By Stephanie Clark
How often have you agonized over the questions that interviewers might ask? Or wished you possessed a crystal ball to know these in advance? A well-written job posting offers crystal clear insight! And an internet search of typical job duties can take the place of a skimpy job ad. A job posting or job description offer hints of what an interviewer is likely to ask, leading you to develop effective T-chart info.
If you’ve not heard this term before, the T-chart is a graphic organizer often used for pros and cons. From the job searcher’s point of view it lists the job requirements on one side, and your related experience, skills, and education in response. Let’s work through a few job posting requirements to illustrate. A Human Resource ad might require “the development and execution of a diversity education strategy.” Prepare to chat about your participation in a project that through learning events, training sessions, and awareness campaigns improved employees’ perceptions of diversity. Further build your winning interview answer by explaining how you developed and implemented regular surveys to track progress and source opportunities for further improvement.
Many ads require team players. Simply saying that you are a team player is futile. Jot down the school-based teams, or committees in which you have participated over the years. Ideally your background includes work-related committees, but if not, pull in the Home and School Association or Little League Planning Committee. Add the specific contributions you made — sub-committee work, brainstorming to problem solve, sharing your expertise in bookkeeping, writing a monthly newsletter — and you’ve added valuable context, thereby proving your teamwork.
And what about the typical ad that cites a need for “strong communication skills?” How does one prove that? If you’ve created PowerPoint presentations and delivered these to a committee, that’s a start. Add how you conducted self-study to improve the content of these for further impact. Maybe you joined the Health & Safety Committee because you feel the need to voice your concern about the hazards you see at work. Add in how your championing of one specific concern led to positive change, and you’ve proven influential communication. Perhaps you wrote up a business case or two to influence management decisions? Add in how you won management support, and you’re well on your way to proving strong communication skills.
Here’s another oft-mentioned requirement: “able to handle multiple priorities in a fast-paced environment.” Is there a better way to prove it than to simply restate it? You bet there is! Relate details of your typical working day, week, or end-of-month to illustrate in concrete terms how many priorities you handle and how fast-paced the environment is. For example, “I support three management staff by maintaining their many project files; by scheduling multiple daily meetings on their online calendars; by creating correspondence using Word templates — by the way, I created these templates after I noticed certain repeat patterns; by ensuring that they know which meetings are coming up, what info they need to have prepared, and conducting preliminary research for them to make the task easier; and also by keeping up-to-date expense accounts and budget entries in excel spreadsheets, again on templates that I created complete with advanced features that automate results. Some days whiz by in a blur! But I love being busy!” You’ve not only proven that you sure know how to handle a lot of stuff, but also that you have advanced computer skills, are very well organized, love the pace, and are obviously a great support person to senior staff.
How do you prepare for possible questions that deal with skills or experience that you don’t have? No experience using an Access database, for example? Share how at each of your last three employs you learned a new, unique-to-that-employer database and how you became so skilled that you subsequently taught new hires how to navigate it. Learning yet another new database then becomes a given.
Once you’ve created this T-chart, take it along to your interview! Preparation demonstrates so much more than a desire to land an offer. It shows that you are a serious contender, focused, organized, and, by extension, a valuable potential employee!