The Experience Bank
As I prepared for my first job interview, I googled "most common interview questions." I sifted through hundreds of questions and tried to cultivate answers for every. single. one. There had to be a better way to prepare! Rather than starting with questions, the "experience bank" perspective starts with developing the answers.
Three common types of interview questions are skills-based, behavioral, and situational. While each type has a different focus, the common denominator emphasizes past experiences. Rather than crafting perfect responses to the top 50 questions you might be asked, spend time depositing experiences into your "experience bank" that can be withdrawn for multiple questions or scenarios. Come up with 3-4 examples of how you've exhibited teamwork, leadership, problem solving ability, and handled conflict. Review these before your interview and there is no doubt you will impress.
Whether you're 20 years into a career or applying for your first job in fast food, you have experience. It may not fit the industry, but you have it. Most people cannot easily recall every experience that may come in handy, so it's simply a matter of rediscovering those experiences. Here's how:
Recall organizations you've participated in and old jobs you've held.
Have you held leadership positions? Organized events? Dealt with conflict with your boss or peers? These examples are as good as gold in your “experience bank” and can make you stand out among other candidates.
Sift through old school work.
Have you participated in a group project? Given a presentation? Written a paper? Gone above and beyond on an assignment? If so, you probably have experience working through difficult group dynamics, displaying oral / written communication skills, and demonstrating an ability to surpass what's expected of you.
Investigate email folders and computer files.
Find powerpoints, old conversations with teachers / professors, or school work that you forgot about as soon as it was turned in. Do you find anything that demonstrates an ability to use technology well? Any conversations that demonstrate leadership or a willingness to ask for help when you don't understand?
We often sell ourselves short. Sometimes we need an outsider to remind us of what we're good at and what we've accomplished. To get that perspective, ask family and friends to help you recall your accomplishments.
Scroll through your Facebook profile (I'm not joking)!
During college, I had a major presentation at the end of the semester. As soon as the presentation was over, a classmate tagged me in a photo of us celebrating the completion of the project as soon as we left the class. In another instance, I pulled an all-nighter studying for a health policy exam. Years later, I never thought a selfie from the library at 2am would serve as a reminder that I ended up being the only person to make an A in that particular class. Scrolling through Facebook photos can spark memories of conferences, camps, events, etc. that may be worth "depositing" to your bank.
Make Yourself Marketable
After completing the "experience bank" exercise, you'll have (1) experiences to talk about, (2) an ability to recall / recite these experiences and steer any question asked toward an example from your experience bank, and (3) a confidence boost that you've actually accomplished more than you think you have. Having confidence in the interview can be a game changer. If you don't have enough experience, start getting it today. Make a conscious effort to push yourself to become a more "marketable" job candidate. Experience is key!