No matter how much time you spend preparing for a job interview, we're all human and can freeze up or lose focus sometimes.
Ultimately, it's the attitude you bring that determines how successful you are at quickly recovering from those slipups. As a career expert who has been recruiting and helping people land their dream jobs for over 20 years, I've found that the best interviewees adopt one simple mindset: Every person you meet in the process is deciding whether you will make their job easier or harder.
By bringing this mindset to a job interview, you'll have something to guide you back if you find yourself struggling with a question and can't remember the answer you had prepared.
How can you make the other person's job easier?
Adopting this mindset also means coming up with answers to reflect it. So when preparing answers, make sure they address exactly how your work will contribute to what the department currently needs the most help with.
Let's use Mark as an example.
Mark has been a full-time English teacher for seven years, and is interviewing for an assistant principal position at a high school. During the job interview, his potential boss (the principal) asks: "How can you make an immediate impact here?"
Mark had a good answer for a similar question, but is slightly thrown off by the way the question was framed. He panics and freezes for a few seconds, but then goes back to the mindset and remembers that the position he's interviewing for was created to make the principal's job easier.
Mark tells the interviewer, "I see myself immediately fitting into one of your school's biggest initiatives: Raising standardized test scores. I was in charge of leading that very same effort at my previous school, and the plan I created led to outstanding results. I can be ready to take this off your plate starting on day one."
He continues, with even more confidence in his voice: "One part of the job that I'm especially excited about is working closely with academic staff members. I'd be the person you could turn to to get a pulse on what's going on in each department. As someone who has served as both a teacher and English department chairman, I have a unique perspective on the challenges that teachers face. I want to use my experience and knowledge to help everyone be more efficient and have their voices heard."
He adds that, on his first day, he would schedule meetings with every teacher at the school and listen to their concerns and what kind of support they need.
What makes Mark's response so great? First, it focuses on how he would make the principal's job easier — by taking leadership in improving standardized test scores and serving as a liaison for all departments. Second, he reiterated his professional background, priorities and leadership style.
But it isn't enough to just bring the right mindset and answers; you want to hear directly from the interviewer — whether it's a potential team member, boss or your boss' boss — about what they need the most help with. So don't end the meeting without asking: "What else can the person filling this position do to make your job easier?"
Too often, job seekers are very selfish in their approach and don't think broadly enough about how they can be of value to the workplace as a whole.
Remember, your role impacts other roles, and when you show that you can make other people's jobs easier, you'll truly stand out from your competition.
J.T. O'Donnell is the founder and CEO of Work It Daily, an online platform dedicated to helping people solve their biggest career problems. She has more than 15 years of experience in hiring, recruiting and career coaching. For career tips, follow her on TikTok @jtodonnell.
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