Tips for communicating your competency during the interview
Many of you are in technical professions that don’t require you to eloquently communicate abstract concepts during your work day on a regular basis. Your co-workers and managers know your skills so you don’t have to verbalize them. Well, all that changes when you are in the midst of a job search. Now you have to convey your skills verbally, not just demonstrate them – if only you could do your interview on the job so the interviewer could just see you in action! This isn’t very realistic, however, so here are some tips for getting your skills out during the interview.
Self Assessment is the critical first step. This is the part we all dislike the most. Before you begin looking for a new job you need to know who you are and where you are going. When companies decide to tackle a new market they do a SWOT analysis. You need to begin your attack with a SWOT analysis on yourself. Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O), Threats (T).
Take the time to write down everything you do well. Not just the fluffy stuff, the really meaty stuff. What do you do BETTER than anyone you know? Provide examples. What are the projects, tasks, activities that demonstrate your strengths?
Now do the same for your weaknesses. Not as easy, but even more critical. You need to know what your shortcomings are and what tasks drive you crazy so that you don’t end of with a job that you hate, or a boss that you can’t connect with.
Opportunities are the roles that appeal to you and the positions that would really appeal to you. Get creative here and also note any companies that you know of who might have these positions in place (not open, just in place).
Threats are the gaps between what you are today and what you want to do in your next job. Are there classes or certifications that you are missing in order to land the position you want? Are your technical skills stale? Do you lack contacts in the industries or companies you identified in the opportunity section? Make notes and investigate ways to close those gaps.
Rehearse. Now that you have recorded your strengths and weaknesses you need to practice verbalizing them. Enlist help from a mentor, a former manager or someone in a hiring position that you trust – practice answering interview questions and ask for feedback. Recruiters are good to practice on as well – let the recruiter know that you are not well rehearsed and you’d like their help polishing your responses. There are a number of resources on the internet that can give you sample interview questions. Make sure that you write down keywords and brief notes for each question. Practice, practice, practice.
Prepare. Once you’ve scheduled a live interview it’s VERY important that you research the company and the people you’ll be meeting. Ask for an agenda for each interview so that you know who you are meeting and their position in the company. If you are meeting technical people, prepare technical answers. Human Resources is going to be looking for a cultural fit. Hiring managers are gauging your ability to do your job, follow up, follow through and play nice with others. Be ready with examples that help you illustrate the concepts you want to convey. Finally, when you are nervous you will tend to over answer questions or go off subject. Write the words – ‘focus’ and ‘brief’ at the top of your notes to help you remember to stay on task and answer questions as efficiently as possible. In my coaching I talk to clients about answering with 2 sentences – no commas.
Review, refine and practice. After each interview, by phone or in person, do a post mortem on your performance. What did you do well? What questions do you need to refine? Were you able to convey your ideas clearly? Did you over answer any questions? Keep in mind that the interviewer has a pretty short attention span and is really just looking for answers, not a philosophical discussion. Practice the areas you need to improve and your next interview will be even better.
Keep in mind that interviewing is always going to be stressful. It’s also a necessary part of career growth. You don’t have to be a superstar at the interview process; you just need to be able to verbally convey your thoughts to someone who doesn’t know you. Get good enough to keep your career moving forward. It may never be fun, but you can do well with self-assessment, practice and preparation.
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