• Michelle Mackay

Super Practical Strategy to Boost Interview Success

How Professional Development Coaching will help improve interview performance

If, like one of my recent clients, you've been putting off a job change because of the interview process, then this article might be useful to you. Maggie is in her 50’s and has always worked in Customer Services. In fact, it is what she is most passionate about. She manages a team who all love working for her, she is very good at her job and always gets great review comments. Despite all these positives, the thought of being interviewed terrifies her.

Maggie and her husband have been actively planning their retirement and when the chance of a promotion came up, she could instantly see how well this would fit into their 5 year plan. She had a slight problem - she hates interviews, dislikes selling herself and struggles to articulate how she does her job well because “she just gets on and does it”.

Maggie isn’t alone. Many people hate the thought of interviews - some hate them so much they simply avoid applying and stick with a job they’ve long outgrown or carry on working for a company that makes them miserable.

Maggie had avoided interviews for 10 years, but didn't want to let this get in the way of her plans, so she decided to see if a Coach could help. We started with a download of concerns and agreed on a list of activities.

The Power of Committing to The Goal

Promotion is a stepping stone towards Maggie’s overall goal of maximising her retirement savings - getting promoted was enough incentive to spur her on and to tackle the interview head-on. She was committed to the task-list and putting the hard work in to feel confident and prepared ahead of the interview. The initial download of concerns and the tasks we agreed needed attention were covered in 5 coaching sessions, each one seeing Maggie grow in confidence.

These are the things we covered:-

CV Check

There's no point doing interview prep if the CV misses the mark. A lot of people go wrong here and send a generic CV to all roles they apply for and then are surprised when they don't get any interviews. Create a base CV and expect to tweak it for each role you apply for.

Points of Difference

I explored how Maggie goes about her job and we were able to identify the Points of Difference between herself and other candidates. Highlighting what sets you apart from the other candidates makes the interviewer’s job easier. A niche skill, your breadth of experience or your work ethic are all great examples. Maggie was genuinely surprised at how much better these points of difference made her feel about going for the role - suddenly it seemed possible and I noticed that her language had changed from “if I get the role…” to “when I get the role….”.

Build Robust Examples

Some people may be able to wing an interview, but building a bank of examples is key to being able to perform strongly on the day and can really help improve confidence. When Maggie first came to me, she didn't think she had any examples that showcased her skills. This is often the case when someone has innate skills that enable them to do their job well. By focussing on how she goes about her job and what she does to get results we were able to build a strong set of examples to practice with.

Practice Interview

Neuroscientists have proved how practicing something creates neural pathways in your brain that speed up the recall of that task - practice may not make perfect, but it certainly improves your chances of success and interviews are no different.

Maggie was worried that she wouldn't understand the question or be able to give an articulate answer and this is where the Practice Interview reaps big rewards.

It can be a bit bumpy to start with, a mock interview is an alien situation and if it's the first time you've said an answer out loud it can sound clunky or silly. Maggie would stop as she realised she needed to re-word something or would lose her train of thought about what the question was looking for. This is all part of the reason we do a practice interview - get all the gaffs out in a safe space so you can be awesome on the day.

We pause, re-work the answer if needed and then re-start. The second time is always smoother, the third time smoother still. I let the client decide when they’re happy to move on and it doesn't have to be 100% perfect at this point, but they’re far from winging it.

I've noticed over the years of performing practice interviews and based on my own experience of being “interviewed” by a colleague in preparation for the real thing, that your brain seems to do some filing overnight. It helpfully ditches the stuff you decided was rubbish when you heard it out loud and files away the good answers. The result of the practice is a bank of genuine examples that are ready to recall and sound natural in their delivery so you can showcase how you're an ideal fit for the job.

Nerve Control/Confidence Techniques

News Flash - an interview will rarely kill or even maim you. Unfortunately this knowledge doesn’t stop people being nervous and those nerves can detract from your awesomeness. There are several techniques that can be used to improve confidence and reduce nerves and allow the real you to shine through.

Maggie’s confidence had grown and her nerves about the imminent interview reduced as we worked through the activities. This is natural, even if the client doesn’t believe that it will happen when we start. Working through examples and review feedback reminded her of her achievements and what makes her so good at her job and feeling prepared and practicing reduced her anxiety. On top of this we worked through a positive mindset exercise to perform just before the interview to get her in the right headspace.

Power Statement

The final task we worked on was the Power Statement. It's the last thing you say before you leave the interview room. The interviewers might see lots of people so this is your chance to leave them with a lasting, positive impression that sets you apart from the other candidates. Maggie wanted to get across how excited she was about getting the chance to do this new role and I think it was a great choice. Her passion and excitement were going to come across in spades from what I’d seen in the practice interview. Specifically calling this out at the end would sound really authentic to the interviewers and give them extra reinforcement of what they’d already seen.

The Upshot

Drum roll please……she got the job! You knew she was going to get it though right, it would have been a rubbish case study otherwise! This promotion was 2 pay grades higher than her current role, so she did brilliantly and is well on her way to maximising those retirement savings. All that practice paid off.

Why should you care?

This case study shows practical steps and tips on how to prepare for an interview yourself and has hopefully also shown how a Professional Development Coach can be a valuable resource in your career development journey.

If, like Maggie, you've been putting off a change in job or promotion due to the interview and you’d like to know more about how I would help with your specific interview issues, please get in touch. I'd love to help.


Your World Coaching

Michelle is Professional Development Coach based in Swindon. She helps people be happier at work.