Preparing for an interview can be a daunting process, what with the company research, question and answer prep and general calming of the nerves and intense anxiety. If you're short on time, but still want the job, here are three shortcuts to use to impress and show off your best:
1. Define three key stories. Instead of trying to prepare 50 answers for 50 different possible interview questions, go through your résumé and cover letter and pick three key work experiences that you're proud of and that illustrate your relevant skills, experience and lessons learned. Stories are easier for you to remember, and are more compelling to listen to. When asked an interview question, relate your answer back to one of your stories. Here are some examples:
Q: Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
A: We set monthly goals for new user acquisition, and at the beginning of each month, I systematically built and executed strategic plans to reach those goals. For instance, part of my plan included advertising online, and I tested different types of advertising each week to find the lowest cost option. This resulted in my company exceeding our goals for three months straight.
Q: What is your greatest weakness?
A: I used to get overwhelmed by the number of moving parts required to meet our new user acquisition goal, but I've learned to work on many tasks at the same time by scheduling my time effectively.
By exploring a few stories from your past, you don't have to worry about memorizing all the right answers to a myriad of potential questions.
2. Strike a power pose. Your interviewer decides how competent and likeable you are in a fraction of a second. None of your research or past experience can help that. In a Lean In video on power and influence, Deborah Gruenfeld, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains how our words only account for 7 percent of how people judge you. The rest is based on presentation (33 percent) and body language (55 percent).
Before your interview, head to the bathroom or a different private place and strike a power pose: Raise your arms and spread your legs so that your body makes a large X, and hold this expansive, open pose for a minute or two. Research from social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows high-power poses change your body chemistry; positions that take up space cause a spike in testosterone and a drop in cortisol, leading us to exude calm, powerful strength. In short, you'll look and feel confident heading into your interview. Cuddy explains the impact of "power posing" in a TED talk from June 2012.
3. Ask yourself, "Can I do this?" It may seem counterintuitive to those who preach visualization, but it turns out all those positive affirmations aren't as effective as a simple question. That is, instead of saying "I've got this," ask yourself, "Can I do this?" The night before an interview, go ahead and interrogate yourself. It may go something like this:
Can I do this? Well, yeah, they liked what they saw on my résumé and cover letter, so I've won half the battle. Can I do this? Yes, I've researched the company and know what its goals and vision. Can I do this? I've prepared for potential interview questions and practiced my answers. Can I do this? Yeah, I'm confident, have incredible experience that I can apply at the new company and would be a great culture fit for this position.
While the conventional wisdom on self-talk is that we should pump ourselves up, Daniel Pink, author of "To Sell is Human," says those affirmations elicit a passive and puny response. "The real muscularity is in asking yourself the question and actively responding because then you actually begin to rehearse, you begin to prepare, you begin to summon your reasons for doing it," Pink argues in a Q-and-A with the Wharton School of Business that was posted on the college's website. "It ends up being far more effective ... It just is a matter of changing your self talk from affirmative and declarative to interrogative."
These three shortcuts will help you show off the best possible you in an interview, with confidence in yourself and your experience to land the job.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.