Until someone shouts it out loud, walking towards you with their hand outstretched.
As you greet this person, you try to keep your hand steady…but it feels like they can see right through you. There’s no way you’re going to get this job, you might think.
I know, I know–I’ve heard it plenty of times. Going on an interview can seem like it’s a scary thing. But, let me let you in on a little secret: You have no reason to be nervous. You are interviewing that company just as much as they are interviewing you (if not more!).
Sound crazy? Well, through my experience helping thousands of people to land their dream career, I’ve seen this magic trick in action. When you’re just…you during the interview process, you’re no longer at the mercy of that big company–and you end up landing that dream job with ease.
It might seem difficult to wrap your heard around though (and easy enough to say, Scott!). On an interview it feels like you have to be on your best behavior hoping that your skills and personality align with the expectations of the person sitting across the table from you. It often feels like throwing a dart against the wall in a pitch black room.
But, when you learn how to be authentically you during the interview process, that’s no longer the case. And today, along with Career Coach Evangelia LeClaire, I will tell you exactly how to do it.
The most important part of interviewing authentically? Your mindset.
Long before you even begin thinking about going on an interview, you need to get into the right mindset. This accounts for nearly 80% of your interview success!
Having a confident, present mindset allows you to head into your future interviews with ease. It channels your nerves (those sweaty palms and racing heart) into excitement instead. And, it allows you to be yourself.
In order to get into this mindset though, you have to know yourself well, and respect your past experiences. You need to understand your career equity. And, that takes introspection.
That introspection doesn’t come overnight either. It’s a practice that builds up over time, which is why “cramming” for interviews isn’t effective. Being true self in an interview comes down to self-development.
Interview prep starts long before the interview is scheduled
Since a large part of being successful in interviews, and ultimately landing your dream job comes down to organizational alignment, it takes a lot of prep work to understand what is a career fit.
So, let’s take a step back.
Evangelia suggest that this path of self-discovery could happen on your own, or with a coach. “But importantly,” she says, “you should start with identifying your strengths.”
If you’re at the very beginning stages of your self-discovery, we have a great resource that helps you get clear on what the right career is for you. It’s an 8-day course that makes you dig deeper, and understand what those strengths are.
Evangelia suggest another great tool: A Trello Board.
A Trello Board allows you to collect all of your values, strengths, and what type of work energizes you. You can complete this exercise with a coach, or on your own–though it’s usually helpful to have a second pair of eyes (even if it’s just a friend!). Regardless, you should use an organizational tool like Evernote to keep track of these findings–they will come in handy later, I promise.
And remember — a little more conversation never hurts
Once you have done your self-discovery work, get to talking…a lot.
Connecting with people in the organization you’re interested in will help you get clear on your own personal values and what the company is about. And, it will be an extreme bonus when the actual interview roles around.
During our conversation, Evangelia reminds us that this discovery phase extends to finding the right organization, too.
“I think a lot of us get into interviews and feel we are at the mercy of the company which isn’t a great mindset to have. People that go with that mindset accept a role or convince a company that they are the fit for a role that they really aren’t right for. That causes eventual agony and months and years of waste. “
It’s important to remember that the preparation phases before you land the interview are just as important–and cramming never works. Spending time getting to know yourself and the organization you think you’re interested in working for might seem like it takes a lot of time and energy–but at the end of the day it could save you years of your life.
But when you enter these “informational” chats, what might you say?
Evangelia shares a couple of simple conversation starts that could help:
When you get to the actual interview–even if it’s not with the same person that you spoke with during your exploration phase, you can leverage the information that you learned. Whether it’s concrete examples, or even just knowing the tone of conversation within the organization’s culture, all these learnings will prove helpful.
Also, it’s scientifically proven that we build trust faster with people we are familiar with. It’s not “name dropping” anymore, right?
So, the interview is finally scheduled: Now what?
So, you finally have The Big Interview on your calendar. Don’t start getting nervous yet–you’ve already been doing your homework for a long time!
Evangelia shares a few important tools and practices to use during this phase. The first is getting organized, and referring back to that self-discovery work you did in the beginning: your Trello Board.
