What skills are needed for a successful job interview

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jul 18
A lot of articles about doing a job interview talk about how to prepare for an interview. I do as well. But most articles don’t talk about the skills you need to have successful job interviews. This one does.

Skills are a bit different than a list of things to do to prepare for a job interview. Skills take some time to develop. Skills take practice — usually by doing job interviews. What skills are critical for interviewing? Let’s take a look.

Story skills

In essence, the stories you tell about your work are what remain in the minds of your interviewers. After the job interview is over, it is these stories that they use to describe how you answered interview questions.

I’ve found that you will need to answer 3-4 basic questions about your work. Off of those base 3-4 questions will come other questions. These are usually answered quickly.
 
It’s the 3-4 basic questions about your work that each need a story.
 
Some people are natural storytellers. I am not.
 
That means I need to construct the story. Then I need to practice the story until it naturally flows in the telling.
 
Build each story on the basis of a CAR – Context, Actions, and Results.
 
Context is a short paragraph that sets up your story. It was a $12 million budget. It was a 3-month time frame. Five people were on the team.
 
That kind of stuff.
 
You do that so your interviewer can relate that information to their own situation at work. Oh…we have 5-7 people on our team. So do you. Oh…you operate in larger budgets than we do. Why?
 
Context is to help the people interviewing you understand the scale of what you do.
 
Next comes Actions. Actions are the steps you took in your work to produce the outcome desired. This should be 4-5 paragraphs; perhaps 1-2 minutes. These talk about both your actions and the difficulties overcome along the way.
 
Finally, you speak the results you produced from your actions. These are best described as numbers or outcomes. These results don’t need to take long — a paragraph or a minute.
 
And then you stop. That’s your story.
 
What happens when you construct and tell good stories? In job interviews, you get asked more questions – and it becomes a conversation.

Research skills

Today, it’s a LOT easier to do research. Google is your friend. And, when it comes to job interviews, so is LinkedIn.
 
The Google skill relates to bringing up the company’s web site and understanding what the company does. The locations of its offices. Major lines of business. Any challenges mentioned.
 
If it is a large company, discovering the division you would work in. That will help you understand what that division does.
 
Think of the company’s web site as the broader brush strokes of what the company does.
 
LinkedIn is more about understanding the people you will interview with. Who they are, what their background is, what they do at the company.
 
The company information on LinkedIn is also worth looking at, but, like the web site, usually offers the same corporate speak.
 
With LinkedIn, it’s the people you want to understand.

Phone job interview skills

Phone interviews are not about getting the job. This is usually because the person interviewing you is not the hiring manager.
 
Depending on the person interviewing you, you may know far more about the work than the other person.
 
The skill involved with phone job interviews is that you need to prove you can DO the job. Your resume says you can; now this person wants to prove that you can.
 
This is not about working with a team. It is not about fitting into the company culture although both of those could be questions asked.
 
This job interview is simple: do you have the job skills and accomplishments that show you can do the work?
 
The stories here, then, address competency. Showing that you can produce business results. And told in a simple way that a person not in your area would understand.
 
No matter how good an HR person is, for example, they will never know as much about rocket science as a…rocket scientist.
 
If you’re the rocket scientist, you need to tell your stories in a way that a non-expert will understand.
 
Unless your phone interview is with a rocket scientist…

Face-to-face job interview skills

Your face-to-face job interviews usually involve hiring managers. Also, the people who will influence the hiring manager.
 
They too will want to know if you can do the work. Once past that, though, there will be more questions about fitting into the team. Or questions about the type of company culture you’ve worked in.
 
I have given a no vote on candidates that won’t fit into the company culture or team.
 
Here, your stories need to focus on how you work with teams. How you deal with conflict. What kind of expectations your previous companies had about your type of work. How you adjusted to those expectations.
 
In the end, you have to prove you can do the work, produce results, and fit in with the team. Prove that and you are in the running for a job offer.

Bonus: Video job interview skills

Video interviews are now commonplace. Skype, FaceTime, and other services make it easy to do video interviews. This means less time to schedule interviews, less travel, and better than phone interviews.
 
 
Both of these are beyond the scope of this article, but you can ensure you are ready to do a video interview. And video conversations with your friends will go a long way to helping the performance on camera.
 
Without these basic skills, you’ll flounder in your interviews. Building and practicing these skills will give you the competitive edge when you do.
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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.