We’re often (and recently) asked how to prepare for interviews. Obviously the main interest from our clients is how to make the best presentation possible but there are a lot of other things to take care of, too. How you can use your evidence/experience to it’s best advantage is one of the most common ones – particularly when it comes to being ready for questions. We’ve developed a simple (but fairly messy!) process. It breaks down what you need to do into various simple, individual steps.
Write a list of all the things you need to illustrate in your interview, one above the other, in big writing – we recommend one or two items only on each sheet of A4 and arrange them on the floor, in order of importance. The most important things right at the top, with the ‘should also have’ things in the middle and the ‘nice to have’ things at the bottom. It’s probably a good idea to have a break here, so that you’re not influenced by writing this list when you do the next stage. Alternatively, get someone else to look at the job specification for you and do this first stage instead of you.
Get a set of Index Cards (or postit notes or similar) and write on them – one thing only per card – evidence. By evidence, we mean things you’ve done that you’re proud of or are noteworthy. For example, you might jot down “spoke at conference X” or maybe you “organised event Y”. Do it without any regard to step one at all and keep going… and going… when you think you’ve finished stop and take a break, then start again. You’ll be amazed at how many things you can think of if you keep coming at it fresh.
Get a friend to help you if you can: people often see differently and better than we see ourselves for this kind of work. For example, if you’re working in a foreign country you might not realise how impressive this actually is, precisely because you’re doing it. That would count as evidence of ‘ability to cope with different and changing circumstances’ perhaps, or ‘able to learn quickly’, and almost certainly it counts as ‘proficient in several languages’. Your friends won’t take this kind of thing for granted, but you might.
Once again, take a break so you come at things with a fresh eye later.
When you come back to it, simple put your ‘evidence’ cards in rows next to the ‘requirements’ sheets that you created in Step One. Put each one next to the ‘requirement’ it suits best and lay them out in rows, so that you can read each card, not on top of each other. No doubt some of the things you’ve got on your ‘evidence’ cards can be used in more than one place, but for now, just put them where you think they’re strongest.
Have a look at the pattern. If you’re typical, you’ll have some things that have lots of evidence for them and other things where you’re weaker. Now is the time to start moving your cards around. Remember that some of your evidence cards could be used in more than one place? What you should do now is look for those which are aligned with the ‘requirements’ that you’ve got a lot of other evidence for. Be brutal: no matter how strong the evidence is for your first requirement, if it’s the only evidences you have for your second requirement, then that’s where it should go!
The aim is to cover all your requirements.
Obviously you should pay attention to the order of how you laid out the requirements – from the top to the bottom – and if you are short of evidence, make sure whatever evidence you can show covers the things at the top more than the bottom. After all, people only care about the ‘nice’ things if you’ve already covered the ‘necessary’ things!
This isn’t a real step, but we suggest coming back to the pattern you’ve laid out after a bit of a break. Firstly, you might want to change things when you’re fresh and have thought about things for a bit – and secondly, the process of coming back to things helps you memorise it.
That’s it! Simple. Like a lot of things, the only hard part is remembering it and having the self discipline to do it.
Obviously we’ve made it sound more simple than it probably is for you in theory, so use some common sense around this framework. Think about the questions you might get asked, too – you can use the same process for ‘assigning’ evidence to the probably questions but obviously this is a less sure-fire process, because you might not get asked the questions you expect and so not get the chance to pull out your killer bit of evidence. Use your common sense and think about just bringing out the big guns for the first question.
And good luck with your interview!