By: Amy Twiggs
You have finally landed an interview for what seems like your ideal job. You’ve been waiting for this moment for months since beginning your job search, and now the opportunity for you to interview for this dream job is finally here. What do you need to do to prepare yourself?
I think the most important prep work you can do is to think about your past accomplishments, because what you have done in the past is the biggest indicator of what you will do in the future. This is why so many employers are asking behavioral based interview questions. You know the ones, they usually start with words like, “Tell me about a time when…” or, “Describe a situation you have faced in the past….”
These kinds of questions are looking for you to describe a real situation that you have dealt with in the past and your answer will help the interviewer learn more about the real you rather than some idealized version of you. A question which asks you what you would do in an imagined scenario allows you to present that idealized version and interviewers have found that those questions do not effectively tap into how you would truly perform on the job. This is why behavioral based interview questions are asked more frequently these days and this is why you need to be prepared to answer them.
Now, back to your prep work. I recommend trying to think of at least 5 accomplishments that you have had in the past. The best way to remember these accomplishments is an exercise that has a handy little acronym- The CAR Exercise. (C stands for Challenge, A stands for Action and R stands for Results). Think about challenges you have faced, then think about the action you took to overcome the challenge and then think about the result. If it had a positive outcome and you played a part in achieving that outcome, then you can count that as an accomplishment. Not all accomplishments have to be singlehanded, they can be something you achieved as part of a team or as the leader of the team. Not all accomplishments have to be giant, like restructuring a company, they can be smaller like restructuring a process that led to greater efficiencies in your department. (Which actually is not a small thing at all!) The most important thing though, is that you want to make sure your accomplishments (the results) are measurable and quantifiable so that an interviewer can understand what you did in the context of the situation.
Once you have used the CAR Exercise to help you identify some accomplishments you’ve had, you need to think about the themes that those accomplishments relate to. Examples of themes might be leadership, conflict resolution or creativity. In other words, if the interviewer is asking for an example of when you worked well as part of a team, you will want to highlight one of your accomplishments that involved teamwork. Having thought before the interview about what themes are represented in each accomplishment will help you select the relevant accomplishment to speak about when you detect what theme the interviewer is asking about. I look at this as more bang for the buck! Not only do you get to talk about your teamwork but you also get to bring forward a great accomplishment! When you do this kind of prep work you won’t have to dig deep into the recesses of your mind during the interview to remember why you are so great and to give relevant examples that the interviewer is seeking.
So, do your prep work before the interview and go out there and land that dream job!