Staying in the same job for your entire career is not a typical scenario for most government workers, making interviewing for jobs a necessary evil. Believe it or not if you prepare correctly, you can blow away the competition and never again be caught unprepared during an interview. In last week’s post about writing a rock star resume, we talked about taking a few minutes every quarter to keep your resume in showroom quality. Today, I’m going to give you some tips for using the information you gathered for your resume updates to pre-prepare for your next interview.
Last week we talked about keeping a folder in your desk to gather your accomplishments and data over every three-month period to use for updating your resume. At the end of the quarter, when you go through your folder to make your updates, you might find several notable accomplishments that do not rise to the level of adding to your resume. These can be put to excellent use for your interview portfolio.
Step one in building your interview resources, is to start by writing down typical behavioral-type questions you are likely to be asked. Behavioral questions are the ones in which you are asked to describe what you would do or have done in a specific situation. Write down every question of this type you can think of. Here are some examples of frequently asked questions:
• How would you handle a conflict with a coworker
• How do you deal with quickly changing priorities
• Give an example of a mistake you made that had repercussions
Step two is to come up with real life examples of how you have handled each situation in the past. For each question, try to come up with at least two or three examples. Now, write out your example, formatted as an answer to the question. Your answer should include key points like what you did, why you chose that action, what other actions you considered, the outcome, and what you did for follow up. Your answer should also relate to a specific job on your resume. An example would be: “When I worked for XYZ Company in 2010, a co-worker and I had a disagreement about how we should do a task, and the deadline was approaching. We agreed to each do a cost-benefit analysis of our methods and compare the results. We would choose the one that seemed to be the best fit for our resources. By using a fact-based comparison to choose our method, the co-worker and I experienced increased professional trust between ourselves and completed this task prior to the deadline”.
Each example you have collected in your resume folder can be put to good use as responses to interview questions. Questions that are not behavioral in origin should also be answered by giving an example which highlights your skills. For instance if you are asked whether you work best independently or in a team, have an example ready that showcases your teamwork skills such as negotiation, compromise, and mission-oriented focus.
Step three: organize your interview resource and start practicing! To make your interview reference book as useful as possible, I recommend using a binder and a set of tabs to break your information into sections. Use one page for each question and example-containing response. Print your pages and organize them in your binder, in sections for particular types of questions, or sections that highlight particular behavior. By using the binder, you can reorganize your pages until they make the most sense for you. Now, practice giving your examples out loud until you can deliver them smoothly and with confidence. One of the most effective ways to become polished at giving impromptu responses is to practice in Toastmasters. This is a great group to practice your interview answers on and receive feedback to help you be even more effective.
What tips do you have to interview like a pro? Comment below!
Brenda Dennis is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.