“Rather than going in worrying how to answer the 30 most common questions in an interview, whittle it down to what they are seeking and creating stories that support it. It’s so much easier for you to pull out these stories out without saying the same thing during each question.”
After looking back at your strengths, compare them with the career competencies listed on the job description. These might be project management, or data analysis–basically, the “skills” you’ll need for the job. After comparing these two important pieces of information, you can start crafting your stories.
You should prepare about 3 – 4 stories about the core competencies you know are important for this role. In this process you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to think of clear examples that demonstrate your true self–and how your strengths align with this role. Leave out the minute details.
There are a couple of different frameworks that we like to use in the coaching world. You can use the “present, past or future” framework (one of my favorites!):
“It can sound like currently I’m a ____. Where I get to do ___ (things that are relevant) and before that I did ____ (inserting relevant traits and experience), and in the future I want to ____. “
The Big Day: Top 3 Tips To Keep In Mind During Your Interview
So, you made it to the big day: Your Interview.
Out of all the preparation you did, Evangelia and I have 3 major tips to keep in mind, so that all that hard preparation comes in handy.
- It’s all about your mindset Remember, 80% of your interview success is about your mindset. Think about all the preparation you did to get here, and all of the experience you have relative to this role. Be confident!
- Think of your stories as guideposts Your stories should guide you throughout your conversation. Don’t have anything memorized, or know exactly how you would answer the “Top 30 Questions To Know When You Interview.” Knowing the content of your stories will be able to back you up for any question.
- Be flexible! Look for cues from your environment, and the person you’re speaking with. If you were set on telling a story about your 5th grade graduation (I wouldn’t recommend that anyway!), but your interviewer is taking you down another path – go with it. You got this!
Transcript from Episode
Go to http://www.happentoyourcareer.com/coaching/ to apply.
Scott Barlow: Welcome back to the Happen to Your Career podcast. I have with me a repeat, tri-peat guest. Our very own Evangelia Leclaire. Welcome back to Happen to Your Career.
Evangelia Leclaire: Thank you for having me. So excited to be here.
Scott Barlow: I’m excited to have you on every time. We have a particularly interesting set of helpful topics. This is something we encounter again and again with our students and clients. You have had a ridiculous amount of experience in this area. We are going to talk about interviewing and breaking down the pieces to make it easier and authentic which is a keyword. We talked to Margaret that worked with you and that is one of the main topics that came up being able to show yourself authentically in the interview.
Evangelia Leclaire: Definitely so important.
Scott Barlow: We are going to dig into all of those pieces and take people through not just the mindset pieces but how to leverage different things that come up in the interview and your knowledge of the position, company and interviewers and how to prepare along the way. All of that; let’s break this down. I want to try and answer as many of the common questions that come up. We talked a little before and said what are the top three or four things that are most important. You said right away mindset. Why?
Evangelia Leclaire: I said that because most people go into interviews, the thought sounds uncomfortable and makes people feel anxious because of the unknowns. Getting into the right mindset and being present and really knowing yourself is going to allow you go about the interview with more ease.
Scott Barlow: I think you are right for a variety of reasons. The mindset piece comes as surprise to most people. When I talk to them about interviews they are worried about whether I’m going to be sweaty and nervous, what am I going to say when the ask me tell me about yourself that always comes up, how do I answer the questions. Mindset is the last thing that shows up. But it impacts about all of those right?
Evangelia Leclaire: Yeah, nobody gets excited, they get excited when an interview is coming up but what follows is an avalanche of nerves. The mindset piece is so important when we think about how to prepare and going into the interview.
Scott Barlow: If we break it down further what are some of the things people can do to get focused in the right mindset for the time and place to be fully effective and show their true selves in the interviews?
Evangelia Leclaire: I have a few tips on this but the primary foundation is to really know yourself and accept yourself, your experience, the equity you have built in your career, and personal and professional life and appreciate that for what it is and begin to identify what you have done in your experience and character traits that could connect the dots to this future opportunity. Coming from that place knowing your values, your experience, skill set, milestone moments, successes and wins and building up the equity that will help you have the confidence and appreciate what you are, so no matter what comes next you can come from that place of knowing yourself and having confidence that who you are will connect the dots to the next things in you future.
