Most of the time here on the Monthly Memo we talk about dealing with live audiences or the media, but sometimes your most important audience is in front of you during a 20 minute talk. Some of the same rules apply in that critical conversation and, based on a request from a loyal reader, this edition focuses on the job interview.
Preparing for the Usual Questions: “So, tell me about yourself.” “What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are?” “How do you resolve conflicts in the workplace?” Most mature job seekers are expecting this list and more. But do you practice your answers? Most people don’t, thinking they can just handle it “on the fly” or fear they will come across as too rehearsed if they prep for those questions. Really? Do you ever watch your favorite sports team and marvel at how they can handle any situation on the playing field? How about your favorite musician or singer? How do think they get that way? Practice! In the very competitive job interview world NEVER leave the little things to chance. Have someone ask you all the questions you think you might face. The point is you won’t answer them the same every time, but you WILL walk into the interview with a confidence and comfort that gives you the best chance of getting that job! It will also help you stand out from the other candidates who’ve decided to “shoot from the lip.”
Preparing for the Unexpected Questions: Here is what you find: when you’ve prepared for the usual questions, you will also be more comfortable with the surprises. But any of us can be stumped. So what do you do? You’re sitting there with a blank look on your face and not exactly projecting the successful, confident image you were hoping to convey. (Sometimes it seems employers purposely ask the most outlandish question they can think of, just to try to get that look!) My best quick strategy for those questions is to tell a story. Have a story or two prepared – focusing on your work history – and have them ready for that stumper of a question. What you’ll find, as you launch into the story, is that you can find a way to tie it into the off-the-wall question. Keep the story short – a minute or two at most – and then land it by working in the answer to the question. The “story time” gives you a chance to formulate your answer and in the meantime you are telling them a good tale, letting them know more about who you are.
Set the right tone: Do the little things like admit you’re not perfect, smile and show you have a life outside your work. My daughter is a recent college graduate and is in full job interview mode right now. She often mentions she is a spin instructor in her spare time. That quick item says she is in great shape, understands a disciplined approach and can motivate others – all in one small aside about her life outside work! What things about you help fill in the picture of what you bring to the workplace? If you don’t have much, you might want to work on that – connect with a non-profit, get a few interesting hobbies or travel somewhere off the beaten trail.
Bottom line? If you really want that job, do the work ahead of time to let that very important audience know you are ready to shine! People who stand out often do so because they WORK at it. Good luck.
Please follow along through the month @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: email@example.com.