Denise Mooney is a Melbourne-based career consultant and former journalist. She helps women launch new careers and create more success in their lives through her one-on-one coaching, online courses, and workshops.
I used to be that girl. The one who breezed through interviews and always got the job. But then something changed or rather I did — to a new industry. Suddenly interviews became more challenging and the rejections started to pile up. I could no longer rely on my ability to wing it.
These days clients come to me with similar issues, most often when they’re applying for more senior roles or switching to a different industry.
If you’re not nailing interviews like you used to, it could be that you don’t have the right experience, but it could also be because you’re unclear about what you have to offer. Don’t take for granted that you’re communicating this information in the right way. It’s trickier than it looks.
There are a few key things you can do to prepare for the interview, boost your chances of nailing it and make yourself more hireable:
1. Be prepared to tell your story in your interviews
In a recent mock interview when asked about project outcomes, a client spent 15 minutes telling me about the great projects she’d worked on without outlining what she did to create these impressive results. She’d been leaving out the most important part because she was worried interviewers would think she was taking credit for other people’s work.
I’ve coached a lot of very smart people who get tongue tied when it comes to talking about what they’ve accomplished. They focus on the success of the company, the team and the projects they’ve led, leaving out the crucial details of how they contributed.
- If you’re worried about sounding arrogant, write down five things that make you the perfect candidate for the role. Imagine what your current boss would say about you (provided it’s positive of course!).
- Are you able to turn projects around quickly under deadline pressure? Do you have an innate ability to magic up creative ideas that always match the brief? Or does your outgoing personality mean you can instantly put new clients at ease?
- Don’t forget to mention why you want the job, particularly if you’re changing industries. Maybe you’re passionate about health and wellbeing because you experienced a health crisis that forced you to radically change your lifestyle. Be prepared to tell that story in the interview because it’s something people will remember. Sometimes it’s the seemingly insignificant details that can give you an edge.
2. Understand the company and its current challenges
Your interviewer will want to put your skills in context. What can you help them to achieve? Spend some time researching the company and understanding their values, the type of projects they’re involved in and the budgets they’re dealing with. You’ll want to do your homework because you might be asked for ideas in the interview, particularly if it’s a senior role.
How do you get up to speed without spending hours on research?
- Start with the company website and then search for recent news about the organisation.
- Read up on industry developments and make sure you’re across any issues like new legislation, funding cuts or technology advances.
- Next check the company’s LinkedIn company page and see if there are any current or past employees in your network who you could contact for more information.
- When you’ve done your research, write down how your experience and skills can help the company solve the challenges you’ve uncovered or help it to achieve its goals.
3. Get specific about your experience in your interviews
While it’s perfectly acceptable to pause and gather your thoughts when you’re asked a question, humming and hawing over every answer is not a good look.
Take some time before the interview to think of specific examples from your previous work history that demonstrate your skills. If you work in marketing or advertising it’s likely that you’ll be asked how you’ve dealt with conflict, missed deadlines or managed client expectations. Write down five or six examples of scenarios that had positive outcomes. Be prepared to talk about challenging experiences and how you dealt with those too.
If you do this prep work (and it can be done in a couple of hours I promise), you’re far more likely to impress the panel.
How do you go at interviews? Do you get tongue-tied or nail it every time?