DC is infamous for its obnoxious, introductory line “So what do you do?” In the city known for its intense competition and politics, job seekers need to be able to play hard ball and take no prisoners when it comes to getting hired!
And let’s face it — job interviews are NOT FUN. As a career coach in DC, I see job seekers struggling with this all-important stage of getting a job, more than anything else.
The problem is that most often in interviews, you’re meeting with a complete stranger who is talking to you for the sole purpose of judging you.
The power is all on THEIR side, and you’re given the lowly, exhausting task of trying to “impress” them.
If they deem you unfit for the role for whatever reason and send you one of those automated rejection emails, it’s a blow to your confidence. You may think, why aren’t you good enough? How come they don’t want to know you better? What did you do wrong? You may be completely in the dark about what went wrong in the interview, which can be extremely frustrating!
Don’t feel bad, though — the whole system is unfair and flawed. But rather than complain about it, the trick is to learn how to play their game. There is no magic to it, but there is a proven formula that works, no matter who the interviewer is, or what the job is.
Lucky for you, I can share this formula with you. I have given 100s of interviews, and I have rarely failed one. In fact, I even got some of the most prestigious scholarships and opportunities because of my interviewing skills! That is a big reason I decided to become a career coach for others.
The formula does take practice and work, but if you can master it, you’ll never have any problems with interviewing again.
So, without further ado, here is your Interview Mastery Formula:
Secret 1: Deep Preparation
This one is obvious, but it’s about how you prepare.
Your first step is to put the job description in front of you and read it closely. For each ‘requirement’ or ‘skill’ listed, type or write down next to it any and all experience you have related to it.
Then, read the job description as a whole and try to grasp what it is exactly the organization is looking for:
· What are their goals of hiring someone? What exactly do they want to achieve?
· What are the most important skills/attributes they are looking for from you?
Make a list of what you believe is important to the organization and what they want from this role. (P.S. You will get major bonus points if you actually do external research on the organization on Google, so you have more context on any major news or changes they are undergoing).
Prepare Your Stories
Once you’ve identified these key points for your role, think of at least one powerful story you can tell from your experience that points to these attributes that they are looking for. You may want to review your resume a couple times to jog your memory and give you ideas.
Write down this story if it helps you remember, and then practice telling it. The important thing is to be sure to demonstrate in the story, very clearly, how you exemplified the skills and results that are important for this job. To that end, it is totally fine to embellish (a bit!) and highlight parts of the story that match the job’s goals that you identified.
Remember to practice your story(ies) a few times prior to the interview, until you feel reasonably confident and fluent in telling them(without sounding memorized or unnatural!). If you are working with a career coach, great, as you will get the expert feedback you need to refine your story. If you’re not working with a career coach, try to practice with a close friend or family member and ask them for honest feedback.
Whether the interview is over the phone or face-to-face, you can use these notes you made to help guide you. Of course, try not to write down your answers word-for-word. Having resume notes or an outline of points you want to make is perfectly fine though and will be very helpful.
Secret 2: Confident Ease and Positivity.
Alright, here is a BIG secret that many don’t know: most interviewers don’t like interviewing either! They would much rather just have a friendly conversation that flows and feels pleasant, while getting the info they need. Remember, they are stuck at work too.
So, your goal is to make them feel at ease by dropping/ suppressing your own anxiety and self-consciousness — as hard as that may seem!
Remember: when you are anxious and self-conscious, other people can always feel it, and it makes them judge you even harder.
What we want to do is turn off the critical judge in the interviewer’s brain, or at least let it fade into the background a bit. How do we do that?
Two words: Small Talk.
Remember, an interview will always start with the interviewer asking you some variation of “How are you?”
This question is a golden opportunity for you to make yourself stand out from the start.
MOST people reply with something cliché like “I’m good thank you, how are you?” Yawn. Then the interview starts like clockwork.
YOU can stand out by answering the “How are you?” question in a different way — almost the way you would answer it with a friend or someone you know a little better.
Here are some examples I’ve used:
“Argh, I’m ok — not enjoying this weather in DC! How about you?” or
“I’m great, enjoying this amazing weather! How about you?”
“I’m good but a bit overwhelmed — I’ve just been slammed with work and calls all day! How are you?”
You can be creative and come up with your own ways of answering the question, of course.
The simple rule is to 1. Say something that the person will be able to relate to (stick to topics like weather, work load, current events) and 2. Always return the question after giving your answer and keep the conversation going for a couple minutes.
Secret 3: Establish Commonality with the Interviewer.
The more you show knowledge of and authentic interest in the interviewer from the getgo, the more you multiply your chances of getting the job you want.
This is called appeasing the ego, which pretty much guarantees your success. Look up your interviewer on Linkedin to find out more information on him/her. Don’t worry, these days, that is not considered ‘stalking’ but a standard process prior to an interview.
Make a note of interesting facts you might find on their profile, either things you have in common or something you may be interested in learning more about.
Show that you put in the time and did your homework by asking the interviewer questions. Do this prior to the official interview starting, as this is another method for disarming the interviewer and making him/her feel at ease.
So, you can say something like: “You know I noticed you’re from Detroit, I LOVE that city and am such a fan of ___ restaurant/park!” or “I noticed you did Peace Corps work in Ghana, I really want to do that at some point too. I would love to learn more about that from you later on!”
Whatever it is, make sure that it is something you are actually authentically interested in!
Secret 4: Ask Good Questions.
This is your last, key secret to success. Once you’ve put the interviewer at ease and developed rapport, answered all of their questions to a T using your notes, and told your bang-on story — the interviewer will open up the floor to YOU to ask questions.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the interview is over at this point — this is often the most important part!
So, you want to act like this was the moment you were waiting for. You are enthusiastic about the job and fascinated with learning more.
You should have a set of good questions prepared to ask — relevant questions that show that you have a deep understanding of the role’s responsibilities.
DON’T start right away with asking logistical questions like: “What is the salary for the role?” “When will you make a decision?” “How many more interviews will take place?” etc.
Yes, you may be dying to ask these, but first ask questions that reflect you have an understanding and passion for the job.
Here are some example Good Questions:
“What kinds of metrics/criteria for success will you be using for this role?”
“What does the career path look like and what kinds of growth opportunities will be there?”
“How large is the team for ____?”
“What do I need to know to succeed within your culture?”
“What kinds of tools are you using for ____?”
“Have you all tried ___ methodology/tool yet?”
Once these questions are addressed, you can end with the logistical questions to get the answers you need. Finally, be sure to end the conversation by expressing your enthusiasm for the role and your interest in continuing to take things forward – if the interviewer is interested. Don’t seem overeager or desperate here, of course. You only want to move forward if there is a mutual fit.
You may also reiterate your “commonality points” from the beginning of the interview to bring things full circle and leave the interview on a pleasant, conversational note.
If you’ve followed all the steps of this Interview Mastery Formula, you’ll get a hint from the interviewer that they’ll be moving to the next stage, right then and there. And from then on, you are well on your way to career success!
NEVER leave an interview up to chance, especially not if it is a job or opportunity that really aligns with your career goals. The more you prepare using these secret success tools, you’ll guarantee your chances of being THE ONE every organization wants.
Imagine: never having to worry about finding work again!
Finally, Consider Working with a Career Coach in DC
Interviewing is a skill that takes practice and preparation, as it certainly does not come naturally to most people! If this is an area that you truly struggle with, working with a career coach in the DC area can help you, tremendously. Set up a 100% free one-on-one career coaching session in DC or online with me and we can discuss your particular career goals. Support and feedback are invaluable in this process, especially if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing wrong. And that’s reason enough to hire a career coach!