If you read many books on job interviews, you’ll notice that some feed you lists of interview questions that you should learn answers to. But an interview is not an interrogation; it’s a conversation. Thus, I believe the best way to prepare for an interview is to come armed with a multitude of small stories about both your business and personal life.
Conversation Wins the Job
Competency-based interviews, as opposed to traditional interviews, have become more common today. In a traditional interview, the interviewer will ask you questions focused on whether you have the skills and knowledge needed to do the job. A competency-based interview goes further by asking you additional questions about your character and personal attributes that can better determine whether you fit their corporate culture. These are called “behavioral competencies.”
A competency-based interviewer will spend about half the interview on your job skills, and about half on your behavioral competencies. He or she will be looking for evidence of how you have acted in real situations in the past. So having your stories ready to go, and discussing them during a conversation between two equals, plays very well for this type of interview.
The Interviewer’s Priorities
An employer wants to find out:
- Are you an asset or liability? In other words, will you either make money or save money for the company?
- Are you a team player? Will you fit into the corporate hierarchy or be like sand in the gears? Can you take and give (if appropriate) orders?
- Will you fit into the company culture? They don’t want prima donnas.
Your Story Strategy
The best way for an interviewer to get answers to the questions above is for you, the interviewee, to take the initiative. You should have several personal stories that you can tell as examples of your successes, and each story should last between 30 to 90 seconds.
You should start by developing your stories around these areas:
- Examples of when you either made money or saved money for your current or previous employer.
- A crisis in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.
- A time where you functioned as part of a team and what your contribution was.
- A time in your career or job where you had to overcome stress.
- A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
- A failure that occurred in your job and how you overcame it.
- Any seminal events that happened during your career to cause you to change direction and how that worked out for you.
Actions speak louder than words. Your actions in the past — relayed in story form — will tell a company much more than any generic response. Your stories will give the interviewer the tangible examples he or she seeks, and they will convey a very strong sense of your individuality, making you stand out more.