentations, in person presentations (whether to internal or external stakeholders), sales, marketing.

  4. Communication skills - written, oral, in person, or asynchronous, both internal and external

  5. Training and teaching skills - onboarding, professional development, mentoring, or just helping

  6. Customer/Outside Stakeholder Engagement and/or Retention skills - sales, pitching, marketing, presentations, customer relations, customer service, contractors

  7. Team Building and Collaboration skills - whether you are a leader or a participant

  8. Leadership skills - whether sustained, as part of your role (manager) or exhibited in one or more scenarios (lead a portion of a project, ran a meeting, owned a piece of any process on which others rely).


STEP 2: STRENGTHS


Go back to each skill and think about your general core strengths and for each skill list the strength(s) you are employing for each skill. This helps to solidify in your mind why it makes sense that you have those skills and why you are good at them. It also gives you another way to discuss your skills - as natural byproducts of your inherent strengths.


  1. For example, if you are someone who is great at relationship building you might make note of that next to your communication skills, leadership skills, and/or team building skills.

  2. On the other hand, if you are someone who has great attention to detail and can bring ideas into reality, that might come through in how you perform many technical skills, or research skills, or how you collaborate within a team (maybe you are the one who sets the timeline, keeps track of or assigns the tasks etc).


We all have many strengths, at least 5, that we use on a regular basis. If you don’t know what yours are consider taking an assessment. I love the $19.99 Clifton Strengths Assessment as a starting point (I am not affiliated with them and get nothing if you decide to give it a go). If you aren’t the assessment type, ask your co workers or friends and family what they see as your strongest positive traits and go from there.


STEP 3 - SHOW DON’T TELL


For each skill that you listed, jot down 2-4 specific stories/examples of when you used them in your past roles. Be sure to include some context but it should be relatable in 3-4 sentences.


You want to have several stories for each skill because often one story will relate to several skills and you want to avoid using the same scenario more than once in an interview.


People remember stories longer than they remember facts, even when the facts are very compelling, so adding a story about your leadership skills will go much farther than just saying that you were in a leadership position.


A benefit to this part of the exercise is that YOU will see how much experience you have in each skill!


THE RESULT - THE A LA CARTE MENU


Now you have a list of your skills and strengths and examples/stories to back them up. You are finished with this part of interview prep regardless of which and how many interviews you have.


These are the things that you want to let every prospective employer know about you. Of course, you probably won’t have time to relay ALL of them in EVERY interview, but you can think of this as your a la carte menu. You can pick and choose from this “menu” the items to talk about, as applicable, in each interview.


THE LAST 20%


As I said before, these 3 steps get you 80% prepared for any interview. Steps 4 and 5 need to be done separately for each interview to get you 100% prepared.


STEP 4. THE JOB DESCRIPTION


Open the job description to the list of Responsibilities and Requirements for the role and put it next to your a la carte menu.


Now just draw a line, actually or mentally, between each responsibility and requirement and the corresponding skill that illustrates your ability to tackle that responsibility or that meets that requirement.


Now as you discuss your skills, by way of stories and examples from your a la carte menu, you can and should overtly make the connection between those skills and the items on their job description. You will show them how and why you are a great fit for the role!


Don’t get sidelined if there isn’t a clear and direct line to be drawn. Get creative here. Think about why they have listed something in the job description.


Requirements: What assumptions do you think they are making about your ability to do the job?


For example, if they require a college degree, they are assuming that you have good time management skills, you can analyze and synthesize information and communicate effectively. So if you don’t have a BA, how can you show them you have those skills anyway?


Responsibilities: If you haven’t done the exact thing they list, ask yourself what skills you have that would enable you to complete those tasks.


For example, if the job includes client interactions and you have never been involved in that before, what skills (or strengths) do you have that will enable you to successfully engage and retain clients? How have your communication skills allowed you to engage or influence others? How has working with a team strengthened your interpersonal skills? How is keeping a manager happy with your performance parallel to being able to communicate effectively with a client to show them how you are working with them and for them? Is one of your core strengths relationship building, so that you will be at ease and successful building client relationships?


STEP 5: RESEARCH


It goes without saying that you MUST do research about each company you interview with.


If you have concentrated your search in one narrow industry then this step is much easier. The research you do for one company will probably also be valid for other companies in the same industry.


You want to know as much as you can about:

  1. Basic facts about the company: its products, revenue, business model etc

  2. Thought Leaders who influence the company and its leaders

  3. Mission, both long and short term goals

  4. Struggles, competition and/or obstacles they face

  5. Tools of the trade that they use

  6. Where they are positioned in their industry


The more you know, the more you can weave this information into your interview and the more compelling you will be.


Companies appreciate someone who took the time and effort to learn about them and who can demonstrate a clear passion for and understanding of their business. This sets you apart from other candidates with a similar skill set or similar experience.


Extra points if you can articulate to them how your performance in the position will help them move forward with their mission, overcome obstacles, relieve struggles or be more competitive in the industry.


If you only do STEPS 1-3 you will be well prepared. Add on STEPS 4 and 5 and you will be a frontrunner for sure!



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