After months and months of online job applications and several automated rejection emails, I recently received a response from a company requesting to setup an interview. I made it through 3 rounds of interviews but was unfortunate not to get the position, however I did learn a lot through this process.
Practice your story: One question you will always be asked in any interview is “Please tell us about yourself?". This might seem like an easy task, since how knows you better than yourself, however every interview comes with its own pressures and in the heat of the moment it’s common to make mistakes. I was asked "Please tell us about yourself" in each of my 3 interviews and each time my story was different; the first time I did okay, the second time I bombed as I rushed and mumbled my way through, and the third time I did great. The reason for this inconsistency was because the first two times I chose to “wing-it” instead of practicing and preparing a clear story that could portray me and my career journey in the best way. With the third interview I had a planned structure to my story. I highlighted key skills and achievements that would help me in the new role I was applying for.
This leads onto my next point, speak to your experience and strengths. We often feel the need to tell the interview panel what we think they want to hear, as opposed to what we know. In my 9 years of professional experience I have come to realize that these interview panels (and other similar panels such as formal presentations to senior managers or colleagues) can quickly discern when you’re speaking from knowledge and experience, and when you’re bullshitting your way through an answer. It's best to be honest as doing otherwise is only digging yourself into a deeper hole. A phrase I like to use that was shared with me by one of my previous supervising managers (who is now one of my closest friends and mentors) is “You don’t know, what you don’t know”. It sounds obvious, right? If you find yourself in an interview or presentation whereby you’re asked a question that you don't know the answer to, respond “I don’t know the answer to that question, however if you game me time I’d be to find out and come back with an answer” as opposed to making up an answer on the spot.
And this leads to my last point, do your research. Just as important as knowing yourself (your story, your strengths and experiences) it's just as important to know the company and role you're interviewing for. If you're successful in making it past the first round of interviews, which is generally about the company getting to know you better, the next rounds of interviews will probe your knowledge of the company, the industry and how you can add value. If I am honest with myself, I believe this is where I failed in my most recent interview, and it’s a valuable lesson to learn going forward.
What have been your biggest takeaways from recent interviews and where do you hope to improve?