In our last blog, “Edit your stories – Part 1 The value of Advanced Planning”, we explored the idea of preparing your job interview responses in advance then practicing until the words flow off your tongue smoothly. This great idea helps me sound good.
But what happens when you are in the interview and the interviewer throws you a curve ball?
This reminds me of a story. When I was a VP of Human Resources, sales people used to come to my office to try to sell me things. I usually took their calls because sometimes they had interesting ideas that I could use. Many times a salesperson came to my office, said hello, and immediately jumped into their presentation. They seldom bothered to ask questions about my situation. They just started talking. I remember one poor fellow who, upon being interrupted, picked up his speil at the exact spot he left off! It was actually sad. I bet he didn’t close many sales.
Consider yourself the salesperson in this story. You come into the room all prepared to tell me your story. You know exactly what you want to say in response to all the possible questions I might throw at you. What if I ask you a question you haven’t considered? Or what if I ask a question in a different way? What do you do then?
Several things could happen:
- You could freeze up.
- You could proceed to give the answer you prepared. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen.
- Or you could regroup, rephrase, and punt.
You only control one half of the interview situation. Your half. You cannot control what the interviewer does or says. You can, however, influence it.
Here are some tips on how to edit your stories on the spot:
- Consider your interview responses to be stories you have available to you. Sort of like tools in a toolbox that you can pull out to fit the situation. If you work on your stories as hard as you work on possible responses to questions then you will be prepared to pull out a story that fits.
- Listen carefully to what is being asked. What aspect of a story in your toolbox will fit this question? Pick out that story and adjust it a little on the spot to tell the story you want told in response to that variation.
- Structure your response to “Tell me about yourself” in a way that makes your responses to this overview question so compelling that the interviewer wants to ask lots of follow up questions on the ideas you raised. This is really strategic. With this method, you take over the interview. You love to talk about those particular stories. You can talk for hours about the ideas you preent in your response to “tell me about yourself”. Those ideas fit both your strategic plan and the strategic elements of the job.
- Find ways to turn the interview into a conversation by finding points of interest between you and the interviewer that coincide. The areas of common interest can fill up lots of time in interviews and are areas where you excel.
Even if you are a reluctant speaker who needs lots of preparation, like me, you need to be able to edit your stories on the spot. Being prepared gives you many stories in your toolbox that you can pull out and adjust on the spot, giving you the flexibility you need to appear spontaneous.