Written by Judith Humphrey for Fast Company
So, you have a job interview at a company you really like. It’s your dream job. Your interviews are scheduled, and you ready to start to preparing. But how?
Most candidates research the company, the interviewer, and the job, then jot down notes on what they’ll say and write out questions to ask. But how many job seekers actually write out a script for themselves? Not many! They may fear sounding wooden or robotic in the interview. Or they suspect they’ll panic if they forget their lines.
Don’t believe it. Without a script, you’re rudderless. You’ll deliver whatever comes into your head at the moment. And you won’t necessarily get across a clear, consistent message about your readiness for the job.
As a former speechwriter, I can tell you, good scripts don’t come “in the moment.” There’s a slight chance you’ll get it right. But more likely you’ll deliver mixed messages that don’t add up to a clear and compelling picture of yourself. You have to think a lot about how you’re going to tell your story. After all, it must inspire that particular interviewer, and that company.
Follow these four steps, and you’ll be able to do just that.
STEP 1: CREATE YOUR SCRIPT
The first step is to decide how you want to tell your story in the interview.
Ask yourself, “How will I open?” You’ll want something that builds rapport with the interviewer. Perhaps, “I’ve heard so much about you and your leadership—great to meet you.” Or, “everyone I’ve met speaks so highly of you. I’ve been looking forward to our conversation.”
Next comes your message. What is the one big idea about yourself that you want the interviewer to hear? Every job seeker needs a message. It’s the distillation of what you believe about yourself as a candidate for that role. You’ll want to bring it forward early in the interview, and repeat it in various ways throughout the interview. It allows the interviewer to “get you.”
Following the message come three or four proof points that support your message. If these can be presented with quantifiable results, do so. For example, if you had a strong sales record, prove it with numbers.
End your script with next steps. Do you want the job? Then ask for it. You likely won’t say, “Do I have the job?” but it would be good to say, “I’m excited about this role. I believe I’d be an excellent fit, and I look forward to hearing about next steps.”
Write out your script in full sentences or bullet points and prepare answers to any questions you might be asked. You may decide to add a “demo” or just keep it as an outline of what you want to say. And for every interview—especially if you’re applying for different jobs, or in different companies–customize your script.
STEP 2: BURN IT IN YOUR MIND
For the script to be useful, make it your own. Go over it silently, making sure you have it down solid. In the days leading up to the interview, be obsessive about mastering it. Whether you’re having coffee, commuting to the office, or relaxing on a walk, repeat it to yourself over and over again.
Make sure it sounds like you. For example, if you’ve written “I have a deep background in the field of marketing,” you may decide it sounds too stiff. So, change it to “I’m a marketing whiz. Marketing is in my blood!” Customize the script so you sound like you’re speaking not from a script, but from your gut.
As you master your script, you’ll have something carefully thought out to say. You won’t ramble, over answer, or go blank in the interview. You’ll have ideas that you “own” and want to deliver. This will make you more purposeful.
STEP 3: RALLY OTHERS TO REHEARSE WITH YOU
Call upon friends or family members to listen to you deliver your script and answer questions. If the interview is going to be over Zoom, rehearse it that way. If it’s going to be in person, rehearse it that way. If it’s a video interview, create a video.
Have the person interviewing you ask you questions, and as she probes, find opportunities to interleaf your script. This will result in a back-and-forth dialogue that mirrors the interactive conversation you’ll be having. And it will save you from sounding wooden or programmed.
Don’t worry if you don’t use exactly the same words every time you rehearse. In fact, that’s a good thing. You’ll be shaping what you say to the tone and style of the mock interview.
STEP 4: YOU’RE READY FOR THE INTERVIEW
Once you’ve rehearsed successfully, you’re ready for the interview.
Leave the script behind when you go to the interview. It’s no longer needed, because that script has become your way of thinking. And whatever comes your way during the interview, you’ll know what your message is, what points you want to make to support that message, and how to begin and end. And you’ll likewise have answers to anticipated questions. So primed, you’ll sound confident, clear, and leader-like.