This document provides the tools and techniques that will help you:
Matching Your Skills and Motivations to the Job (Yes/No)
1. Do you know the day-to-day tasks associated with the position?
2. Do you know the job's education and experience requirements?
3. Can you recall specific examples of times when you've effectively used your skills, abilities, and motivations to meet particular needs?
4. Do you know a simple, effective format for presenting your examples?
5. Can you describe the kind of environment in which you like to work?
Preparing for an Interview
1. Do you know how to keep your responses to questions practical rather than theoretical?
2. Do you know two effective ways to get an interview rolling?
3. Do you know what to do if an interviewer asks a vague question?
4. Do you know the best way to handle negatives in your background?
5. Do you know how to end an interview on a positive note?
Matching Your Skills and Motivations to the Job
Making a good match means looking at mutual interests. The interviewer wants to find the best person for the position. The job seeker is looking for the best opportunity to build skills, grow a career, and engage in satisfying, enjoyable work.
What the Job Needs from You
The first step in deciding whether you and the job are a match is to look at the job's requirements. What are the day-to-day tasks a person would do? What education or experience is required? Usually a job description or posting provides this information. If you do not have a copy, request a job description from your human resource department or from the hiring manager. If appropriate and you know the person currently in the position, ask him or her about the job's requirements and the work climate or environment. Once you know the job requirements, prepare examples of how you've used your skills to meet similar needs. Don't be intimidated by limited work experience or a new field. You probably generated ideas, managed projects, exceeded expectations, learned something, or helped someone meet a challenge at work or in non-work related situations such as a volunteer. These skills would be valuable to any employer.
You can present your examples in a simple, effective format: the STAR.
An example STAR is provided below:
"This one client was famous for beating suppliers down on price. I think she thought it was a game or something. The ironic thing was that the more they needed our services, the harder she seemed to fight for discounts."
"I was nervous about the negotiation, so I sat down with my manager and we tried to brainstorm every possible price objection she could raise. Then, when I sat down with the client, I was able to counter every objection by showing her how we met her company's needs."
"I wound up changing prices a little because a couple of the steps weren't really necessary. In the end, we were paid fairly for the value of our services."
This account of past performance is impressive because it provides hard data about a difficult situation: specific actions the candidate took and the positive results she achieved. Answering this way is much more effective than providing vague, general, or theoretical answers. The message is clear: you'll interview better if you prepare. Learn the job's requirements then write STARs that provide specifics about times you met similar requirements.
Writing your STARs in advance of your interview plants them firmly in your mind and prevents you from failing to mention an experience because you've forgotten it or its significance.
What You Need from the Job
You also need to examine your motivations, the way you like to get things done and the environment in which you like to work. If you've thrived working in teams, look for a job that embodies teamwork, not one in which you work alone in a remote field office.
Your motivations relate to the position you're seeking in three ways:
1. Does the job fit you? Does it involve doing a lot of the things that you most like to do and few of the things that you least like to do?
2. Does the location fit you? Can you handle any potential lifestyle changes (such as, moving, commuting)?
When seeking a new position, think about what you can live with, what you're willing to try, and what is non-negotiable. Your best prospect blends what you enjoy with what you're willing to live with.
Preparing for an Interview - Get Your STARs in Order
You targeted the position you want, determined that you're a good match for it, and landed an interview. Now, write out examples of how you have used your skills, abilities, and motivations to accomplish goals.
Pre-interview nerves are common. In looking at work history, people tend to identify flaws, which they fear will keep them from getting the position. Some possible negatives are:
There are two things you can do to overcome a negative in your background:
1. Be up-front about it.
2. Use STAR examples to demonstrate how your strengths in other areas (such as high motivation or ability to learn) overcome the weakness.
Getting Through the Interview
Well-trained interviewers usually begin with a question designed to put you at ease. Sometimes, however, you'll need to start the conversation. There are two good ways to get the discussion going:
Make a positive comment about the department and how you see yourself contributing to it.
Ask a question such as, "Could you tell me more about the work I might be doing in this position?" or "What issues are driving the need to create this job?"
Your goal in the interview will be to provide specific information that will help the interviewer evaluate how you would perform in the job you want. Avoid theoretical responses that begin with, "I think," "I believe," or "In general." To make sure your responses are specific and practical, use a STAR example to describe how you successfully applied the knowledge or skill in question.
Responses like this one provide interviewers with the information they need to make fair and accurate hiring decisions: examples of specific actions taken in particular situations and the results of those actions. Providing responses like these also makes an interviewer's job easier—no one likes to have to dig for specifics—and impresses them with your ability to recall details about your past performance. Some interviewers will ask vague questions, such as, "Why should we hire you?" or "What do people say about you?" These questions can be difficult to answer because they don't seek specific information related to your skills or experience. Don't let vague questions throw you off course. Because you prepared for your interview, you have a list of your key abilities. Mention one of them now and give a STAR example of how you have used that ability.
Interviews usually end with the interviewer asking, "Do you have any questions?" Most interviewers want a candidate to ask meaningful questions. If you don't ask questions, the interviewer might feel as if you weren't fully engaged in the interview. Besides, this is your chance to collect important information about the job. For those reasons, prepare some questions that you can ask at the end of the interview.
You might ask about two areas often not covered by interviewers:
Seeking a New Job/Position – Pitfalls
Thinking that you can wing it…
If you walk into an interview without examining the job requirements, and yourself:
Ignoring your motivations…
If you don't take the time to think about what you need in a position:
Exaggerating information about yourself….
Because a STAR response is like a story, you might be tempted to stretch the truth or create an answer.
Quick Reference Guide – Essential Tips
Find out the requirements of the position you are seeking.
Identify your skills and abilities.
Remember to look at your motivations.
Match your skills, abilities, and motivations with the job's requirements.
Be an active participant in the interview.