Make life experience count.

When helping people develop their answers for interview questions it’s hard to know exactly what will be asked. Here are a few examples of questions to expect in your interview:

  • What are your strengths and weakness?
  • How do you think and problem solve various issues?
  • What are your personal and professional goals and how do they fit in with the job you are seeking?
  • Why do you think you are the right candidate for the open position?

Such interview questions shouldn’t throw people off, and I’ve often wondered, “Why don’t we prepare people for these types of questions all the way back in high school or college?” I once asked this question to a professor and her answer stunned me. She said that it was difficult to teach young job seekers how to answer interview questions because they hadn’t been out working yet. You have got to be kidding me! Life happens! It’s what makes us who we are and every bit of personal experience counts when you are going into an interview.

An example of a job interview question about personal experience: 

Mary, a college graduate, was asked to ‘tell about a time when you worked on a team to achieve a difficult goal?’ Mary thought about this and realized that her time on her collegiate swim team provided a perfect example. Recreational, volunteer, and educational experiences matter.  Many kids are on teams growing up: sports, music, debate, drama, art, IT, science and the list goes on. Crafting an example of the challenge, adding what you and the team had to do to over come the challenge, and sharing the results are easy to imagine. What makes this type of story so beneficial during an interview is when you add what that experience taught you and what you do now because of that experience.

How to make your personal experience stand out in a job interview:

Example 1: After Mary shared her team experience in college, she then explained that the added practice she and her team had to do to be competitive taught her how to understand when added effort is needed, that discipline and consistent effort pays off, that communicating to support and lift up the great work by her team motivated the group and even kept her going when she felt overwhelmed. That what she does now in her new work roles is very similar, especially when working on an important project. She has learned to identify her own strengths as well as those of others and works to stay deadline focuses as well as produce great results for the client. Example 2: Todd was interviewing for a supervisor position. He did not have supervisor experience from his current or past positions but he had successfully been in charge, with great success, of his town’s efforts to create environmentally friendly playgrounds. When asked to share “why he felt he had the right experience for the job,” he shared the challenge he faced when asked to take over the town project; he shared all the supervision efforts he had to put into action, the number of people he had to manage, how he had to motivate the volunteers, coordinate the town employees, delegate responsibilities to others to manage their teams, and what the results were (a very successful implementation of several new playgrounds). Then he shared how all that experience had taught him about himself, about his supervisor style, and responsibilities to his team. He finished answering the question with how he would utilize what he had learned in the new role. He recieved the position over several others with more supervisor experience in their work roles.

The most important thing to prepare for a job interview is examples of relevant personal experience.

When stepping into an interview, do not hesitate to include examples of your skills in action outside of work to showcase how you use your skills in all areas of your life. Why? Because, not every question will allow you to share a work experience, especially if you are a graduating senior who has not been able to fully work outside of school obligations yet, or, like Todd, you lack the opportunity for that specific role at work, but gain the opportunity outside of work. The key is to turn every answer around and offer what each experience taught you and what you do now at work because of that experience. Why? Because that’s what they are buying when they hire you. Plain and simple. They are hiring your experience in using your skills and they need to hear how you gained that experience and what you do now because of it. To understand how all your experience count in the interview, reach out to Carole Stizza, SHRM-SCP, ACC: carole@relevant-insight.com. Carole is an HR professional and Work Solutions Coach who has crafted interview and promotion training for rising managers to successfully promote up. From graduating senior to executives, what to offer about yourself in the interview is her specialty.

Download our eBook: Interviewing UP

Interviews fall short if you don’t learn how to be relevant, both in understanding your own success and how it aligns with the job you want (and what the company wants from you). Interviewing UP shows you how to stop reaching for canned answers and start rising to the occasion with relevant information.

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