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Interviews: Your Why, Your Story

Once you have a solid understanding of the breakdown and best practices in the interviewing process, you can begin to drill down to the more specific and detailed practices which can push you over the top. These vary from developing your story, to mastering your non-verbals, and ultimately to honing your impromptu responses to standard – and surprise – questions.  The Darden Alumni Career Services website has a very nicely organized set of tips and best practices which are highly effective and can be applied in just about any interviewing scenario. Having your own personal story down to a science is paramount to setting the tone for the interview.

There will likely be some form of a question where the interviewer asks you to tell her a little bit about yourself. When articulating your story make certain to incorporate how your experience will make you a valuable addition to the company, while being as concise and compelling as possible. It’s really a sort of “elevator pitch” about yourself. Think of it this way, you have one elevator ride of two minutes or less to tell a person why they should hire you (UCSB Career Services). Your story, as with the rest of the interview practice, makes all the difference; rehearse your story over and over again until you’ve mastered the flow and timing to perfection.

Nonverbal communication is another factor that can dramatically impact your success in an interview. Having good posture and positive eye contact is crucial, along with avoiding crossing your arms and fidgeting with your feet. A good general practice is to mirror the nonverbal behaviors of your interviewer and to actively listen while following their pace and flow. By focusing on enjoying the interaction you can help to foster a positive engaging atmosphere in the interview space. In crafting your responses to questions, it’s typically best not to memorize your answers, instead it’s better to have a general idea of how you would reply to a particular question and then allow yourself to respond extemporaneously to create a more natural conversational answer. This focus on impromptu answers assists you in preparing for unexpected questions and allows you to be more adaptive and flexible. The Darden School Alumni Services recommends, “If you happen to become nervous or blank on a specific question, breathe deeply.  Another trick is to ‘ground’ yourself by noticing the feeling of your feet on the floor, or your hands on your lap.  If you need a few moments to think while you formulate your answer, take them.  It’s okay to break eye contact; in fact, most people look away while they are thinking.”

By far one of the most important aspects of the interview is the close.  As humans, we are hardwired to remember the last portion of an experience as Daniel Kahneman mentions in his TEDx video “The Riddle of Experience”. Even if the entire interview went perfectly up to that point, an awkward closing or failure to ask poignant questions at the end of the interview risks you leaving the interviewer with a bad memory of the experience. Make certain to practice a smooth natural finish to the interview, where you allow the interviewer to take the lead and express your gratitude for the opportunity to be considered for the position.

(Sidenote: If discovering your “why” and telling your story are new concepts to you, there are great leaders and research out there to guide and inspire. I highly recommend reading, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek and we’ll soon have a blog feature detailing additional avenues and resources in storytelling.)


~The Purepost Team

The Down and Dirty: After the Resume

You can’t launch a job search without a great resume, but now that you’ve got a great one, you have to strategize about the next steps in your search. This process is oddly similar to dating: If you know what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to find it – target selectively! It also doesn’t hurt to have some great connections or wingmen in both of these processes so – network, network, network!

Targeting Selectively:
Scattershot is never the most effective way to conduct your job search. You’ll only exhaust yourself and get discouraged if you send tons of resumes to tons of employers. If you just randomly blanket the market with resumes, you’re going to get more rejections – no matter how awesome your resume is – because employers are wise to that kind of mass marketing. Think about those mass mail marketing pieces you find in your snail mail or those spam emails you get in your inbox. You likely don’t even open them. Employers won’t read past the first few lines if you are unfocused. So focus in on your true target, and your search will be more effective and less draining. Being targeted also comes across as more genuine and enthusiastic to potential employers. Think quality vs. quantity.

Consider your VIPS:
Values – We all have them, but we don’t always consider them in our job search. What’s most important to you in this life? Has this changed over time? How do you want to represent your values in your work?
Interests – What do you do in your free time? What makes you lose track of time you’re so interested in it? You love it so much, you’d do it for free if you could afford to.
Personality – Are you introverted or extroverted? Highly structured or a free-spirit? Do you possess the power of ‘WOO’ (Winning Others Over)?
Skills – We often know the most about this aspect of ourselves, but it’s not the only thing we should consider. Your skills are broader than just your job titles and duties. You likely have more skills than you even realize.

If you want assistance clarifying any of your VIPS, commonly used assessments available are: Sokanu, Myers-Briggs (MBTI), MyPlan, True Colors, and Strengths Finder are just the tip of the iceberg. Often the assessments are available online, but avoid anything with a fee. There are also many books available that coordinate with these assessments, if the printed page is more your style. Do What You Are and Strengths-Based Leadership are a couple great ones!

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