As a part of my program at the Carlson School, I end up supporting my students in their job searches. A big part of that is coaching and practicing effective “behavioral” and “case” interviewing skills. For most positions, behavioral interviewing, or asking you questions about yourself and your experience, is the dominant format. Here is my high level advice for presenting yourself most effectively. I’ll develop a few of these in more detail in later posts.
1. Have a plan
Make sure you have a clear idea of the 3-4 themes you want to convey about yourself. I am capable, I am a good fit, I work well in teams, I am a leader are the types of themes I mean. EVERY example you use should relate clearly in the interviewer’s mind to one of these themes.
2. Have bank of well rehearsed stories that you are comfortable with
You need to have stock stories examples nailed so you can focus on interview rather than figure out what you’re trying to say. Each story could relate to multiple questions. You can predict what a number of questions will be based on the type of position.
3. Tell a story, but keep it short and to the point
Don’t just tell me what you’ve done. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. They also engage a listener and make a point. Do more than move me through your experiences.
One effective technique is the STAR method. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. The point is to make sure you have framed your answer to a question (Situation & Task), described what you did you resolve (Action) and clearly articulate the outcome (Result).
Keep answers to 2-3 minutes.
4. Find common ground and build rapport.
They are hiring you, not your resume. You need to connect your personal stories in a way that engages the interviewer.
In building rapport you also want to make an effort to make a personal connection if possible. If appropriate, ask about how they came into their current job, talk about the weather, anything to turn the “Interview” into a “discussion”. You can glean details to use in reflecting back values the interviewer has expressed.
5. Make sure you have meaningful questions. Nothing detracts from a positive impression than a dumb question or no questions. Be prepared for 1-2 good ones (even if you think you know the answer, let them talk).
6. Ask for the job. Never forget to say you are excited about the job and want it. This is a simple, but often overlooked detail. Same concept as “asking for the order” in sales.
7. Manage your body language & relax! Don’t have body language that distracts from your message/story. Have some fun with the process. If you display discomfort or uneasiness, you are diminishing your impact.
8. PRACTICE! There is no substitute for this. You will be more relaxed and able to perform if you are comfortable with most of what you are likely to say already.