Preparing for interview – bringing your whole self to the conversation
At the beginning of September I was the guest speaker for the charity, Careers Springboard. I was there to share my thoughts on how to prepare for an interview. Never one to jump straight to tried and tested (yes I know there’s a time and a place!) I adopted a slightly different run of things – at least that was the feedback from the delegates! I thought I’d share in an article so you’ve got it all in one place should you be finding yourself in this situation any time soon.
Your story and how you want to share it
I don’t mean ‘this is the list of jobs I’ve done, here’s my career history’ – I’m talking about who you are, what you’ve experienced and what’s important to you. What makes you, you? (It can be a handy reflection activity no matter what stage you’re at). Questions to help you frame your thinking include
- What do you love doing?
- What are your personal values?
- Highs and lows at work?
- Life outside of work?
The Ikigai model is one that I’ve used with clients before to get them to think about different parts of their story – it can really help to stimulate your thinking and bring some simplicity to your thinking. I think it breaks down, in a really accessible way, how you can begin to piece yourself together.
Letting your strengths feature
I know, big shock, right?! When you’re talking about strengths it isn’t necessarily your skills and competencies, but instead the kinds of things you’d describe as energisers, the activities that really light you up, keep you engaged and correlate with success for you.
Some of my favourite questions to help you begin to focus on your strengths include (but aren’t limited to):
– When are you at your best?
– When do others see you at your best?
– What holds your focus and attention?
– When have you experienced rapid learning?
– What are you doing when you feel relaxed and happy?
Talking about your strengths brings a really natural energy that is going to shine through and enable you to talk about all of those incredible things you add value to, drive productivity with and keep you engaged. It’s a simple, albeit not always easy way, to share who you are and your uniqueness.
Perhaps the more traditional interview prep – there’s huge value (and necessity!) in talking about our skills and competencies. I like to put emphasis on HOW we share our skills when it comes to interview prep, not just WHAT we’re sharing. What are your best stories to demonstrate your skills in action?
You don’t need to second guess what the person recruiting is looking for, you can always ask! Pulling apart a role description and looking at everything you can provide great examples for is a really simple way to showcase why you’re the right person for the job. I know simple isn’t always easy though, so if you’re struggling don’t be shy – who in your personal and professional network could help? Is there someone you’ve worked with before that you could ask them to list the skills, they think you have? It can be so helpful and a really good reminder of what you’ve achieved.
In all honesty they’re so close to my heart because I spent so many years with very shoddy ones, I like to talk about them in pretty much any context now!
I asked the attendees to think about what their boundaries need to look like going into the interview process (they’re something we can think about at any time of course) with the outlook that they should be helping you be the best version of yourself. Some of the questions and areas to reflect on could be:
- What do you want to share?
- Is there any part of your story that you need to share that might make you feel vulnerable? If so, how could you go about facing into that?
- What helps you be at your best?
- When you say yes to something, what are you saying no to?
- What have you done in the past that you really don’t want to do?
- What do you need more of right now, and in the future?
The final area of thought is all about prepping the questions you might want to ask. I know lots gets covered along the steps of applying for a job, but it’s ok to have areas of curiosity or something you’d like to hear more about – it is after all a two-way process!
So here are some of my ideas of the questions that should help bring some insight if you don’t already have it:
- Company values – not just listing them off, most companies proudly publish them externally, but how do they actually play out in the workplace?
- What’s the best thing about working for the company?
- The biggest challenge facing the role?
- How do you measure success / how will I know how I’m doing?
- Team structure
- Why the role has come up
- Any gaps / questions about me that you’d like to know
If you’re currently job hunting, I hope this is helpful – not just the process, but as an exercise to remind you of all of your brilliance and what you have to offer. If you have any questions please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org