I remember my first job interview after leaving the military. It was for a financial advisor position with an exclusive financial services firm and I was extremely excited. But, I had a problem - I didn't have a bit of financial consulting experience.
The firm flew me to San Francisco and put me up at the Ritz Carlton Hotel (not bad for a first time interview.) After three rounds of interviews with senior managers, I conducted a video conference call with the senior vice president of human resources. My heart pounded. And while I was anxious, I remained confident.
And then came the critical question that I knew she would eventually ask: "How do you expect to be successful at selling financial services with absolutely no sales or financial experience?"
I replied with confidence. "Ms. Tepperman, I led people into combat in Iraq and they trusted me with their lives. If I could inspire trust in this stressful environment, then I am confident my clients will trust me with their money. As an advisor with your firm, I will prepare for every client meeting and sales call with the same attention to detail, discipline, and passion that I used in preparing for my combat missions."
I will never forget her answer. She slowly shook her head up and down and smiled. "Very interesting," she said.
Yes! I dodged that missile and she really liked my answer. I was eventually offered the job and while I turned it down for another opportunity, I learned a valuable lesson that day. By preparing answers to tough questions and contingency planning before the interview, I was able to interview with confidence. Mission rehearsing the answers and objections in my mind, to my associates, and most importantly to my recruiter, gave me confidence. And confidence leads to successful job interviews just as it leads to successful military campaigns.
Fighter pilots call mission rehearsing "Chair Flying." We mentally fly the mission in a chair or in the flight simulator as if we were actually flying the jet. We review every detail in our minds and we plan for contingencies ("what-if's") before flight. While this takes time and effort, it is essential to our success.
How do you prepare for your job interviews?
Are you putting in the work prior to the interview so that you can answer the tough questions with confidence?
How do you separate yourself from all the others being interviewed?
Here are a few wingtips to consider as you prepare to fly your interview missions.
- Research effective interviewing skills and invest in some books on the topic.
- Practice your interviews in person and on the phone. Many interviews take place on the phone. Remember, how you sound is just as important as how you look.
- Gather up to date intelligence on the company. Google them. Research interesting facts about their products, competitors, and partners.
- Work with a recruiter if possible. You can't know every answer to every contingency. Everyone needs a wingman to back them up and prepare for unexpected missiles.
While interviews aren't combat missions and the missiles aren't real, you can definitely get shot down if you fail to prepare. In today's challenging job market where you are up against people with MBA's, real world job experience, and more detailed resumes, you can't afford to be average.
Chair flying builds confidence as it reduces your fear of failure and gives you more courage to take action. So, stop interviewing by the seat of your pants and start chair flying. Not only will the company you interview with trust you to be their wingman and hire you, but you'll also build more trust in the most important wingman in your life -- yourself.