The Recipe for Interview Questions Made Easy
Picture this! Currently, Lindsay is a consultant at a small firm and is ready for the next step in her career with a larger, more reputable firm. She is mentally preparing herself one day out from an interview for her dream job with her dream organization. She is aware that the most popular assessment tool in an interview is situational/behavior-based interview questions. She considers stellar responses for all of the ordinary “Tell me about a time…” questions and begins to feel paralyzed with an overwhelming sense of pressure. She struggles to write out as many tangible examples of accomplishments she has had on the job and does her best to figure out how they answer a situational question appropriately.
What is the Recipe Book?
Let’s now press pause in this scenario. Ask yourself this: can you feel the pressure that Lindsay might be experiencing at this moment? Have you found yourself in a similar predicament trying to gather all of your relevant experiential examples in time for the interview? Is there a solution to Lindsay’s mind-crippling problem? I can provide you an answer to the last question, which is a resounding: YES!
The solution is simple (and tasty, too). Keeping a personal account of experiences maintained over a consistent basis will help with recollection when the time calls for it - much like someone logging their “family baking recipes.” Think of this strategy as a “Dear Diary” documenting every professional achievement that would eventually serve as a knockout interview response.
Recipe Key Ingredients
To do this in real-time, one must consider the components of a quality answer. Think of an interview response as a tasty pastry with three (3) necessary ingredients.
The first ingredient is the “set-up” of the response - which is your specific responsibility, role or task in this particular situation.
The next ingredient is the collection of actions you took to resolve.
The final ingredient is quite possibly the most important for giving that lasting flavor which is the outcome or the impact your actions had for the firm.
Keeping in mind these three (3) ingredients - task, actions, and results - will allow you to maintain a recipe book of interview responses in your everyday professional life. To help explain this - let’s return to our friend Lindsay to roleplay one of these “baking lessons.”
Creating the Perfect Recipe
Lindsay recently was tasked with oversight of a large client project. Not only was she indirectly responsible for monitoring the performance of eight (8) of her colleagues to achieve the client’s desired outcome, but she also had to do extensive independent research to come up with an innovative solution to the client’s problem that had never been used. Besides delivering this solution well before the set time parameters, she also managed to solve the issue of employing resources valued at $100,000 below budget.
Feeling a true sense of accomplishment with her handling of this project, Lindsay decided to document this fabulous recipe in her recipe book. Throughout the project, Lindsay maintained a OneNote document detailing her role in the situation and how that specifically impacted the overall result (i.e., finishing ahead of schedule and the significant cost savings).
Following the resolution, she consolidated her notes to focus on the three key ingredients - task, action, and results - in a digestible manner that would serve as a compelling interview response. She thought about the fact that this particular example would answer a multitude of situational questions, to include: “Tell me about a time you had to lead a project team to achieve the desired outcome” and “Tell me about a time you were able to exceed a client’s expectations.”
Satisfied with the “tastiness” of this example, Lindsay decided to document more examples in her OneNote document that could eventually serve as an appropriate recipe for other “interview response” occasions. Over a year, she was able to capture ten examples that could serve as responses to most commonly used behavioral questions.
Maintaining Your Baking Recipe Book
It is evident that through Lindsay’s diligence of compiling a complete year with ten interview response “recipes,” she is going to be more than adequately prepared to plan for that dream job interview - or what we shall refer to as the baking competition. Lindsay has maintained a master diary of her best-tasting recipes and reviews them until they become second nature.
This diary enables her to turn them out with ease for whatever challenge comes her way during the competition. She considers the sequence of the ingredients for each of the recipes and specifically how to leave a lasting impression on the taste buds of the judges - interviewers - with that final ingredient of impact. Lindsay is ready to bake up some phenomenal interview responses. Just like that - the pressure Lindsay felt one year ago when preparing for her job interview - has suddenly dissipated.
Making use of this interview preparation strategy of maintaining a recipe book of interview responses can alleviate many job interview-related stressors. By documenting your everyday achievements as they occur, you can refer back to this book of records when this time comes. This will allow you to more easily recollect the situation-specific facts and figures and aid in your delivery during an interview.
While gathering recipes, try to collect ones that portray the unique characteristics and impacts you brought to the projects/jobs that also reflect your achievements. Additionally, this will help with responses to a variety of commonly posed interview questions.
Not only will this method help in interview preparation, but it can serve a dual purpose. If your current employer expects a self-assessment during annual review time, you can easily access and recall the accomplishments because you have steadily maintained them throughout the year. You can readily plug them into your employer’s self-assessment template. Further, it can be an excellent method to articulate why you are qualified for an internal advancement opportunity by your contributions.