Some of our work as coaches involves helping people with career progression – working out what is right for them, preparing for interview, etc. I guess that will increase in the next few months, as many people are seeking a different perspective and looking for new opportunities.

I have been on both sides of the interview table many times. You have my sympathy! On the other hand, if you plan carefully and know what you are looking for, this could be your best move ever. My good friend and colleague  Oliver Hansard has produced a blog with very useful advice called 12 Job Hunting Tips for the New Year. Each blog entry has a follow-up post from an experienced coach in our Henley-qualified group. It’s well worth a read.

Here’s my take on Oliver’s post Number 9: Being ready for open questions

Examples and evidence

Oliver advises you to bring in examples of skills and achievements that support a decision to employ you. He is so right. Identifying examples through your experience of times when you demonstrated key competencies and skills is fundamental to navigating the interview process successfully.

You need to dig deep. Be ready to explain not only what you have done but also what you learned from your experience and how this learning transfers into the new role. Ideally, you are looking for examples that show your new employer who you are, what is important to you, how you will fit into the organisation and why your skills are perfect for the role they are offering, taking account of their current business priorities. Look back at Oliver’s earlier posts to see how these ideas come through. As my mum used to say – ‘Easy peasy lemon squeezy!’

To answer well, you really need to understand the business, the role you are applying for, and why they should offer it to you. That is what allows star candidates to shine out from the galaxy of potential applicants and, of course, they are the ones who get the jobs. Could you spot Orion? Most recruiters can.

Let’s take an example where two candidates are trying to make a similar point….

Interviewer: “What does leadership mean to you?”

Candidate 1: “Well, I think it’s important to have good communication skills, so that people understand what you are trying to achieve and what you want them to do.”

Pretty good? Room for improvement?

Interviewer: “What does leadership mean to you?”

Candidate 2: “Well, I think a good start is to be able to communicate well with your team and others in the organisation. I think that’s one of my strengths. Shall I give you an example of where that worked well for me?”

Interviewer: “Sure, go ahead.”

Candidate 2: “When I joined [business x] to lead [team y], I told everyone that I would spend the first couple of weeks speaking to the leadership group and my own team to work out what was important to them and the priorities for the next few months. That’s exactly what I did. I listened carefully and did my best to ensure that people felt heard. It was hard work but interesting. It was worthwhile because I started to understand the people and the business and when I introduced the new project plan, people seemed to understand what I was trying to achieve and got on board very quickly. In this new role, where my brief is to ……………… I think it will be important to……………….”

Who gets the job?

Planning answers like this with examples and evidence of your skills may sound laborious but it is time well spent. Thinking through your experience gives you plenty of material that you can draw on to guide the interview towards your safety zones – the strengths you want to emphasise whatever your question.

Good luck! Drop me a line if I can help.