First, one must prepare for this by being ready to answer while not sounding too artificial or fabricated. With this in mind, it shouldn’t be anything too boring or too detailed, but rather it should tell the interviewer a story, more specifically, the story of you: “I grew up thinking I wanted X, but then decided differently, or I got punched in the face with the reality of what that job accurately was.”
Second, promptly explain your pivot point. “When I realized that X was not going to work out, I wanted to find something that I was good at.” For example: While being at a 4-year university in business school, I knew personally that it wasn’t for me, but I enjoyed and was rather good at working with my hands, and as a result, I enrolled in an HVAC program.
Next, you need to steer the interview to where you are now: “Since getting out of school, I have worked at Company Y and have been on some amazing projects,” or “Now I’m ready to focus on the next part of my career and that is why I applied to this company.” Do not go off on a tangent or simply speak to fill up space, but just tell a story.
Then comes the part in the interview where they ask you to tell them about when you have dealt with a specific issue or to tell them about your strengths or weaknesses. You can’t possibly prepare for all of the broad questions because you simply do not know which ones are going to be asked. However, with that in mind, what one can do is prepare for at least 3 questions with corresponding stories. Story number 1 could be when you overcame an unexpected obstacle, and this can range anywhere in your life from your current job to when you worked part-time in high school. Story number 2 could be when you dealt with a personnel issue or team issue. Story number 3 could be how you found a new opportunity while on the job. Perhaps the company was going one way and you saw something different or an opportunity to try something new that worked. These are the things you can and must do to prepare for yourself.
Now the important question of how you prepare for the company is asked. It is imperative that you do some research on the company, and this can be accomplished by using their website and social media to educate yourself on their business. If you can, try to learn about the person conducting the interview and see if they have a bio or about me on the company website. But more importantly, have an opinion about what they are good at and what they can improve on. When looking through their social media post, look at pictures, read the comments, and most importantly read the reviews. Customers love to tell you how you can do better. Use this to your advantage. Bring up some of the things you liked or that they did well. Everybody loves a compliment. Then talk a bit about how they can improve and how you can help do that. The most unattractive thing that could be done would be bringing up anything negative without presenting a plan to fix it.
Finally, they are always going to ask you, “Do you have any questions for us?” Always ask them questions. This may sound common but don’t be fooled as it has underlying connotations. It is still a part of the interview as they do not ask this to be polite but rather want to see how you react. You should answer along the lines of, “By now I have a good idea of the company and what I think you’re looking for, but I’m curious about something. If you think forward to 6 months or a year from now, and you picture the person you hire for this job doing an amazing job, what do you picture them doing that tells you they succeeded?” This does 2 things for you: first, it shows them that you are wanting to learn how you can please them, and secondly, what you are going to do to help them. They are looking for a new team member to solve a problem, so you must be that person. Next, they will tell you exactly what they expect, and that becomes your chance to bring it back to them by saying, “I think I’m the right person for you because…,” and explain how you’ll solve the problem in the way they just described. You’re not begging for a job. Always come across like you are wanting to add value to the team, and you bring more to the table than anyone else.
Hopefully these little hacks will give you a competitive edge over the next person and get you hire faster! Thanks to Shaan Puri and MFM for some great ideas and content that helped with this post.