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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 March 25, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up. You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out.

But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

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Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

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Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

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Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More Resources About Ever-Growing

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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