Not Your Ordinary Interview Preparation Checklist—Everything Counts

Every conversation becomes an interview, of sorts, when there are questions to:   

  • Get information and/or share ideas
  • Form or validate perceptions
  • Assess capabilities or weigh credibility
  • Develop or broaden relationships
  • Explore or finalize next steps
  • Offer or retract opportunities 

That means we always need to be ready to answer questions effectively, especially when they are part of: 

  • Job interviews
  • Promotional discussions
  • Performance feedback
  • Special assignment offers
  • Requests for project support 

Interviews affect our careers. We can’t afford to be sloppy or naive about them. 

Be on your toes 

There is casual conversation at work and there is serious conversation. We need to know which is which and when one suddenly becomes the other. 

What starts out as a “how was your weekend” conversation with your boss can quickly turn into: “I didn’t know you were so involved as a youth soccer leader. Do you know _________? He’s a good friend of mine.” (Interview question) 

In an instant you have added another variable to a work relationship and more data about your skills. 

There thousands of bits of information and experiences plus endless relationships and connections that you’ve accumulated in your life so far. 

I suspect that you, like most, don’t consider most of them assets for the interviews that are coming your way. That’s a big mistake. 

Our credibility as employees, job candidates, managers, business owners, consultants, and teachers is rooted in our experiences.

Everything counts 

Careers grow on the basis of knowledge, skills, experience, and relationships. 

“Been there, done that” in business is exactly what management wants when we’ve done both well. It’s what an interview is designed to reveal. 

Surprise yourself by completing this inventory about what you’ve done that is relevant to your career today and for the future. 

Then turn it into a checklist to help you prepare for your next “interview.” (The parens are ideas to get you started.) 

Your “been there” list 

  1. What different kinds of organizations have you worked for? (Companies, non-profits, start ups, store chains, mom and pops)
  2. What states, town, and countries have you worked in?
  3. Whom have you meet that you’d admit to? (Business owners, community leaders, politicians, journalists)
  4. What career experiences have you dealt with? (Job loss, promotion,  transfer, company closings, achievement recognition)
  5. What schooling, training, and travel experiences have you had? (Institutions attended and degrees/certificates received, countries and states visited, cultures experienced) 

Your “done that” list 

  1. What kind of office work have you experienced? (Management, administrative, technical, financial, communications)
  2. What kind of field work have you done? (Sales, construction, troubleshooting, installations)
  3. What entrepreneurial or freelance experiences have you had? (Hobby business, social media marketing, blogging)
  4. What volunteering have you done? (Cause promotion, political candidate support, fund-raising)
  5. What have you done that’s creative? (Musical/theatre performances, artwork exhibited, writing published, arts patronage) 

Everything adds up 

Every interview and conversation is an opportunity to connect with someone. What makes you interesting are your experiences. Where you’ve been and what you’ve done create a picture of what you know and the skills you have. 

Some experiences are serious and others funny. They all have value. 

I’ve written in this blog about being hit between the eyes with a spitball when I taught high school, hauling cartons of frozen butter and turkeys to Head Start centers when I worked in social service, and being questioned by a dozen lawyers during a utility company rate case. 

You have your own stories like these to draw from but better.   

Keep track 

It’s tempting to minimize our experiences. We tend to think the experiences of others are grander. 

A successful interview isn’t about being grand. It’s about connecting, being authentic, and sharing experiences that demonstrate your capabilities, integrity, and commitment. 

Take a little time to create your checklist. Use it when you prepare for your next interview. You’ll be surprised at what an asset it is. 

Photo from bpsusf via Flickr