Thursday, April 25, 2013

Work It - Part 2

After I posted my tips for staying proactive during unemployment and tips for expats on the job hunt, I had a lot questions asking more specifically about preparing for interviews.

Like I said before, I'm not an interview expert! I just know what works for me.

If you are spontaneous and can fly by the seat of your pants during an interview, that's great. I envy your ability to think on your feet and still sound normal.

For me, I like preparation. And lots of it.

So I'm going to tell you some of my "secrets".

Okay, so they aren't secrets. But having this much preparation saved me from having a panic attack before some interviews. 

Hopefully you've attended interviews before. You know the types of questions they ask. I kept a log of interview questions that I thought I should have prepared better or that I saw come up multiple times. This was part of my routine of staying proactive during my months of unemployment!

Obviously, the goal isn't to write out scripts to memorize. The goal is to have a general idea for common interview questions so that you don't waste time stumbling over thoughts and ideas. Keep these in a notebook so you can review them before an interview.

Some things that I always have prepared in my notebook:  

1. Personal Anecdotes - The worst and most nerve wracking thing is when they ask "give me an example of....." and your mind goes blank. I like to have a bunch of these in my head already so there's no awkward silences or "ummm...." moments.

So in my head I always had anecdotes for:

Proudest working achievement

Proudest personal achievement

Example of when I had to work as part of a team

Example of taking leadership

And then anything specific to the job role or industry. 

2. Personality Traits - What makes you stand out from other applicants!

I definitely prepare these because I like to use unique words that will stand out in the interviewers mind. Off the top of your head it's easy to say you're "hard-working, organized, punctual." But they probably hear these words in every single interview. Think of words that are different but still bring your point across. Reliable and self driven are two of my fave words to whip out at an interview. I also like to say "bubbly" instead of "friendly". Little things like that can make you more memorable to an interviewer. But be careful with these "unique" words. Be able to back up your claims. After stating that I was self-driven once, the interviewer asked me to back up that claim with an example. Luckily, I came prepared! But don't just go blurting out adjectives about yourself if they aren't true or if you can't provide good examples. 

On the other hand, have some negative traits about yourself at the ready, too. I've never been asked that, but apparently that does come up in some interviews! Obviously, be smart about this. Turn your negatives into positives. Don't declare your laziness or bad habit of partying on weekdays to an interviewer.

3. Familiarizing - If you take anything away from this list, please let it be this!

Familiarize yourself with the company. Utilize as many resources as possible! Many companies these days have websites, Facebook pages, Twitters, and/or LinkedIn pages. I've literally had jobs ask me straight up "what do you know about the company". Obviously, you don't need to know the nitty gritty. But having a few bullet points in your head might be the difference between getting a job and getting your application thrown out. They won't take you seriously if you don't even know what company or role you're interviewing for.

Familiarize yourself with your CV/resume/references. That sounds like a given, right? But it never hurts to come fully prepared. All 4 of my interviews here in England have started "So talk me through your previous jobs on your CV." They don't want your life's story, but it's good to already know in your head your jobs in the order that they appear on your CV and key points about each (especially if you can relate those key points to the job you're interviewing for). I was also asked multiple times "What would you former manager/colleagues/co-workers say about you?" That's why it's good to familiarize yourself with your references. Have in your mind the positive characteristics these managers/colleagues/co-workers would describe you with.

And when all else fails, be yourself! Don't lie about accomplishments and act like somebody you're not. You don't want the interviewer looking like this....

What tips would you give others about interviewing either at home or in another country?


  1. this is great! I always had to be careful about how American I appeared in interviews in London. On the one hand, I wanted my American-ness to be an asset (which it usually was, I found, in fundraising here). On the other hand, I didn't want to be overwhelmingly loud and direct and friendly! Haha :)

  2. Popping over from Betsy's blog to say hi and I'm glad I did because these tips are great and very helpful! I especially like the one about using different words to describe yourself, like bubbly instead of friendly. I'm going to pin this if that's ok with you :)
    (if it's not let me know and I'll unpin immediately)


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