How do you prepare for a job interview, when you do not know what will be asked? This is a thought many job seekers have as they prepare for an upcoming interview.
The unknown can create a significant amount of nervousness, ruining how you perform in the interview. However, there is a way to always be prepared and nail any job interview. The secret? Stop worrying about the questions and focus on preparing your answers!
The secret formula to nailing the interview lies in three major steps:
1. Prepare your “five answers”
Too often, interviewees respond to questions off the cuff. As a result, their answers are often incomplete, disjointed, or dragged on. The “five answers” approach makes your responses concise and complete. Here’s how it works: Brainstorm five specific and successful situations or projects where you were leading or significantly involved and there was a defined result. Thoroughly answer the questions below for each of your five situations.
- What was the situation? Describe what was happening and what challenges needed to be overcome. The more data-based details you can document the better.
- What did you specifically do? Describe the role you had in the effort. Identify the methodologies and approaches you used to solve the situation. List out the tools that you used to address the problems. Being able to explain methods, approaches, and tools you used in the situation demonstrates your competency — especially when these things directly relate to the job you are applying for.
- How did you involve and engage others? Many interview questions want to know how you work with others or influence people. Write down actions that you took or were involved in to get others engaged or on board with the effort.
- What was the result? When you are not prepared for an interview, you tend to talk about your most recent efforts. Unfortunately, these projects often are not finished and do not have a defined result. Focus on situations and projects that have defined and quantifiable results.
Once you have five well-defined situations, you are prepared to answer any question with a situational response. Even if you are asked more than five questions, you will always be able to refer to one of the five answers you have defined. I do not recommend trying to remember more than five because this can confuse. I have found that five solid, well-defined scenarios can serve you well.
Take it to the next level and create a one-page fact sheet on each of the five scenarios. If you are graphically inclined, you can make it into an eye-pleasing infographic. Nothing speaks to your preparedness more than when you hand your hiring manager a polished and professional one-page document on the situation. Plus, you get to demonstrate your communication skills on another level with these leave-behind products.
2. Develop and deliver a 90-day plan
If this is a management or leadership position, you should always develop a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan. However, all positions can benefit from this preparedness step. Take a little time and think about the company, the position, and what you will do when hired in your first 90 days.
This is not very hard to build when you take the time to think about it. In your first 30 days, you will onboard, learn the job, meet people and attempt to fit in. In the next 30 days, you will develop your strategy going forward. This should involve lots of input from others. In the last 30 days, you will initiate your plans.
Initiation is not full implementation. Initiation is securing resources, kicking off implementation activities, building buy-in, and leading the change. It’s also wise to have the 90-day plan prepared in a one-page document for you to reference and leave behind.
3. Polish your closing argument
In essence, an interview is like a trial. You are trying to prove your case (why they should hire you) to the judge and jury (interviewers). The end of the trial (the interview) is your last opportunity to sway the court’s opinion. This is where you should be most prepared. When the interviewer goes to close out the interview, do the following:
- Ask, “Was there anything I missed that you wanted to hear?” Show that you are conscientious enough not to leave stones unturned. If they have any burning questions, they will probably ask them here.
- Ask for the job. Tell your interviewers that you are excited about the opportunity and that you want this job. This does not need to come across as desperate, just sincere. Few people ever ask for the job in the interview.
- Summarize. Concisely explain why you feel your knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience make you a great candidate for this position and the company.
- Say thank you. You attend one interview, but your interviewers participate in several. Recognize the time and effort they put into the interview process and the preparedness of the interview itself. Leave on a high note.
In my experience, if you follow these three steps, you can nail any interview.
This article was reprinted with permission from John Knotts’ Forbes page.