You would be surprised by how many applicants I’ve interviewed who didn’t seem to remember what was on their resume. I’m guessing this was because they didn’t bother to re-read and memorize it before their interview.
By memorize, I mean committing your resume, and I mean your entire resume, to memory. Particular emphasis should be placed on any specific examples of accomplishments in your resume. These are by far the most important points and the ones that will help you the most when answering questions.
Far too often, I’ve interviewed an applicant and asked a question about either their experience or their accomplishments that I know could be answered by simply quoting specific parts of their resume, and they couldn’t do it.
Hard to believe, but they fumble around and toss out things that have nothing to do with what they wrote in their resume, which they will often have on the table right in front of them. You can partly chalk this up to nerves and the stress of the interview. However, it’s a poor reflection on how well they prepared.
You see, this type of question is really a test. I’ve already read your resume and therefore know quite well what’s on it. The reason I ask the question is to see if you use the same information in your answer as was on your resume. Plus, it tells me if you are able to pull out the information that’s relevant to the question and use it to respond with an articulate answer.
To do this well, you have to virtually know your resume, word for word, by heart. You need to know it so well that you can immediately recognize when a question is asked that relates to your resume.
Otherwise, you’ll be in the uncomfortable and embarrassing position where the Hiring Manager is more familiar than you are with your resume. I’ve even had to point out when given a wrong answer that it conflicts with what was on the resume!
To get to this level of knowing your resume, there is no substitute for repetition. Read and re-read it as many times as needed to reach the point where you can quote any or all of it by memory.
Once you’re comfortable that you’ve memorized it, write down each requirement from the job posting, one by one. Then, practice saying out loud the sections from your resume that support each of those job requirements. Practice this until you’re able to smoothly do this without hesitation.
Let’s look at an example for a sales representative position. Your resume says you have eight years of sales experience, during which time you increased sales by 55%. In the interview, if you’re asked to recap your sales experience, your answer comes straight off your resume, worded of course properly for the answer. Here’s what you could say:
“I have eight years of experience at XYZ company. Sales for my territory increased by 55% during that time, when sales overall for all territories increased by 38%.”
This answer shows that you not only exceed the experience requirement but that experience was significantly better than that of the company overall. And you were able to give this answer almost without thinking since it was right from your resume. The one you have memorized.
When you’ve practiced enough to give this sort of answer for all of the job requirements of that position, you will be ahead of at least 95% of other candidates. You will also be far less stressed during the interview.
Be Able to Tell a Story
Here’s a second interview tip that I’ve seen frequently overlooked. It has to do with the so-called ‘behavioral’ questions.
These are questions that require you to explain how you would behave when I present you with a difficult situation. These usually can’t be answered using information from your resume. They require you to explain how you would handle a tough situation that you may or may not have ever encountered.
These questions will typically begin with a lead-in phrase such as this: “Tell me about a time when you…” and that will be followed by a specific type of difficult situation.
These can be particularly hard to prepare for, as they can be about anything. Some of them can be difficult to relate to if you’ve never encountered that type of a situation. But they will frequently fall into a few general categories, such as these.
- Describe a situation where you had to handle conflict with your boss, your peers, or your customers.
- Describe how you handled or would handle a difficult situation such as…
- Describe how you would handle a problem employee you work with or supervise.
- Tell me one of your success stories and why it was successful
- Describe one of your failures and what you learned from it.
These categories cover many of the behavioral questions you may be asked. Prepare a couple of relevant answers for each of them and you can likely make one fit.