Today’s blog post features expertise by author Artie Lynnworth on how to prepare for a job interview. I asked Mr. Lynnworth the questions my clients most want to know about job interview preparation.
There are two main steps for preparing for the interview.
First, assess of the needs of the organization you hope to join, and organize your life experiences to communicate that you have the skills they need. Here is how to do that:
- Research the specific critical skills needed for success in the job you seek.
- Have multiple (at least three) examples from your work or non-work history to demonstrate that you can successfully execute these skills.
- Use clear 2-minute mini-stories to tell the interviewer about how you used each skill to achieve a concrete and positive result.
- Remember that your track record with these important skills, and your ability to communicate the message, is what sets you apart from the competition.
Second, understand the stages of a typical interview and how to prepare for each phase of that process. Preparation is based on knowing what to expect and how to perform for each part of the process.
- Be ready for the initial impressions, including how to appear favorable in the first seconds (yes, seconds, not minutes).
- Anticipate the request, “Tell me about yourself,” and have a four-part answer ready to deliver in 2-minutes, covering (1) Childhood, (2) Education, (3) Experience, and then (4) Bridge to your reason to interview with them.
- Be sure to have effective questions ready when they ask you if you have any questions for them.
- Finish strong with your last impression closing remarks, and a thank you note in 24-hours (email is okay).
Childhood? I am surprised by that. Can you please say more about how a job candidate would integrate information from childhood into their response?
Yes, here is an example of a good response: “I grew up as the middle child of five boys and girls, with hard working parents who both worked outside the home. As a result, I was very fortunate that my parents and siblings taught me to be self reliant, flexible, and responsible, since each of us was assigned different tasks around the house to keep our busy household running smoothly. I learned to multi-task early, found joy in taking initiatives to do my tasks in the most effective ways and to blend in well with the family teamwork to meet our various responsibilities. These same skills and values have carried with me through my lifetime in education and work. For example, in school…..”. Note: it only takes about 30-seconds to related this introductory ice-break comment about childhood values learned. The balance of the two minutes overview can then focus on other important skills to communicate.
For someone who has been studying and preparing for interviews in a specific field and already has a strong data base of what’s expected, then the preparation may only need to focus on a particular company and its culture, and the specific job, which can be done in a few hours if all the STARs (explained below) are ready.
If starting from scratch it may take a few weeks to:
- Analyze the skills needed for success in the general field as well as for the specific company.
- Assess your own life-experiences with a history of success in each of the critical skills.
- Organize planned responses in concise, effective and memorable structures using the handy STAR worksheet that I describe in the book (Note: If your readers contact me at ArtieLynnworth.com, I will send them a free digital worksheet based on the process explained in the book).
Your book says that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. How can job seekers use this fact to persuade employers of their ability to perform well?
It’s like professional gamblers: they look at past history to predict the odds for future success. Whether forecasting success of a racehorse, a professional sports team or in the case of a job applicant, the best predictor of how a candidate will do in the face of expected challenges is how well he or she has done in similar situations in the past. The interviewer is gambling the future of the company on the applicant’s ability to perform for the company as well or better than that candidate has performed similar tasks in the past.
So the best way for a job seeker to show that he or she has the right stuff is to anticipate what skills will be most important to do well for the new company (such as attention to detail, project management or persistence) and to show that he or she has performed these skills many times with good success. Sharing real examples, with hard facts and quantifiable results is the best way to persuade an interviewer that you can really do what’s needed within the company.
You recommend the STAR method of interview preparation. Please describe this for us.
STAR is simply a mnemonic device (a memory or learning aid) to help you structure your preparation and respond to questions about your past successful behaviors with particular skills that will be needed in the proposed job.
“S” stands for “situation,”
“T” stands for “task,”
“A” stands for “action,” and
“R” stands for “result.”
