“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln
If you want to succeed in your job search, you need both practice and preparation. You probably don’t need the axe to which Abraham Lincoln referred, but you most certainly need the preparation. Nowhere in the job search process is practice and preparation more critical than in the interview. As I shared in a recent post (Don’t be a Turtle), the interview is like the most important sales pitch of your life with money and career on the line. It does not matter if you are a mid-career professional, an over 50 job seeker or a recent college graduate. We all need practice and preparation to showcase our best self in the interview.
But how? Here are some old school and new school techniques that you can use as baseline interview preparation or for a specific upcoming interview.
Start with the questions. No matter which technique(s) you select, first start by preparing your answers to the most common questions. Create a Word or Google Docs file. Set up a 2-column table with one column for the Question and a second column for your Answer. You can use any number of articles from the internet listing the most common general and behavioral interview questions as your baseline for the Questions column. One I like for common interview questions comes from The Muse. A second good source for behavioral interview questions can be found on The Balance career site.
Old School. Find a mirror. Take your questions and start practicing. I know what you are thinking. I can’t believe I subscribed to this job search blog and the best suggestion he has to offer is “Stand in front of a mirror.” Sometimes the most basic techniques are still the best. You can’t hide anything in front of the mirror (my waistline is Exhibit #1). Pay attention to your body language, head position, and hand movement. You can add some modern technology with the voice recorder on your phone to analyze the playback for your answers. Focus on answering conversationally, with confidence and strong diction. If you get tired standing on your feet or listening to the playback, that’s a clear sign that you need to clean up your answers. If you are bored, your interviewer will be as well!
New School. All you need is a PowerPoint, your laptop (or tablet/phone), a webcam and a microphone. Take the 41 questions (from the articles above) and add 1 question per slide in a PowerPoint file. Open the slide show function for the PowerPoint file and use the Record Slide Show feature to record your answers to each question as you advance through the slide show. You can then use the replay function to analyze and critique your answers. In addition to the above suggestions on what to review, look at the timer in PowerPoint for the length of each answer. Pay close attention to any answer that goes beyond two minutes in length. Research from Monster indicates that 90 seconds is about as long as an interviewer can focus on your answer before starting to dream about weekend plans!
Real Cool School. Alexa where were you when I was younger? Amazon recently added two new interview skills to the Alexa app. Alexa Interview Prep offers a wide range of interview questions by category such as general, behavioral, technical, career and salary. A second Interview Me app will ask you questions at random without any category selection. I have not found any technique to record your answers within the app but you, of course, could add a second audio and video recording device to better analyze your performance. Realistically, I think these Alexa apps would be best utilized for game day practice in the car (while parked!) before heading into the interview. And even more powerful when combined with your favorite pump up music. It was always ACDC “For Those About to Rock” for me (an old sales technique!).
Recruit a Friend or a Coach. Not a shameless plug for my coaching business! Note that I said “friend or coach” so you have a free and a paid alternative. The point is that nothing can replace live interview practice where you simulate the actual interview. Your friends and family are a great start, and a certified coach will go that extra level to provide real-world feedback on your answers and interview performance.
No matter what technique you choose, the key is to practice. If you practice, you will be prepared. If you are prepared you will be confident. If you are confident, you will win more interviews than you lose. And you only need to win one to get the offer!
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to the AdvantEdge blog. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.