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From Lou Adler:

Step 1: Know your strengths and weaknesses. Write down four or five strengths and one or two weaknesses and then write a short, one-paragraph example of an accomplishment using each strength.

With the weaknesses, write a specific situation where you have turned that weakness into a strength or have overcome the weakness.

Step 2: Learn the “Universal Answer.” Most answers during the interview should be about one-to-two minutes long. If you talk for more than three minutes, the interviewer loses interest.

Practice the “Say a Few Words” acronym:

S: make an opening Statement
A: Amplify that statement
F: provide a Few examples
W: Wrap it up

Step 3: Write up two significant accomplishments. Each of these should be two-to-three paragraphs in length, but no more than half a page each. One should be an individual accomplishment, and the other a team accomplishment. Make sure they include examples of their strengths in both write-ups. Send the write-ups to your recruiter for feedback.

Step 4: During the interview, make sure to ask the “Universal Question.” If you feel the interview is going nowhere you can say, “I don’t have a complete understanding of your real job needs. Would you please give me an overview of what the job entails and describe some of the key challenges in the job? Then I can give you some examples of work that I’ve done that’s comparable.”

Make sure you have a list of other insightful questions to ask, such as “What does the person in this job need to do to be considered successful, what’s the biggest problem that needs to be addressed right away, what kind of resources are budgeted already, why is the position open, and how have you developed your team members?”

Step 5: Ask for the job. At the end of the interview, tell the interviewer that you are interested in the job, and would like to know what the next steps are. If the next steps seem evasive or unclear, ask the interviewer if your accomplishments seem relevant to the performance requirements of the job. Understanding a potential gap here allows you to fill it in with an example of a related accomplishment.

To reinforce the importance of accomplishments in assessing competency, before the interview I send the write-ups the candidate prepared to my clients along with their resume and my formal assessment. Along with this, I suggest that my client spend the first part of the interview digging into the accomplishments.