I talked with a friend this week who was asking for some advice about if they should apply to some jobs they found recently. Before deciding now if they want the job, I suggested that they start with treating them as practice. We then talked about some things to consider practicing during interviews. Let me say a little about practice, and then I’ll give three examples.
A few years ago, someone was giving me advice on what to do with my career and said something that kind of surprised me. They interview every six months. They interview not because they’re looking for a new job, but because this keeps them current with trends and keeps them very hirable. That’s what practice is about.
Think about how much you’d benefit from having your interviewing tools razor sharp so that when the opportunity does arise, you are at your best. No fumbling, no insecurity, you’re up on the current trends, and you’re prepared. That’s when you get the offer you want.
Practice Topic: Storytelling
“Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult situation,” is a classic question that everyone struggles with. Everyone who doesn’t practice telling stories anyway.
Storytelling is the art of collecting and practicing stories that highlight your strengths and show people how ideal you are. You’ve got plenty, even if they aren’t from the perfect scenario. That can be even better. Early in my career, people loved stories from living in Japan and Ocean Rescue.
What you do is think through who you want to show your future employer you are, and then think back to any example you can give where you exemplified those traits. From there, you tell a story where demonstrated those strengths. More than likely that first time you tell the story, it flows awkwardly and rambles before getting to a point. Practice telling your stories in around 2 minutes or less unless you tell a story to demonstrate many things.
You don’t have to make yourself into a flawless hero either. Showing that you learned from your mistakes is one of those traits that people love anyway.
Practice Topic: Negotiation
Negotiating your compensation is scary, but important if you want to get what you’re worth. There is a ton of negotiation advice out there, and some mixture is right for you. So when you practice, pick some mixture of those techniques and give it a shot.
When you are negotiating, though, you will be negotiating toward an offer. This may be a line people don’t want to cross, which is getting to the point where an offer arrives when you have no real intention of taking it.
I look at it because while you’ve practiced negotiation, you might learn this company would be interesting, and it so happens you’ve got an offer too. In other words, don’t be in a hurry to avoid an opportunity because you’re afraid of saying no.
Last, I think pairing up negotiation with questioning your interviewer is fantastic. It helps you find out if this would be an offer you’d like.
Practice Topic: Likeability
Very close to storytelling is likability. What I mean is, can you create an atmosphere where your interviewer decides to talk to you instead of question you? If you can, they like you, and that means when they go back to talk about if they want to hire you, they’ll say good things about you.
After interviewing for years and being interviewed, the truth I’ve come to learn is that there is one question that carries a lot of weight: “Would you want to work with this person?” Companies generally choose people they like over skilled assholes.
When you’re interviewing, find mutual interests quickly and remain curious about the life of your interviewer. There’s nothing gross about this since you might be working with them anyway. Strike up a conversation with them and try to get an interview’s tense energy to melt away and leave behind two people who are enjoying a conversation.
Practice Makes Perfect
There are many aspects to interviewing that I didn’t cover in this article, but the only way to get better is to get out there and interview. Think about when you’re ready to start practicing, pick a few things to practice and go for it.