Scott Barlow: There are two things I take from that. One that is semi obvious, no one is going to know yourself as well as you do. Unless you have that prerequisite of truly understanding yourself it’s going to be hard to articulate yourself in a way to a future boss or coworkers that will be endearing to them. That makes sense. The other part it seems like the piece buried in there is in order to be great at interviews you have to start prepping before there ever are interviews. Self development. I’m not sure how to term that. But you will be at a loss if you aren’t self-aware and you have an interview tomorrow and trying to cram and prep.
Evangelia Leclaire: Absolutely. Part of what will get you hired is the prep and foundational piece of knowing yourself so much so that you are clear on what you value, your strengths and ensuring that you are targeting opportunities that are in alignment and integrity to yourself values and skills. In an interview part of the work we advise you do is knowing the position, the employer, the company and values. And ensuring its somewhat aligned to who you are and being able to present that in the interview. There are a lot of tactics and strategies. But on a very basic level finding opportunities truly aligned with what you are is part of the foundational piece.
Scott Barlow: Let’s say that I know I’m going to make a career change which means I know I’m going to be doing some interviews in the next few months. That is the place where many of our listeners are. What can I do to begin performing those prerequisites that I know myself to a degree that will be helpful. What can I begin doing as I get to know the companies, positions, those things I can understand if it lines up?
Evangelia Leclaire: The discovery piece of yourself is checking back in and digging deep with a coach or your own soul searching. I often like to start with values. If you didn’t know Scott I’m a lover of Latin. I studied it in high school and college and I love words. Ancient Greek and Latin I love connecting to the English language. Values comes from the Latin word valor which means strength. If you are living from your value set you feel stronger overall in your life. We’ve talked about a lot understanding what your strengths are from the strengthsfinder perspective, what your personality is and how that plays into your work and what energizes you. Passion and skillset.
We start with the basic foundational piece to get into the layers of who you are and going into how you can begin preparing and coming from a place of confidence. Write it down and put it in Evernote or Trello, your values, strengths, personality and what energizes you will help you get clear identifying opportunities that are in alignment. When we talk about finding opportunities and you do find them and prepare for interviews reviewing the company, job description and speaking to people at the company to understand where there is alignment. As you get clear on what is required of the position and what interests you write it out and categorize it. if you know a job requires someone great at customer service, problem solving and consultative sales write those in buckets and assemble your stories and strengths and experiences that can really harness the character traits and competencies required in the positions that interest you.
Scott Barlow: This is super helpful and I want to pull a couple things out so they don’t get lost. On thing people may have glossed over but hat is important as you are going through the process to know yourself if you don’t know where to start or dig deeper one resource we have is at figureitout.co. You can sign up for our eight day course that helps you get clear on the career that may be right for you and will help you dig deeper. What I don’t want to get lost is I heard you say as you are getting ready to interview make sure you are talking to others in the organization. What is weird that I have experienced and I’m curious on your thoughts is I’ve seen people when having those conversations makes it clear on what they want and don’t. They get clearer on their values. What have you seen?
Evangelia Leclaire: I’ve seen when that happens based on the questions you ask which should be intentional when getting insider information you begin to see yourself and whether you can see yourself in that position, company and culture. It’s like what you just said. The other part is you get a sense of the other person that is speaking of something you may not have known otherwise not listed on the company website or job description that can help you in an interview or determine that its not a right fit. Similar to your perspective.
Scott Barlow: I like what you are saying about helping to determine that its not the right fit too. I think a lot of us get into interviews and feel we are at the mercy of the company which isn’t a great mindset to have. People that go with that mindset accept a role or convince a company that they are the fit for a role that they really aren’t right for. That causes eventual agony and months and years of waste. Completely agree with that. Let’s talk about as people are going in and getting to know these people what are one or two examples they could ask if they are trying to get to know the company prior to the interviews.
Evangelia Leclaire: If you are speaking to someone on a team you are going to interview with it can be things like what are some challenges the team is currently facing in the next 90 days or you are excited about. Frame it in a way that you don’t sound negative or trying to grab negative dish. That can sound polite. Another question could be tell me what it is about the culture of this company you love that makes you feel great about going to work each day.
