From Interviewee to Interviewer
The student comes to understand that in order for the interviewer to be successful in their job they must run a successful interview campaign, first generating an appropriate applicant pool. Following that, reducing the applicant pool in a selective manner will produce a hire with a high probability of being successful. The interviewer usually interacts with the interviewee in a question/answer format.
The student learns that the candidate can help the interviewer do their job by being properly prepared, thus making the job of the interviewer easier. This includes being prepared to answer questions. Once the role shift is understood, the student, who is now playing the role of the interviewer, presents the typical interview questions. These include the usual inquiries, such as:
Why should I hire you?
Discuss your strengths/weaknesses.
What would your last employer say about you?
Describe a personal accomplishment.
Tell me about yourself, and so on.
Following the interview, the student and mentor process the experience and the student is queried about the responses of the “candidate.” From this discussion it becomes evident whether the student has grasped the distinction between answers that are helpful to the interviewer or not. Usually after one practice session with role reversal and post interview analysis, the student is more prepared to successfully conduct their own mock interview as a candidate.
The Secret of Memorability
When a student demonstrates adequate competence in this interview process, they are ready to improve their chances of mastering the challenge of the questions/answers by learning about what I call the “secret of memorability”. I explain to them that they are going to learn a technique that anyone can perform and that will guarantee that they will be remembered by the interviewer.
We’ve all heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Notice what you experience the next time you listen to a good story. When you attend to a speaker’s words, you begin to visualize the story in your mind’s eye. Students of all ages, ethnicities and experience levels view this as a process at which they can be successful. I model the storytelling technique for them in response to the common question, “Tell me about yourself”:
“When I was finally able to attend college, I had already sent my children through school and I was excited to have the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. During my clinical practicum I discovered that I had a special talent with patients who were difficult and uncooperative. Somehow, I was able to listen to them and attend to them in such a way that they calmed down, becoming more cooperative and compliant with the treatment regime. Before long, I began to be known as the nursing assistant to call when a difficult client was unwilling to cooperate with the healthcare givers. This is what influenced me to decide to become a psychiatric nurse. Even before I had completed my RN degree, I was already helping patients who were not amenable to treatment protocols delivered by fully credentialed healthcare givers. I’m grateful that I now have the credentials and ability to work in a job where I can not only do what comes so naturally to me, but also be compensated and recognized for my time, energy and talent.”
When expressed in meaningful and descriptive ways, as is the case with a story, our words stimulate memorable visual imagery, leaving a lasting impression. The storytelling method is so successful because it makes use of several principles of mnemonics, or memory aids. These include:
The use of mental pictures,
Making things meaningful to the listener, and
Making information familiar.
Students often learn the “secret of memorability” in one 45-60 minute session because the process becomes intuitive. They are given guidance in selecting and telling a “story” that will demonstrate their “best stuff”. Since many interview questions are predictable, the well-prepared student has the opportunity to select “stories” from their background which best fit some of the questions they expect and to rehearse their storytelling in advance. Hence the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” has a practical application for this very practical situation.
To begin a practice session, a student is asked to recall a situation which demonstrates their best talents, skills and strengths and write a brief paragraph about what they did, reflecting their abilities. The counselor helps the student by focusing them on the situation until they are able to describe the accomplishment or situation in such a way that the listener is able to “see” the story in the mind’s eye. The story above told by the nursing student is an example of creating memorability in this way. The counselor can also model this process for the student so they can experience the memorability factor firsthand. The student learns that their interview response has the greatest likelihood of being remembered because of the storytelling aspects, placing them in an advantageous situation in the applicant pool. When they observe this firsthand in a demonstration, it boosts their own faith in the storytelling method, serving to increase their self-efficacy. Not only does the student learn a way of being favorably remembered, but the student also enters future interview situations with greater skill and self-confidence.
In conclusion, students respond favorably and quickly when they understand that they have the ability to demonstrate the desired responses in interviews. This ability can be learned through traditional role play, followed by reverse role play with simulated interview situations. A limited number of intervention techniques can assist in the process, one of the most helpful being the ability to increase the “memorability” factor by answering questions with story responses. I have used this method very successfully in the community college setting with students of all ages and backgrounds. Students have also reported that they tend to remember this process without difficulty and consequently they are able to generalize the learning to new interview situations.