One of the worst things that can happen to you in a job interview is to get a tough interview question that makes you freeze, like a deer in the headlights. You are surprised, you don’t know which way to go, and so you just sit there waiting for disaster.
Most of the interview questions that make you freeze are questions like, “What’s your greatest achievement?” or “What’s your greatest failure?” or “What have you done that makes you a great fit for this job?” Even if you can answer those, you can easily get stuck when they follow up your answer with “How did you do that?” or “What happened?”
Here’s a great exercise that will really prepare you to answer the toughest interview questions:
On a piece of paper, make two columns. On one side, write down your top 25 achievements. Maybe they’re sales you made, events you planned, projects you organized, initiatives you spearheaded, time you saved through some idea, productivity you increased, presentations you made that won customers, and so on. Whatever it is, you’ll probably find that they’re not very exciting past the first 4 or 5 things. That’s OK. Get all the way to 25.
On the other side of the paper, write down what had to happen in order for you to accomplish those things.
When you do this exercise, it will jog your memory so that you can remember important, relevant details that help you answer the tough interview questions. You’ll be able to give specific examples. Those examples will make you shine in the interview and separate yourself from the other candidates. A lot of people can answer questions saying they did such and such, but not everyone can back that up with evidence. When they’re asked, “How did you do that?” they can’t answer because either (1) they didn’t do it, or (2) they just can’t remember because they haven’t thought about it.
When your list is complete, practice telling about each one. The practice will help you remember each one, and make you more confident in your delivery. You will have a strong interview performance and help yourself get the job offer.
(The best practice involves working with someone else to critique you on your delivery. If you don’t have someone to do that with, hire a career coach.)