Scott Barlow: I love that. One thing interesting to me too trying to determine if something is a great fit if you have done this work and know what you want or need you can tailor those questions further. If you know on growth and learning you need a lot of both to line up with what you want they need to provide that, you may be able to ask that question. How does this person who is the boss, or this company support growth and learning? You can get to the specifics on what matters to you. It’s not always easy to do that. There is never a list of questions we can give you even though we can come up with hundreds of questions it’s better if you can customize to what you need.
How about another question. Let’s say that I am really getting to know this company and the people and the interviews. How do I leverage that information in an actual interview?
Evangelia Leclaire: One of the things you can do in conversation is mention you have connected with a few people at the company. Some people think is that even appropriate. But those who do it in most cases are commended for doing it. You are doing your due diligence you are seeing if it’s a good fit, good on you. In conversation be able to reference the examples or stories that others shared that made you feel connected to the role and team and bring those out politely will help the person feel like you are already part of the team because you can connect on a deeper level if you do it the right way.
Scott Barlow: There is a ton of psychology behind that too because we have a tendency to build trust faster with other people as we have familiarity with those people. One of the ways you mentioned to create that is to be able to describe the conversations you have had with people they already know and to share reasons you enjoyed and loved about the conversations. That creates that familiarity which causes people to like you and that like starts to turn into trust which turns into being closer to a job offer. Let’s talk about how to prepare for this upcoming interview. People have done a great job getting to know themselves they have been talking to people in the organization and doing due diligence. It seems to line up with their values and leveraging their strengths. Knowing that what can they do and what should they do to prepare for this upcoming interview.
Evangelia Leclaire: One of the things I like to encourage people to do is to begin housing this information in a system you can easily go into that is organized like Evernote or Trello and compartmentalize the things that line up with who you are and what are relevant for the opportunity is to begin stocking up your stories. To give you an example if you are going to interview and you have identified the core competencies they seek are sales, management and customer service and one other thing begin bucketing those in categories and prepare 3-4 stories that support how you have those skill sets. I say three to four because often when someone is interviewing you they want to know if you have the skill or character trait or value that matches what they need for their star candidate. Rather than going in worrying how to answer the 30 most common questions in an interview being able to whittle it down to what they are seeking and creating stories that support it it’s so much easier for you to pull them out without saying the same thing.
Scott Barlow: There are a couple valuable things about that. When I’ve met some people in the past and being at job fairs and things where there is interview prep and as I’m listening they are having people prep for particular questions. The 30 most common questions that show up. Make sure you have all the answers perfect. That isn’t particularly effective. First, what if they don’t ask those? You are out of luck. Prepping based on stories and those things that can be moved or shuffled to meet different situations will be more versatile rather than just those 30 questions. That is one thing I love. The second thing is if you go into it focused on what they need then that creates a different mentality and you come off differently and more helpful and likeable. All the good things and puts you in a position to decide if you want it or not. Not at their mercy. Let’s talk about competencies, that’s an HR word. Let’s break that down; how would you define that?
Evangelia Leclaire: It means the basic skills required to do the job. When you look at a job description it becomes clear what is needed, whether its project management, data analysis, sales, that is what core competencies are. Most HR people write a job description with the main core competencies. When you get good at identifying those and matching your stories to support that that is what we mean.
Scott Barlow: What is cool is you can start to loop this together. With talking to people in the organization you can find out what they think the most important skill sets will be. It’s a way to cheat without cheating. Maybe cheat is the wrong word but it’s another way to go through the backdoor, get the information up front, and stack the deck in your favor not with malice but good intention. Then you can prepare in the ways you are talking about. As you are thinking about those stories what is the best way to prepare those stories in your experience?
Evangelia Leclaire: Depending on your personality type its important to sit down and mine your mind. What experience do I have that I can speak clearly about that support how I’m awesome at sales? Beginning to ask those questions. Many people hire coaches to help them refine and dig out those stories to create clear concise stories. To get it from a point that can be delivered concisely and consistently there is a framework called STAR. Star stories. Being able to describe the Scenario, Task, Action, and Results.
