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Coming Back from a Poor Interview


A man in glasses is looking at his computer screen.


Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, answers common reader questions about how to further your career in HR.

I have been a contract employee at a large company for 18 months. I did good work there and was recognized for it. I had two opportunities to interview for full-time employment during my tenure. One was for the position I was already in, but I totally flubbed the interview. I have no idea what I was yammering on about, but I am pretty sure the hiring managers were asking themselves, "What in the world was she talking about?" 

Now the original job has reopened. I would be working with the same team I was with before. I am worried about the impression I made in those horrible interviews. How do I repair this?

You have obviously put in real effort to be the best you can be at your job, and it shows maturity when you acknowledge your mistakes yet see them with a sense of humor. Everyone has bad interview experiences from time to time, especially when starting out in their career, so just treat it as a learning experience. 

Few people are naturally good at job interviews. In fact, while the ability to turn job interviews into job offers is probably a professional's most important skill, very few of us have it. Most people think that being good at your job is all that's needed to land job offers or win promotions, but that's incorrect. You must be able to package and sell your skills and accomplishments. 

The Secret to Success

The secret to turning interviews into offers is simple: Turn the fear of the unknown—"What are they going to ask, and how do I respond?"—into the predictable. Here's how to do it:

1. Study and prepare for the interview by collecting and comparing job descriptions. When you understand skills and the areas of expertise needed, you can predict the kind of questions likely to be asked, and plan the kind of response you'll use. The following points will help you do this.

2. Make sure you know the specifics of how your job supports company profitability in at least one of these three ways:

  • Making money.
  • Saving money.
  • Increasing productivity. 

3. Know how to solve the problems that come up in your line of work. You are first and foremost a problem-solver within a specific area of expertise, and your actions help an employer make money, save money or otherwise increase productivity. This means that as a professional, you maintain a constant awareness of:

  • How you can prevent common problems from occurring.
  • How you can solve problems efficiently when they arise.
  • How you stop problems from slowing down colleagues who must subsequently deal with your work product. 

This is how you help the department be successful and fulfill its role in helping the company make money, save money or otherwise increase productivity. Connecting these profitability considerations to the responsibilities of your job will make you a standout.  

Nuts and Bolts for Acing Job Interviews

When you want to make a move to a new employer or pursue a promotion, start by taking the prospective job description apart and identifying how each responsibility contributes to the successful execution of your target job and supports the department's mission to sustain your employer's success. Then do the following:

  • Review your experience, credentials and successes in each area of responsibility.
  • Review the challenges each responsibility brings with it and how you will deal with them.

This strategy will improve your performance at job interviews and give you the ability to turn your interviews into job offers. Do this and much of your fear will evaporate. What's left is adrenaline, which you can use to pump yourself up for the interview, just like an actor or athlete uses it to add energy to a performance. 

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