How to Prepare For Your Interview
“When you get to that level, it’s not a matter of talent anymore—because all the players are so talented—it’s about preparation, about playing smart and making good decisions.”–Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon
Now you’re here: at the part of the journey where you’ve landed an interview. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and you’re excited about the potential future in front of you, especially if the interview is with the exact company you wish to work at. But before you go off to your interview, thinking you’re going to ace it by the seat of your pants, you might want to consider the words of Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon written above.
You’re headed for the big leagues, yes, but you’re not done yet. In order to compete with all those other talented actuaries going for the very job you want (remember that it was mentioned in a previous post that the actuarial field is quite competitive), you are going to have to prepare for your interview in a way you likely haven’t before.
Destination of this Journey
The chief destinations of this journey are:
- Applying each step in the interview prep process.
- Preparing an answer to behavioral questions.
- Learning to Combat fear and lack of confidence.
- Articulate your personal brand and Value-Add in the role.
The Interview Prep Process
This isn’t like getting a job at the pizzeria down the street. There are steps to this higher interview process that you’ll want to follow in order to crush the interview:
- Draft Simple Questions.
These are going to be the most likely questions you’ll get asked, such as “Why this company?” and “Explain this gap.”
It’s true you’ve likely gotten these questions before in your typical high school-level jobs, but as an actuary, the answers you’ll be giving are going to be a bit more involved.
- Outline Your Personal Brand.
This is simply about defining your major assets and presenting them as such to the person interviewing you. Of course, it depends on where you’re going as an actuary.
If you’re going the consulting route, you’ll want to develop a brand as a good communicator, good with teams and comfortability with ambiguity.
If you’re going the insurance route, you’ll have skills like being detail-oriented, a self-starter and show that you’ve got all your exams passed.
Or, perhaps you’ve simply picked, in general, a company you decided that you’d fit into well, and they’ve decided to grant you an interview.
You might say you’re a good cultural fit, you’re great at being a leader, and you’re results-driven.
- Define Pinnacle Experiences.
Focus on the positive aspects of your pinnacle experiences, especially if they were the sort where you had to overcome some sort of difficulty.
Also, don’t just focus on one section of your resume when it comes to specific experiences.
Give examples of pinnacle experiences—say, two per section. And when you’re talking about overcoming a difficulty, use something that’s relevant to your personal brand.
- Align your Brand To Your Experiences.
For example, if you’re going into consulting, pick the pinnacle experiences that line up with your brand the best.
Such as “Which story of mine shows that I’m a good communicator?”, or which story reveals that I’m really good with teams?
Questions like that will help get your story-focus narrowed down.
- Select the Key Experiences.
Just what it says: pick out the relevant experiences that align with your brand and leave the rest.
- Write Out Your Stories and Responses.
This section is about putting it altogether. Write out the stories you’ve picked in response to the sample questions, plus the specific, associated pinnacle experiences. This has become your interview toolkit.
- Practice Out Loud…Again and Again.
The reason for doing this is so everything becomes a natural flow, that you become comfortable and familiar with all the different points.
You’ll also want to hone-in on essentials so that you’re not running on and on.
Recording and listening helps you overcome any tendency to ramble and assists you in clarifying your answers.
- Simulate the Interview.
This is where you get to practice the “crushing-it” part of the interview. Don’t just “hang out” in jeans and a t-shirt, though.
Instead, dress for success. Think about it this way: there are Olympic athletes who have spoken about preparing to win gold over and over in their minds.
They see in their minds the winning of the gold medal, they think about what it feels like to win it, and then they go through the steps of what it will take to get that gold.
This is no different. Dressing up for mock interviews will put you in that “winning” frame of mind, because that is what you will be wearing when you crush the interview.
Also, practice answering the questions both in a standing and sitting position, to become comfortable in either position, though it’s more likely you’ll be sitting down for the actual interview.
Additionally, practice mock interviews with a supportive friend or family member. They don’t have to be good at the questioning process. You’re the one answering the questions, not them.
Plus, having an objective listener will help you hone your responses further, because they might have suggestions for vocal tone, delivery, etc you might not be aware of.
- Crush the Actual Interview.
You’ve done all the prep you can, the day is here, and you’ve practiced so much that you’re full of confidence. You’ve written down responses, stories, etc in your interview toolkit and aligned them with your personal brand attributes.
The one thing that might help keep your nerves tamed down is to think about the interview less as an interview and more like a conversation. Also, this is a two-way street you’re traveling with the person doing the interviewing: you’re both looking for a mutual fit.
It’s not just about you needing a job, it’s about them seeing if their organization is a right fit for you. Lastly, ask more questions to get more info, as this helps you make the decision as to whether to accept any offer they present you.
You Have Reached Your Destination
Let’s recap the destination goals:
- Apply all 9 steps in the interview prep process.
- Prepare an answer to behavioral questions—which is actually step 6:
“Writing stories/responses to questions.”
- Combat fear and lack of confidence:
This is the actual part where you practice responding to the actual questions, as well as dressing for success while practicing your responses and getting feedback from others in order to fine-tune whatever responses you create.
- Articulate your personal brand and value-add in the role:
This is actually steps 4-5 of the interview process, where you align your brand to experiences and use these as responses in step 6.
You’ve done the prep work, practiced like crazy, now go crush that interview!
Want more help with your journey?
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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?