Scott Barlow: If STAR is one too many letters to remember there is also SBO, the same thing, Situation, Behavior you exhibited, Outcome. If you break down any story, even Pixar films, you start to realize there is the beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is essentially what is the situation, problem, thing with tension, setting up the rest of the story, and what is the thing you did that impacted it and what was the result or learning. If you start to break down any good story you realize these elements are there. We want to do the same thing.
Evangelia Leclaire: You want to do so, with a fine line, not to be too detailed to lose the person listening but anchor in keywords, frame effectively so people can digest what you are sharing. There is an art to it.
Scott Barlow: How do we know and this is a little bit loaded, I know there are 8 -17 hours of answer but I’m asking you to pack it into a minute or two. What are some guideposts we can use to create relevant stories. I want to talk about relevancy and how it factors in.
Evangelia Leclaire: Oh my goodness, guideposts to create relevant stories. A lot of this will come through the work you will do beforehand by connecting with someone at the company will help you build a relevant story. That is a guidepost. Second, what are the traits, values, competencies, of the company and team. The third would be what interests and entices the person that is interviewing. What are psychological triggers that will engage the person. That comes with doing your research, connecting via social media, in a way that helps you prepare how to communicate with them. Their communication style and how they receive information that can be a guidepost to create a story they will engage with. A fourth is to frame it effectively. If they are asking you a specific question like tell me a time in which you made a significant impact in improving a teams performance you will be able to start with that frame and allow yourself to process and mine for a story that you will bring up but frame it so you aren’t going right into it and losing yourself and the interviewer. Then going into the situation, behavior and results. The simple frame to help someone process and anchor it with the specifics for a good story.
Scott Barlow: I have so many things running through my head. Those areas are where we tend to get caught up. I get questions like should I bring up that we were both on the crew team or about my childhood. What should I say at the beginning. I would go back to what you said, if it’s relevant to them or the position or to the company but most important to the people you are talking to then it’s a good guide work. It’s probably not relevant that you did a preschool parade and dressed as a monkey way back in whatever year but it might be relevant if you are interviewing for a company in the fashion industry and ever since you were a little kid you were interested in fashion then all of a sudden it’s relevant but it needs to be in the right context. That would be an additional rule of thumb. Is this relevant for the person, position? If its not then leave it out. I want to dig into tactics and get nitty gritty. When you are getting into really helping someone with the interview process and prepping you get all kinds of nitty gritty techniques. Can you describe what you do with clients to help them prepare so people can get a behind the scenes?
Evangelia Leclaire: Absolutely I provide a Trello board that allows us to outline the key things about yourself. Your values, strengths, personality type, we build out the key strengths you have and want to put to work and match that with what is sought with the company you are interviewing with and outline your stories. That is the tactical piece we know is about 20% of what will land you the interview or enable you to succeed in life. 80% is your mindset and coming from the place of confidence. I’ve had an awakening, confidence is a conversion of presence and face. I’ll divert into saying as much as I can put out the tactics, strategies and frameworks clients often need more work on the mindset. It’s coming from where you can get present and comfortable believing all the strengths and equity you have built in your career will help you connect the dots to the future that is more fulfilling. For career changers there is more anxiety because they can’t see how the dots connect yet which is why it’s important to work with a coach who has a birds eye view and help you connect the dots and pull out the stories but first confidence needs to be there. To answer your question we are circling back to foundation, mindset and strategy, tactics, framework to carve out relevant stories. Because so much junk is going through our brain I like to outline it into a visual clear framework using a system like Trello.
Scott Barlow: What might that Tello look like? Describe that. I’ll ask you for screenshots later so people can go to happentoyourcareer.com/216 and see what that can look like.
Evangelia Leclaire: The Trello board, it has a pdf article about the STAR or SBO framework. To help you understand it. We outline the core competencies from the job description and we create several lists/buckets. If its consultant in sales we’d have a bucket for that. I’d put in questions that fall into that category. Like give me an example of a time when you didn’t meet a clients expectations, what happened, and how did you attempt to solve this. I’ll put 2-3 questions that are relevant to that competency then three additional cards that I’d write out with STAR or SBO to prompt the person to write out their story in alignment with that.
Scott Barlow: That storytelling framework. Using that will make it easier. What then?
