If you find yourself wondering what you might be asked on an upcoming job interview, look to the job posting (if one exists) as a major source of insider information. Typically the people on the hiring team have spent time thinking through exactly what they wanted, and spelled it out in writing, before posting the role. The write-up gives you important clues about what’s important to the team and what’s required for this role. To help you interview better, here’s how to read a job posting and use the information to your advantage.
Before I became a career coach, I was a high-volume recruiter. Every day, I’d use the job description and my notes from my conversation with the hiring manager to form a list of interview questions. Now, when helping a client prepare for an upcoming job interview, I prepare my interview questions for mock interviewing the same way I used to create them as a recruiter.
Here’s the trick: Turn EACH LINE in the job posting into the 10 possible types of questions you could be asked (see below), and then prepare for all of those possible questions.
For example, here’s one line from a recently posted job description. It’s for a Donor Relations and Fundraising role, and it’s one of the first lines in the job posting.
Develop, coordinate and manage a defined portfolio of major donors within the larger donor portfolio.
Turn each line item in the job posting into these 10 different types of interview questions:
You’d start with the first line, and spin it out into the major types of interview questions. Then, you prepare and practice your answers ahead of time. That one job description sentence turns into the following possible types of questions.
Behavioral: Tell me about how you’ve developed a defined portfolio of major donors within the larger portfolio.
“How Would You Manage”: How would you go about coordinating and managing a defined portfolio of major donors?
“How Would You Grow”: What steps would you take to grow a highly active inner circle of donors within a larger portfolio?
Turnaround of a Troubled Project: Tell me a time when you had to analyze a donor portfolio that was underperforming – what was happening, what did you do, and what was the result?
Specific Role on the Team: What was your specific role in managing the donor portfolio?
Tools & Technology: What technology did you use to segment the donor portfolio and track donors?
Measurement: What metrics did you establish for portfolio growth? Why did you pick those metrics?
Impact: Tell me what results you saw in your portfolio of donors and how you accomplished the growth.
Change Management: Tell me about how you got buy-in from management (or got others on board) to look at your donor pool differently.
Project Management & Launch: How did you plan for and launch a targeted donor program?
Then, line by line, you work through each and every line of the job description until you’ve explored all the possible questions and mapped out your potential answers. (If your immediate response was that you don’t have time to do that, then you might need to apply for fewer roles where you’re better prepared, instead of more roles where you’re underprepared).
It’s time consuming at first, but once you become used to this process, you’ll find that future interview preparation sessions happen more quickly and easily. Plus, the amount of work involved means that your fellow job seekers likely are not going to these lengths to prepare, and you’ll have a competitive edge in the interview.
Of course, one caveat: the posting might be old, in flux, written for a different role and repurposed, or written by someone other than the hiring manager. It’s a best-guess document, but it’s not the whole picture of what they need and want. You’ll still need to be prepared to think on your feet when other questions come up, but at least you’ll have the majority of your stories and answers thought through in advance.
The hiring team has told you ahead of time what they care about. Luckily, you can use that to your advantage in the interviewing process. Your ability to read the job posting to prepare ahead of time for the job interview questions you’ll likely get will help you feel much more balanced and conversational in the interview. You’ll come across as poised, prepared, thoughtful and aware of what the employer needs, all traits that make you a desirable future employee.