From birth, we are told to not big-note ourselves – to not bang on and on about how we’re the best. Showing off is something that Americans do. If people want to fit in Down Under, they don’t.
Job interviews, then, can be a bit of a shock to the system, for self-effacement clearly doesn’t pay off. All of a sudden, we all must set modesty aside and become shoulder-padded movers and shakers. We must become people who “can do” because have “know how,” and frequently use words like “pronto’ and “jiffy’. Natural leaders who are also team players. Proactive, dynamic go-getters who are also happy to menial tasks. Hard workers with boundless ambition and ability who would never think of leaving if things got a bit dull.
On top of all that, we’re also supposed to be likeable.
So how is all this to be done? The first step is obviously to Google some questions, print them all out, and practice some answers. Rope in your partner, a parent or a friend, and force them to cross-examine you again and again. Record yourself talking and listen to the result, shudder with embarrassment, and then record again. There’s absolutely no substitute for practice and feedback when it comes to making the artificial feel natural.
However, what if your wife, mum or pal ask the wrong kinds of questions? While most interviews start with “Tell me about yourself,” beyond that they can go just about anywhere. This website looks at the eight broad categories of potential questions these days, from basic CV verification (“Tell me about your job at Y”) to hypothetical scenarios (“What would you do if Z?”).
Don’t worry, there’s no need to prepare answers for hundreds of questions. However dissimilar most may appear on the surface, they essentially all want the same sort of answers. What interviewers are wanting to hear, whatever they happen to ask, is something concrete and relevant. They want to hear about a specific problem that you’ve had, and how you successfully solved it. Most of all, they want to be told why your successes make you a good fit for the job.
It’s commonly called the STAR technique, but could just as easily be called KISS (keep it simple, stupid). To prepare for any interview, just write out a list of ten or so things that you’ve achieved in your life and match them to a list of the ten or so things the recruiter seems to be looking for (“stakeholder management skills,” “social media savvyness,” etc). Chances are, each question is intended to cover one of those things in some way, however oddly it’s actually worded.
All you need to do, then, is bring out an achievement from your mental list and link it to the “thing” that they’re hinting at. Then just smile, breathe and pretend to look confident.
Practice this technique again and again – and, after a while, you won’t have to pretend.