Evangelia Leclaire: We’ll put out our buckets that are relevant then write out, not the whole story, but the outline of what it is. Which is better than the whole story because you’d get scripted which is never good. We will write out three to four core skills, write out preference in how you’d like to be managed or led, your leadership and management styles, and your core values. We write out what is aligned with the values, mission, work ethic and culture you are pursuing. We will write out your strengths. I have a bucket for strengths and with strengthsfinder test we get about 5 key strengths and we give those their own buckets and we pull from that assessment test the phrases that roll of your tongue easily when you talk about yourself with your strengths. That can come out in an interview. I challenge you to think about how your strengths have conflicted and worked against you or perceived as a weakness so you can use your strength to talk about a place it was a challenge for you.
Scott Barlow: I love that anyone who has been listening to the show for a long time knows we don’t talk about weaknesses or care about them because people are successful because of their strengths and not minimizing weaknesses. Further is the spin you put on it being able to talk about that weakness with the shadow side of your strengths. Everyone has strengths which makes you great in some areas and less great in other areas but because of the strength. I love that what you guided us through on a Trello board or pulling them out one by one. That is a really amazing process to prep and outline everything we’ve talked about. Thank you for that. We are so getting a screenshot so you can see that and what that looks like. Go to happentoyourcareer.com/216 and you will be able to see that and how to better prep.
To your point, it is so much easier to do this with another person. If you are like me, what I say either sounds really good and I don’t know that it’s really bad or vice versa I’m thinking I can’t do it right but I’m on one side of the scale or the other. You can’t see your blind spots or you don’t know how good something is until you have the validation and feedback. I do want to hit before we end, although, and we talked about the 30 most common questions that might be asked in interviews, and we don’t want you preparing for those because its not useful but one thing that always happens is there is a start or introduction to an interview which might kick off with tell me about yourself or more organically. How would you advise people to start off or even introduce yourself in an interview or handle that beginning set of questions that can be more open ended and we don’t want people sharing the monkey they were in the preschool parade?
Evangelia Leclaire: There is so much we already know about us, so much to who you are and what you have done but don’t bring more than three things about yourself forward. Those three things need to harness some values, character traits, or skills that the interviewer might seek in their ideal candidate. I recently worked with someone who came back from being on a study abroad. What does that say about her? She is adventurous, able to go about in the face of adversity, and that is what we brought forward. Tell me about yourself: I am this and recently came about from studying abroad and travel is something I love to do. My point is being able to talk about an experience you have had or things you value that have the underpinnings of a trait, or skill relevant to the job. So framing it as I am this and bringing forward three things about yourself that support what this interviewer may seek in the ideal candidate.
Scott Barlow: I love that and to your point the three things is useful. Any framework,and there are many we’ve suggested and all are great, but it’s important to go into the interview with a framework you are comfortable with. The one you mentioned will work well, I’ve seen it. You can use another popular one, the present, past and future. It can sound like currently I’m a ____. Where I get to do ___ (things that are relevant) and before that I did ____ (inserting relevant traits and experience), and in the future I want to ____. That is another framework focusing on those skills. The important part is using a framework so you are comfortable and tailoring those relevant pieces leveraging skills and experience and presenting your best self.
Evangelia Leclaire: That framework the past present futures is part of the framework I’d coach people through with the stories. I totally agree.
Scott Barlow: That is great. To your point earlier there are probably five or six more frameworks I’d recommend but none of it matters, it’s much more about understanding yourself so you are able to articulate this. Those tools tactics and frameworks don’t mean jack if you can’t apply them in a useful way. That happens to people. I used that framework but it didn’t work for me. That means something was missing in knowing about yourself or application part. Those are prerequisites. I very much appreciate you taking us through this and giving us behind the scenes on how you help people prepare for interviews and get clear on how to come off authentically. This is phenomenal.
Evangelia Leclaire: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. I love talking about this stuff and helping people through it.
If you want to figure out what work fits you, find the fulfilling career that lights you up and gives you purpose, and you want help making it happen, coaching can help you step-by-step. Want to find out how?
Go to http://www.happentoyourcareer.com/coaching/ to apply.