This flow or sequence of communication is the foundation to telling your story so that the interviewer will fully understand the challenge you faced in a past situation (S), the goal, job or task (T) you had to do, the variety of actions (A) that you initiated to solve the problem, and the final successful quantifiable result (R).
When organized in the quite of home, well before the interview (actually well before a resume is even written), a candidate can refresh past recollections about events, actions and achievements so that a powerful mini-story can be effectively communicated in no more than two minutes. These STAR responses become standout stories that are memorable, inspiring and generate confidence as the interviewer decides about how well the applicant will perform in the future.
What are some strategies you recommend for decreasing interview anxiety?
This question reminds me of the joke about the three most important factors when choosing real estate: Location, location and location. In the case of reducing anxiety, the three most important strategies are: 1. Preparation, 2. Preparation, and 3. Preparation.
The best way to feel less anxious is to have the comfort factor that comes only with thorough preparation, practice and repetition. Fortunately, I offer a very specific road map to show what to prepare, how to organize the information you will need (including handy and easy forms that you can use at home) and methods to anticipate what to expect during the various stages of the interview itself, and how to be ready to shine for each part.
Confidence comes with the knowledge of what is expected of you, and the sense of readiness when you rehearse the responses with a clear vision of how to communicate your points well, using the STAR structure. Everyone has butterflies in their bellies, but those who know how to get their points across effectively will enter an interview with poise, professionalism and memorable messages.
At the end of the interview, what are some examples of good questions that the interviewee should ask the interviewers?
In Chapter 16 of my book readers can see three pages of questions. However, as a quick start right now, here are three that can help a lot.
- “What do you consider key skills for success in this job?” This allows you to learn more about what the company is seeking, and may even give you a jump-start for last-minute preparation before you speak with the next person you’ll interview with that day.
- “What concerns, if any, do you have about my ability to perform well in the proposed job, now that you have gotten to know me better?” This gives you immediate feedback about how you are coming across in the interview (assuming that the interviewer will be frank with you), and most important is that it gives you one last chance to defend yourself in case the interviewer’s concern is something you can defuse with solid and constructive feedback.
- “What are three goals you’d want me to achieve in my first year if I were to be selected for this job?” This gives you a chance to understand the challenges, and to get ready to meet the goals if you do start on this job. Also, you get one more opportunity to confirm to the interviewer that you have what it takes to meet these challenges.
What type of follow up process do you recommend after interviews?
Always send a sincere thank you note within 24-hours after the interview to each person that you met that day, from the receptionist or administrative assistant to each formal interviewer that took time with you. It’s even better if your note is done that same day (email is fine).
The letter should address three points:
- Express sincere appreciation for the time and topics covered. This should be very specific, highlighting some fact or program that was explained to you by the interviewer (“I really appreciated your explanation of the new employee orientation program which I found to be a great way to jump-start productive contribution in your company.”).
- Express enthusiasm for the opportunity to be part of this exciting work experience (“As you know, I’ve been watching your company’s growth in this new business area for years now, I use your products regularly, and am excited to be considered for this wonderful opportunity.”).
- Reinforce your “brand” or your main skills that they seek (“My organization skills, team focus and goal orientation appear to be just what you are looking for in this project management assignment, and I am eager to be part of your team to help you achieve your goals.”
Artie Lynnworth retired from 40-years in successful corporate leadership that included managing manufacturing plants across the USA and businesses around the world. His books share tips for success based on his record-setting performance that changed cultures and revived failing businesses, and his insights can help you to make positive change in your life.
Visit ArtieLynnworth.com where you can find information about his background, services and his two books (in soft cover, eBook and Audio Book formats), see reader feedback comments on Amazon’s site, and even contact the author directly (Mr. Lynnworth welcomes questions). One book, Slice the Salami, Tips for Life and Leadership, One Slice at a Time, covers interview and resume topics, tips on time management, effective communications, work/life balance, ethics, continuous learning and more. The second book, Tips for Resumes and Interviews, All in One Hour, is focused only on this theme and can be digested in an hour.