Crafting an Action Plan to make the most of your Job Interviews

In a previous Post I shared with you some easy steps to craft a high quality resume. In this post I complement those ideas with actions that have helped me during the Job Interview process. I hope you can find a few valuable pointers here.


You need a Plan. Seriously!

Early on my career I didn't use to think too much about my job interviews. I just used to read some background information on my potential employer, give a quick look on my profile to make sure there were no surprises, and made sure I knew how to get there so I could make it early. I tried to project a confident image and build rapport with the interviewer. But that was pretty much it. I just hoped to find favor in the eyes of the interviewer and get the position.

All of those things are good things to do. However there was a problem. They were just isolated things that I did once more whenever I had an interview. 

Nothing allowed me to connect the dots between an interview and the next one. The only way to create value in that way was to actually get the job. And in my experience that doesn't happen every time I attend an interview. There a myriad of things  that come to play a role into that outcome. 

So, by doing that I was destroying huge amounts of value. I could have created value by connecting the dots between my interviews. Seeing this as a career development process I would have found ways to improve and develop my skills. Even if I did not get the position at that time.

This becomes really important since as I mentioned on my previous Post,  Job Searching is something that we don’t do very often (usually not) . So the need to learn and improve as much as possible from one event to the next is great.

So what I did about it?

Planning the Interview

I crafted a simple document format that I could use to plan ahead for my interviews. I captured general things like the position and company I was being interviewed for; the date of the interview; and who was my interviewer (if I knew about it).

Then I entered four things on that form:

A section with the highlights I wanted to make from my experience that I considered could be of greatest value for my interviewer, based on the description of the position they published. Also stopping by on ways I can use to sell my strengths and ways on which I can advocate for my weaknesses.

A section including the 5-10 questions I could get asked. It is very easy to find the most common ones on the internet. And pointers or a short script on how I could best answer them.

Then a section including 3-5 questions I wanted to ask. If you should come with something to a Job Interview it is certainly with questions. Job description as it has been published provides a good idea on the responsibilities waiting for you. But is far from a complete perspective. So you want to dig dipper on what are you getting into. There are also the general considerations about expectations which are likely to feed more questions to put on the table. Just prioritize the most important ones so you don’t annoy the interviewer and don’t jeopardize your own process.

Finally a Things to Remember section. Including reminders and short quotes I wanted to easily keep in mind to stay focused during my interview.

If the interview happened to be the second one or the third one in a process then I also included at the beginning a section including my most important notes from the previous meeting or meetings. I’ll talk more about this in a moment.

During the Interview

There several things that come into play during your interview and there is no unique way to make a good interview. Here are some hints that I find useful to remind myself when I embark on this task.

Stay confident, stay cool – these people already like you, and that is great news. From the huge pile of resumes they got for this hiring process, they liked yours enough to pick it up, make the phone call and invite you to an interview. So your job during the interview is not to mess it up. This doesn't mean you will get the job. It means you want to leave them with a good image of yourself and a sense of how you can contribute if you are brought on-board.  It is their job to decide who is the best match for the open position at this point.

Don’t be a smart ass – selling yourself and present yourself in the best possible way is fine. The Job Interview and the Job Search process in general is all about that. However a good performer knows how to play in a team and knows what he or she is good at and what he or she is bad at. No one can be good at everything. So whenever you are asked about your weaknesses speak candidly about them and what are you doing to improve. Do not hide them. Whenever you are asked about results, it is good and expected to talk about your role, your contribution and your leadership. But make sure to also state the overall performance and achievements on the team. I've been interviewing candidates which every time something goes wrong, they answer blaming their team. That says a lot…

Learn about behavioral questions – there is this thing called behavioral question. It is one of the things that recruiters and interviewers really love these days. It basically means crafting questions that seek for very specific answers from a candidate’s experience. They like them because they are greater quality questions that provide better insights into how you deal with situations. If you answer them in the right way. So make sure you learn about them and how you can craft adequate answers based on your experience and skills.

 Learning from the Interview

As soon as possible after the interview I come back to my planner and enter a few postmortem things. This is critical to do since it will help learn from the process. No matter if I finally land the position or not.

I add a Summary section at the beginning of my document. This summary describes in a few sentences my overall and honest perspective on how I consider I did it during the interview.

I add my lessons learned sections to the form. These are short very specific statements on three things:  What went well during my interview? What did not go well during the interview? What I would do different next time?

Finally I stop by the questions sections on my form and I label the questions that I actually got asked or that I actually made during the interview. In this way I have a much better idea of how the round of Q&A may look like in a future interview.

This tips have really made a difference for me and I pray that they could add value for you. I encourage you to please post a comment to let me know what do you think about them and to share what things have worked for you on your professional journey. You can feel free to drop me an email or send me a tweet about it. I’ll try to get back with you as soon as possible.

Have a nice week!

    - Sergio Calvo

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