In part 4 of his series on Job Hunting Tips, Oliver Hansard recommends Practise, Practise, Practise and I firmly agree. In this current, and complex, economic climate many of us are considering a new role or a change of career, and in my view you need to start preparing early. Being asked to interview is also a privilege and getting to that point should be congratulated.
When I think about practise in relation to job hunting, the concept of ‘deliberate practise’ comes to mind. Deliberate practise is a focus on the things that you cannot yet do, rather than just repeating what you know. Answering application or interview questions is an area the requires just such deliberate practise. You can do this on your own, through thinking or visualisation, but you can also do it with the help of others.
“When most people practise, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practise is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all.” (1)
Horse riding is one of my hobbies and to illustrate deliberate practise I recently tried to calculate how many hours I have spent in the saddle. I came up with a figure of over 1000 hours, which sounds (and feels) like a lot of time over a few decades…but how much of it was really spent trying to develop new skills and how much of it was just relaxed, hacking through the woods? It highlights for me that the quality and the focus of our practise is important.
Malcolm Gladwell mentions in the book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hrs of deliberate practise to become an expert. I certainly don’t suggest that you now spend every waking moment practising, but deliberate time spent practising for interviews will help you to develop your style and explore your answers to questions that may come up. Remember – you are an expert in the topic of yourself, and you want to make sure that you show up and give a true representation. Practise can let you navigate some of the early hiccups, explorations and nerves that are natural.
Knowing yourself and understanding your strengths and weaknesses is one part of the journey, another part is being able to talk about them clearly. What kind of evidence do you have to back up your statements? You can practise talking about what you have achieved by following the STAR method (2).
STAR: Situation > Task > Action > Results
Respond to questions using the framework of: Situation, Task, Activity, Results. If you structure your verbal answers using this 4-step method, then you can give listeners an easier time in following what you bring to an organisation. You may prefer not to follow a structure, so practise may help you to develop your own technique that also delivers the answers to questions. The result of practise is that we become more confident and can talk about ourselves with conviction.
Consider the types of questions that you may be asked in interview or even on application forms. Your trusted network can help you to practise and develop your responses through the use of scenario planning. Your network can give you immediate feedback on the clarity and validity of the way that you respond. Speak to friends and contacts who you know have a different outlook on life compared to yours. By consulting them you may be able to understand the diversity of responses and points of view that exist beyond your thinking. People interpret information in different ways so be ready to hear things that you did not expect when it comes to feedback. Be openminded and seek to understand rather than defend your practised responses.
Another thing to practise, and it may seem rather basic, is what to wear to an interview. I once made the mistake of not practising this element and I wore a suit that just did not fit well (if it ever did!) The size was off and the shirt, although new and never worn, hung out far too far below the cuffs of the jacket. I just did not feel right overall and I was uncomfortable. Practise and try everything on in advance, get comfortable, as it helps you to be positive and get you into a good mindset.
If you are in the fortunate position to be invited to many interviews, then you may find that you do get better and better at them. By this I mean that you can naturally steer the interviews in directions that you wish to highlight. These possible directions will likely be developed during your practise sessions.
To summarise, here are 5 take-aways related to job hunting and interviews.:
- Believe in yourself, build confidence and conviction, drawn from your deliberate practise.
- Get comfortable. Practise over time and do not cram it into one day, your way of being will arise from practise.
- Practise visualising how things are going to evolve in an interview.
- Practise scenarios with members of your network, develop responses to different styles of questioning and try out your answers.
- Attend all interviews you are invited to, even for jobs you may no longer be sure about – you may be surprised at what opportunities arise. Some practise, is in the ‘doing’.
Best of luck with your practise.
(2) The Star Method
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