Interviews are not a comfortable situation for most people and something you seldom get any meaningful practice at until it's too late. I recently applied for an internal role within Envato and thought I would keep some notes so that I could review my thoughts and what I might do to improve.

Starting today

Keep notes of failures and successes

Failures are interesting, we all know things go wrong so don't try and hide it or put some positive spin on it. Capture the failures in your career as well as your successes, you'll need these reminders because just about every interview requires you to recall and situation when some problem occurred and you were involved.

Capture enough information to remind future you in a years time of the important points, particularly any metrics because those are important and most of us don't have the memory to recall those specifics 12 months later and you end up telling a "fish story".

Do this how ever you can, write them up in a blog, journal or even just keep your resume up to date with this information.

Be an interviewer

This is one of the most valuable experiences I've had when it comes to being ready for interviews. Do whatever you can to get on an interview panel a few times and you'll experience a whole different side to interviews, sitting safely on the "other side of the table" as the interviewer.

You will start to form your own opinion on what you look for in a good candidate and experience how different responses influence your opinion of a candidate.

Before the interview

Learn the company

Seems obvious but learn everything you can about the expectations of the role and match that to aspects of your own experience, it's also noticed by an interviewer when someone has done their homework. If they ask "What do you know about our company?" you want to have an answer, if only because you should care where you might be spending around 40 hours a week.

Research possible questions

You don't know the questions that could come up in your interview but you should look online for examples and see what your answer might be. It'll help get your head in the right frame of mind and practiced to thinking in interview responses, even better if you have someone who is prepared to act as an interviewer for you and role play the interview.

Most interview questions will be attempting to get you to talk about your experiences or roll play how you would handle certain situations. In both cases you should build up a library of stories you know well so you can use these to build a confident and more specific answer.

During the interview

Tell stories

People love stories, stories have influenced the mindset of generations and a good story tellers have been revered throughout history. In the context of an interview however where time is limited and you want to make sure you include all the key details with minimal waffle then consider using the STAR technique.

In most interviews you are likely to be asked something like "Can you tell me about a time you <problem>…<conditions>" these questions are designed to assess your competency.

  • Situation – set the context for your story.
  • Task – what was required of you.
  • Activity – what you actually did.
  • Result – how well the situation played out.

If used well, this technique sounds natural to the listener and it simply comes across as a well-articulated example. Try not to do this on the fly though, as mention in the earlier section, prepare stories in advance, tailor them to the role you are applying for so you can include details important to the role.

Be yourself

It's hard not to be an actor during an interview, it's a high stress situation and you are just trying to hold your shit together and please the interviewers because you really want or need this job. However, this could be the start of a new relationship for both sides, you want to find out if this company is where you want to work and they want to know if you are someone they can work with, so why pretend you are something you're not.

If it works out you're not a good fit and you are confident you're not an arsehole then it's better to find out early before you get a few months in to employment and find yourself in a company you don't actually want to work with or the company decides they don't want you to continue working with them.