I think we fear interviews because of uncertainties. There are infinite factors outside of our control, and remember to “relax, nothing is under control.” What might be under your control? Yourself! Control your physical fitness by resting, eating well, staying hydrated, and arriving early. Control your mental fitness by finding something humorous to enjoy beforehand. Control the interview by preparing yourself with one flexible story that you can build on throughout the conversation. Here’s mine:
The Printer Story’s got it all.
A customer reports an odd issue with a printer. Teammates address the issue in their own way, yet it keeps happening, and increasingly costs their department money. I get the report and dig deeper. Realizing it’s outside our team’s scope, I ask my manager if I can call together a quick 10-minute meeting with anyone potentially related to the issue. I explain the problem, someone recognizes the problem, we try it, and the fix sticks!
That’s the framework.
Notice all the nuances in the framework. “I ask my manager” shows I’m respectful toward management. “It’s outside our team’s scope” means that it’s no one’s fault we couldn’t sort it out. “Quick 10-minute meeting” shows that I’m not here to waste time. The narrative has a clean three-act structure: the Setup (technical issue), the Confrontation (we need to fix this because of the financial determinant), and the Resolution (we do).
Most importantly, I can add in many scenarios into the mix.
“How do you communicate technical concepts to non-technical customers?” “In that printer example I gave earlier,[2,3]” I explain a technical concept before explaining how I translate it based on the customer’s career, or interests, if the interview was focused on customer service. Your own equivalent to The Printer Story should be a launchpad for explaining key positive events in your career’s story. You shouldn’t be chained to it.
That story was just one event out of ten years of experience, after all.
Your story should have include three points. First, it should be something that shows a success in your field. Talk about how you saved the day in a particular situation. Second, it should show how well you work with others. Interviews are a mutual examination of psychological traits. If you get a bad vibe from them, you’ll probably be right, and likewise. Third, it should be something you actually did! Details are important!
Go find, or create, your own printer story!
Since this idea was based on The Commode Story in Reservoir Dogs, it’s important to know the nuances of your story. I thoroughly understand the technical concepts involved with the printer and the applications involved. I can even tell you the customer’s full name! I can tell it all from memory. I have no doubt in my mind about it. Once you’ve practiced your story to that degree, interviews become easier, because that’s one thing you can “control.”
Then forget about that story.
Don’t pretend to control the direction of the interview.
Just enjoy the uncertainties.
|Sources: My interview experiences.
Inspirations: A recent interview.
Photo: Unrelated. It does tie-in with my idea of a branching interview story. If you have a solid trunk story, then you can “branch out” the story based on the questions you’re being asked. If they relate, it’s a solid branch. If not, and as another footnote thought, have more than one story practiced just enough. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on it, though, because that’ll weigh you down! Just have it as an available tool.