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Don’t Try Harder, Try Different: 5 Ways To Interview Better

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different: 5 Ways To Interview Better

We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” and it’s a good motto to live by…most of the time. If you are already good at something or if you are using methods that are tried and true, go ahead and practice until it’s perfected, but what if the methods are bad? This is one of the biggest problems interviewers face. Think about your own experience – you know you have the skills for the job and you know you are a good fit with the company, but you also know you need to interview better to get the job, so you keep practicing the same old techniques over and over, hoping next time you’ll get it right and land your dream job.

Practicing is a great idea, but only if you’re practicing with the right interview techniques. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how many candidates are hired because of how they came across in the interview, not because of their past experience. Here are 6 ways to improve your interview skills – 6 tried and true methods that are worth practicing!

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1. Change How You Think About Interviews

Job interviews seem to be all about answering questions, so many people come up with good answers and rehearse those answers until they know them well. Interviewers, however, are looking for so much more than good answers. The interview is their only chance to get to know you as a person, and see if you will be a good fit for the company. Yes, you should be able to answer questions well, and you should be prepared for any type of question, but when you think about what your answers should be, remember that they need to represent you as a person and allow you to communicate normally, not as someone quoting a memorized script. So, if you want to practice this method to interview better, stop thinking of the interview as an exam, and more as a simple meeting between 2 people who want to see if joining together is a good idea. Do you think you will be a good fit at this company? The only way to show them is to be comfortably yourself in the interview.

2. Emphasis on the “Fit”

You may be surprised how often being a good fit for a company or team overshadows past experience and skill sets when companies are looking for someone. Job candidates tend to focus so much on how their experience, job history and professional skills, and often miss another very important ingredient: fit. Your past experiences are very valuable and you should still focus on these aspects of the job interview, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting the fit. Because no company wants to hire someone who won’t fit in with the team, no matter how wonderful their employment history is or how qualified they are for the job. Nine times out of ten, companies would rather spend the money to train someone than hire someone who they aren’t sure is going to fit. Make sure your resume does a good job of covering your qualifications for the job so that you are take those experiences and show how they make you a great fit for the company in the interview. If you know you aren’t as qualified as other candidates will be, you should definitely put extra emphasis on the fit.

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3. Learn the Other Side of Interviewing Through Role Playing

Not too many job candidates know what it feels like to be on the other side of the desk. You can stress yourself out, trying to figure out what interviewers are looking for, but the only way to know that is to put yourself in their shoes. Pick a couple of job ads similar to the type of job you are looking for, and find some friends who want to practice their interviewing skills, or better yet, let them find some of their other friends (people you don’t know) and they can practice their interview skills with you. Look into the companies and get a sense of what they are really looking for in a candidate and conduct some interviews. This will help you know how it feels to be the interviewer for a change, and you will be able to pinpoint some things the interviewees are doing wrong. Take notes, and compare with your past interview experiences to see where you need to improve.

4. Know Yourself Better by Seeking Constructive Criticism

Many people do well in the beginning of an interview, only to falter when the questions get personal. You would think that those would be the easiest questions to answer, but a lot of people don’t know themselves as well as they think. To help you get to know yourself, ask some good friends to tell you (nicely) about what they think your biggest strengths and weaknesses are, how you handle stressful situations, what makes you successful, and how you can improve. Take notes and compare with your own perceptions once you are alone again. Remember, your friends care about you and are not out to hurt you. Their constructive criticism can help you interview better.

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5. Heavey Research Is the Key to Interview Better

Many job seekers hear that they should research the company before an interview and spend 15 minutes perusing the website, memorize a few facts and take that to the interview, so they can throw in a couple of facts here and there and maybe ask a good question to impress the hiring manager. This is not good enough to set you apart from everyone else.

How badly do you want this job? Make it show by investing your time on doing some heavy research on the company. Find out how they started, their past mistakes and successes, their beliefs, vision, goals for the future, past and present CEOs and how they helped the company to success, and whatever else you can dig up. Now, look at your resume, look at who you are as a professional person, and think about what you can do for them. Think about how you fit with this company, what you admire about them and what you can learn from the company’s history. You will want to reformulate some of your interview answers so that you can seamlessly incorporate this information into your answers.

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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