Interview tips: Focus on your strengths
What are the key messages you're delivering in your job search campaign? Identify them by focusing on your best assets.
What do you have to offer an employer? Why should that employer choose you over someone else? What will make interviewers remember you after they're done with their first round of meeting potential candidates?
It's about matching their problems and needs with your qualifications, skills and traits. Your mission is to convince interviewers that you are the solution they've been seeking.
Make your case
Concentrating on your five best strengths will help you focus during the interview and will make it easier for them to remember you. You can begin before the interview by identifying your five key strengths and matching them up with the job requirements. Once you've done that, determine ways to bring up these matches during the interview.
Susan Croce Kelly of Kirkpatrick International in Houston is a communication specialist who writes speeches for executives. She advises telling your audience what you are going to say early in your presentation and then repeating your points throughout. “It is not unusual for people to say ‘What a wonderful speech,' and then five minutes later can't remember what it was about,” says Kelly. “If they remember two ideas from a speech, that is scoring high. Repetition is really important, because they might miss it the first time. Keep going back to the main point.”
You can actually use the speech model to prepare your presentation. Think of ways to present your key qualities throughout the interview. For example, let's say you're interviewing for a position that requires strong organizational skills.
The first interview question the interviewer asks is, "Tell me about yourself.” Part of your answer should include a statement about your organizational skills. “One of my key strengths is being organized. If you were to ask my coworkers, they would tell you I am the ultimate planner.”
Later in the interview, you could repeat your strength in a story format: “One project I worked on was very complex and detailed. It required a lot of forethought and planning on my part. I was able to do this using Microsoft Project software for tracking and scheduling.”
The interviewer asks, "“Why should we hire you?” Your interview answer should repeat information about being organized. “From what I have heard throughout the interview, it sounds like you're looking for someone to come in and bring order to projects here. Since I am known for my organizational skills, I know I would be a real asset.”
By the time you leave the interview, the interviewer should have a strong sense that you're a very organized person. Since this is important for the job, you will probably receive serious consideration as the solution to the company's problem.
What are your strong points?
Identifying your five strengths and matching them to the job is an important step in preparing for your interview. Read through the description and identify the key factors needed to do the job. Be sure to read between the lines. For example:
- Will interact with accounting, engineering and manufacturing departments.
What will it take to perform this task? What kind of person is this company looking for?
It will require good communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to interface with a diverse group of people and levels. If these are your areas of strength, focus on letting the interviewer know that you have the ability and experience to interface well with many different groups.
Like the speechwriter, you want your audience to remember the important points you have made. By concentrating on a handful of strengths, you will find that you are more focused and succinct about telling what you have to offer. More importantly, the folks you meet are more likely to remember you for your strengths.
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