Remember the halcyon days where you spent an afternoon cutting out the things you most wanted out of your favorite magazine and stuck them into a dream scrapbook so you could refer back to them again and again and again, until you were REALLY sure it was what you wanted? Why did we do that? The answer is simple – we need to be reminded of what is important, what your current goal is and what will help you along the path to achieve that goal. When we were shorter and less experienced a scrapbook full of pictures from a catalogue was good enough, but now we are older and wiser – can we learn from those days of glue and jagged edge cuttings? I think we can, and it’s a valuable lesson.
By creating a ‘Job Journal’ we can collect together experiences and examples that make the difference between being considered an ‘average’ candidate, and a ‘focused, organized and excited’ candidate. Most candidates have the experiences that make a difference but simply don’t remember the situations when they need them – like in an interview. With many interviews being situational based, asking questions that start with, ‘Tell me about a time when…’, or ‘Have you handled a situation that …’, having these cues to what you have achieved in the past on hand and easily digestible, are priceless.
When deciding what goes in a journal it’s really a question of what you think is important, but maybe the best place to start is by noting examples of what you think the interviewer will find important and will they be looking for. Here are the top graduate skills most interviewers are hoping to find:
This skill is divining how much you know about how the appropriate industry works, how much research you have done and how commercially aware you are. These questions are the most common such as: ‘What do you know about our company?’ ‘Why are you applying for this job?’ ‘How much do you know about XYZ Company or industry?’ Collect all you can in your journal about the industry and job available, even down to the company you are applying for. Look at the internet, specialist journals and current marketing always keeping ahead of what is going on.
The interviewer will be asking himself ‘How did they react to my question? Did they listen? How did they understand? Is it focused? Concise?’ They may be talking about the weather, or asking you a question about how you communicated to others, but in the back of their mind the interviewer will be asking themselves what message you are communicating. By noting these questions in your journal you can think about them and sketch out possible answers.
Teamwork questions will be based around ‘Tell me about a time where teamwork was important to the resolution of a problem, and how it made a difference’. Note times in your journal where you were part of a successful team. This doesn’t have to be in a work setting, it may have been at school, on a trip or casually where being part of a cohesive team solved a problem. The more examples you can think of, the better.
Questions that find out about how well you’re negotiating skills usually run along the lines of ‘Tell me about a time where someone’s attitude was a challenge and how you overcame it’. The interviewer wants to know how you negotiate and if you are successful at it. In your journal write down times when you had to use your powers of persuasion to create a positive outcome and this can be hard. Don’t worry about your ego here, note down everything and everything that used your persuasion and negotiation but had a positive outcome.
Problem solving and Leadership
Ever had a time when your flash of inspiration solved a major problem? Note it down. The question ‘Tell me about a time you had a difficult problem to solve, and how you solved it’, will come up in an interview. Write down small and large problems you have faced trying to get a good spread of solution. Your interviewer is looking for innovation, teamwork and persuasion skills and if you can think outside the box.
The same train of thought is used for leadership. Look for examples to note in your journal that show how delegation, meeting deadlines, organization, motivation and leading by example. That is what your interviewer is looking for when he asks ‘Have you ever been a leader, and how successful was your project? Tell me about it.’
Working under pressure
An interviewer is looking for someone that can cope with the pressures of a work day and the demands of the job, so make sure you note examples of times you worked under pressure, to a tight deadline or exceeded the demands of you. List the pressure and how you coped with it so when you are asked you can give good examples, or a couple of examples to the question that asks ‘Tell me of a time you worked under pressure and what happened’.
The idea of a job journal is NOT to take it into an interview with you and read it out verbatim, but to help you prepare for the interview. Look at the examples in your journal as you do your research, or as you wait to go in. By having these experiences fresh in your mind you talk coherently and fluidly as you are questioned and come across as confident, knowledgeable and experienced. Then when you finished the interview make notes about what went well and anything that you want to do – or not do – again. It’ll be worth its weight in gold for the next interview you have.