• Sridhar Rajendran

Day 24 — Practising for interviews

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Importance of building a story toolkit

Image credit: Pexels

Now that things were getting better with a good resume and a well-honed pitch to recruiters, I was getting interview calls. I thought I could talk well until I totally tanked out in an interview. The hiring manager asked me to introduce myself. Easy peasy, right? Except I kept droning on in a monotonous voice and he started checking his phone. I saw he was losing interest and still continued with my baritone because I didn’t know how to end it!

When asked to explain the projects in my portfolio, again I was off course by several degrees. I could not understand what was happening. After all, I did those projects on my own and should have no problem explaining it. When I got home dejected by my subpar performance, I dug down to understand what the hell happened.

I was the first bench kid asked to conduct a seminar by the teacher. So I had a lot of practise being on stage. Sure I did sweat like a pig in the beginning but got better. I like to teach others and so the opportunity to do that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. But strangely I did not volunteer to conduct any workshops/sessions during my career.

I would do it out of necessity but not volunteer on my own. I guess a part of me felt like an imposter. Nobody pays attention in a college classroom but everyone would in an office. No, they don’t. What if my manager figures out I am a fraud and fires me? So I stuck to writing for company blogs or the team’s knowledge base. It was my forte, safe bet and also my excuse.

There was a Toastmaster’s club in my previous company but I did not join it. I loved the concept but had several excuses to not do it -like attending classes, working on my portfolio alongside a full-time job. It is a decision I regret and wish I had taken a break from other activities to focus on my public speaking skills.

Ramit Sethi (IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com) not only helped me better my resume but also improve my speaking skills. I binge watched his videos on Youtube on preparing for an interview. He speaks about the concept of having a ‘Story Toolkit’. A Story Toolkit is a precise example of the commonly asked questions in an interview, such as an instance where you did something wrong and how you dealt with it.

I normally skim such questions an hour or so before the interview and wing it. And therein lies the problem. We are not as good as we think we are. I could not give a crisp intro and retain a person’s attention for 30 seconds. I started practising with the camera. The advantage of recording oneself over practising in front of a mirror — no need to analyse my mistakes while I am speaking. I can do what I am supposed to and deal with the mistakes later.

For each question, I wrote down a couple of points, framed them into sentences and practised in front of a camera. I repeated the process until I could speak clearly and precisely. I was able to infuse some life and energy in my voice and not sound like a robot.

This process taught me a lot about paying attention to the nonverbal cues. The position of my hands when I speak, the twitch in my eyes when I sound less confident, the sharp rise and fall in voice. It was like watching another person. It is hard to admit our own faults but I am glad I did this exercise.

My replies became more engaging, I gained confidence and could feel the interviewer’s interest in the subsequent interviews.