In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
One of the key concerns people have entering interviews is ensuring that they have enough different planned “stories” to answer all the possible questions they might get. When you consider that some interviews can last more than an hour and focus exclusively on your experiences, it may seem a daunting task to have such a wealth of stories. Do I have enough to talk about to fill 60 whole minutes?
Of course you do!! If you are over 25 years old, then you have lived for more than half a billion waking minutes. Surely you can fill a mere 60 with lively, vivid, and eloquent stories about some of those minutes. What makes you feel that you cannot is that you have not spent enough time remembering those experiences and speculating on how they might map to potential interview questions.
If you have been following along, you know some of the basic, core interview questions that you want to prepare for. And you also probably know that some questions will be surprises that you cannot directly prepare for. Regardless, the first step is reminiscing.
- Remember your experiences. Think through the rich detail of your memories. Focus on what was challenging, what was unusual, who helped you, who stood in your way, and why the experience mattered to you. Pay attention to your emotions as well. Those will be an important part of the story.
- Once you have a nice catalog of experiences—and we recommend actually creating a numbered list in rank order to the extent that you are able to prioritize them—start thinking about how those experiences map to potential questions. Which ones would work for leadership? Which ones for teamwork? Which ones have an element of failure, mistake, or disappointment in them, even if they ended successfully? And so forth.
- Have a plan B. If your top choice story for both leadership and teamwork is the same, be sure that you have a backup story—or even better, two!!—for each question. You know that duplicating stories in interviews should be avoided. So be sure you have multiple stories that could fit with each type of question.
- Be flexible!!! When you are in your interview, remember, there is no right answer. This is not a test. It is a conversation. And most experiences have many different aspects that are relevant. So, don’t sweat it if you have to use your plan C leadership story for a question. If you have already talked about your top accomplishments in an intelligent way, then assume the message got across.