Nervous about your job interview? Here is your Interview Preparation Plan


On a cold and drab November morning a few years ago I had a first meeting with a client. She was in her late 30s and looking to make a career move to somewhere more inspiring, a place where she would be recognised, able to progress and to move away from feeling “squashed and overlooked” as she put it.

And so, we made a plan.

I outlined the key areas that would help her achieve that goal. As soon as I mentioned interviews I watched as the colour drained from her face.

Interviews are possibly the most feared part of the job seeking process. Can you relate?

That is certainly the case amongst most of the clients I work with. They feel that they are in the spotlight, being judged and there is an underlying limiting belief that they cannot sell themselves. There is a fear they are going to dry up, forget everything they know and how to respond.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Eight weeks later my client came back from her first interview with a big smile on her face, and her first words to me were, “I actually enjoyed that”.

Hearing this made my day and seeing transformations like this is one of the many joys of my job.

So, I expect your question is, “Sure, she did it, but can I?

The answer is YES.

It is simply a skillset, and anyone can learn it. I did when I made my career change those years back, and my clients do today - and so can you.

The reality is, an interview is only a meeting

I’m sure you’ve been to lots of meetings in your time. Hopefully each one had a purpose and agenda, and you and others rocked up, bringing in your expertise, and leaving with outcomes and actions

An interview is simply a meeting, the same as any other meeting you’ve had ,and if you can view it like this you will find it a lot easier:

  1. It is a meeting of equals: it is as much about you finding out whether they are right for you, as it is about them finding out whether you are right for them
  2. The issue on the table is that they have a job and are looking for the right person to do it, and you have a set of skills and are looking for the right place to use them
  3. So in the same way that they will ask you questions to see if you are right for them, you need to ask and observe what ever you need to, in order to know if you will accept the job

It’s OK to sell yourself, but wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to? 

If you don’t tell interviewers how good you are, they likely won’t know enough about you to offer you the job.

Remember these key things:

  • Firstly, that the interviewer is on your side and they already think you can do the job! They’ve seen your CV AND invited you in for an interview.
  • Your job is to help them understand how you can solve their problem by sharing information about what you do, and about the impact you have and differences you make.
  • You never have to feel like you’re selling yourself. Use a framework such as my W-H-O model, or the STAR model (see below) to answer questions by giving examples of how you’ve done things. That way you never have to sell yourself as it is the framework that does the selling for you. All you are doing is sharing stories.

It all comes down to the right preparation and practice

Now, this sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how many people do not prepare adequately. It makes the whole experience uncomfortable and traumatic. If you prepare well, however, you could be like my client and actually enjoy the experience! 

  • Look at your CV, the job description, person specification, competency profile and any other information you have about the role and company to see what you are likely to be asked about.
  • Prepare examples using the frameworks I mentioned above so that you have detailed, structured answers that finish with the outcomes and benefits.

W = What (Situation, Task). What were you doing and what was the context and objective?

H = How (Actions). Describe how you did it in detail: what did you do first; what did you do next; what tools did you use; who did you speak to; etc. Remember to use “I” and not “we” where appropriate: they want to know what your contribution was.

O = Outcomes (Results). The basic outcomes (on time, on budget, did what you set out to achieve, etc) are important, but going on to describe how your company and customers benefited as a result will give you a really powerful answer.

  • Practice, practice, practice! Preparing your answers is not enough. Practice out loud. You can do it in a room on your own, with a friend/family member or your Career Coach. You can even record it on your phone and watch it back (people find this very useful).

Know the format and prepare accordingly

Early stages of interview processes often involve telephone or video interviews. In some cases, and particularly during the pandemic, it may all be by telephone or video.

  • For video and telephone interviews make sure that you are not going to be disturbed by people coming into the room or making loud noises.
  • For telephone interviews remember that there are no visual clues, so you need to make sure that you speak clearly and may need to check in to ensure you’ve answered questions fully. Standing up and smiling puts more energy into your voice. Make sure that you have all your notes spread out so you can refer to them
  • For video interviews make sure that there is nothing in the background you don’t want them to see, and that the light on your face is good so that they can see you (e.g. don’t sit with a window directly behind you). Have a back-up in case your internet connection goes down.
  • Whether it’s remote or face-to-face, a positive introduction will create a good impression that will get them on your side at the off.

KEY preparation: Prepare and practice an answer to this one question

Prepare and practice an answer to this question “Tell me about yourself”. Select a story that shares how you are a good match to the job description and why you are keen on this role and this company.

Implement the strategies I have shared in this blog and you will be head and shoulders above the competitions preparation levels. 

Add questions to build in conversation:

  • Over to you, have you ever invested in support for your career before?
  • How did you come to choose your career coach or advisor?
  • Are you familiar with the concept of career coaching?

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