How to put your achievements into context during an interview…
We like you to be prepared as possible when entering an interview, but knowing how to explain your achievements and explaining your experience can be difficult. So instead of saying ‘Yes I can do that’, you need to explain how.
Interviews will vary in style and content but there is one thing that is absolutely guaranteed regardless of how formal or informal the interview is, and that is that the potential employer is looking for someone who can do the job they need to have done. That means when you are talking about your skills and explaining why you are right for the job you need to put the information into context. Basically, don’t just say you can do something, explain how and why. Look at the two examples below. Imagine the interviewer has asked if the candidate is good at explaining things to people.
“I am used to talking to people because I worked on a customer service helpline.”
That is fine isn’t it? It says you worked in an environment where you dealt with the general public and that you would have needed to explain things to them. Well yes, it does, but what it doesn’t do is tell them anything about how good you were at the job. Wouldn’t it be better to respond with a more detailed answer like this one?
“I am used to talking to people because when I worked at Smiths I lead a team where we often needed to describe the products to people to make sure they got the right item. It was important because if we got it right first time it meant fewer returns, and that increased profits. While I was there, returns dropped by 10%, and I’m really proud of that.”
Where the first answer just says ‘I can do this’ the second one says ‘I can do this, I understand the importance of communicating well with customers and here is proof of it as a real result.’
This example is fictional of course, but I think it makes the point.
When you talk about your skills and experience in an interview, it really does help the interviewer’s confidence in you if you can give real world experience to your answer. They are asking competency questions, so you need to demonstrate how you are competent.
Try to think of it this way. Every time the interviewer poses a question about your skills or experience, ask yourself if you have a concrete example you can use to expand on your answer. The reason you are being asked the question is so that the interviewer can assess your competence. They are asking you to tell them you can do the job so try to give them the following:
- A situation – say what happened
- An action – say what you did and why
- An outcome – what the result of your action was.
If you follow this formula interviewer will be able to get an idea of your true potential as an employee.