Before we launch into Kristin’s amusing story below, let’s just say we don’t recommend actually doing a job interview in labour! But her experience is pretty amusing, and her interview tips are spot on. We hope you enjoy Kristin’s post, and get some value out of her very effective interview preparation tips.
Through a combination of preparation, perseverance, perspiration, and pretending everything was normal, I did a job interview during labour with my first child! (A little crazy, I know. But I was in denial!) Here are my top tips for preparing for, and being your best, at your job interview, whether you are in labour or not.
6 top tips for interview preparation
The interview was for a job I had been doing for a long time, and I really loved it. I was finally going to get the chance for a permanent promotion into the position.The interview was scheduled for 3 weeks before my due date, and so I went about in my usual way of preparing for an interview.
1. Examples of work I am proud of
I started my preparation by thinking of some examples of work I had done, times I had influenced positive change, times I had lead teams and people to achieve great things themselves, and others things that I was proud of I really wanted to tell the interview panel about.
2. What might they ask me?
I then thought about the sorts of questions the panel might ask, based on the selection criteria and what I knew of the position and organisation.
3. Make a cheat sheet (it’s not cheating!)
I prepared myself a one page cheat sheet so I would actually remember things I had done in the stressful situation of an interview room. In a disastrous interview years before, I didn’t take in any notes, and I was so nervous I couldn’t remember anything except things I had done the day before. I even forgot name of the project I was working on! I didn’t want to ever experience that feeling again. My cheat sheet is usually one page of typed dot points (so it looks neat across the table).
4. Practice telling stories out loud
Most importantly (particularly given what was about to happen), I practised talking out loud to tell stories about my work, so that under pressure, I would just need to tailor the example to suit the question. This story telling approach is something I learnt from a mentor, who said to me “Kristin, you’re a great story teller – so why don’t you practice telling stories about yourself before the interview?”. I don’t learn the stories verbatim, I just talk through a few situations out loud (in the car, while at home with my kids, whenever I get a moment), and then the structure of each story seems to embed itself in my short term memory. The great thing about learning these stories is that they are about things you experienced, which makes it much easier to retell at interview.
5. Don’t forget to talk about how you made things happen – use STAR
While I was thinking about and talking out my stories, I used the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response) technique to frame (and condense) my answers. As someone who has interviewed many people, I knew that the part that most people fall down on in both interview and applications is the “Action” – or what your role was in achieving the Result. Lots of people say “we worked on project x, which achieved y”, or “I was responsible for x, which was really successful”, but they forgot to add “I did x, y or z” and the result of the action they made happen. And so I spent time thinking of examples where I had made something happen. And of course where the result was a good one! In another awkward interview of the past, I talked up a project I had started well, that had gone bad after I left. Unfortunately, one of the panel members had been there for the bad part and it didn’t reflect well on me!
6. Learn your “all about me” statement
Finally, I worked on la short opening spiel about why I would be the best for the job – my elevator pitch. This nearly always comes up as the opening question (“what do you think you will bring to this role”, “why do you want this job” , “tell us a bit about yourself”, etc). My pitch is like the career highlights at the top of my CV. I try to keep it to 1 – 2 minutes max, talk briefly about my qualifications, achievements relevant to the job, and why I want to work there. Unlike the stories (see point 5 above), I learn my pitch my heart, so that when I am really nervous, it comes out more fluently. This doesn’t always work – I remember in one interview being so nervous I couldn’t speak for a full minute, and sat there shaking and sipping water until I calmed down. In that case, or if I mangle it a little at the start, or if I feel like I want to reiterate why I’m the right person for the job, I often say it at the end when the interview panel asked “do you have any questions for us?”.
So with all of this preparation (it gets faster after you’ve done it for one interview), I was more prepared than for any previous interview, and feeling pretty confident as interview day approached.
A mama leader is born!
Week 37, day one, and my daughter’s birthday. Before the interview day, I had a strange, restless night, with minor pain that I dismissed as the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been feeling for a week or so. By mid-morning, there was a little more pain, but nothing too bad. I thought about cancelling the interview, but my wise mother said “it’s only going to be harder if you do it after the baby comes” and “it’s probably more Braxton-Hicks”. I thought this sounded sensible, so I called the head of the panel and changed from face-to-face to a phone interview.
The time of the interview came around and we got started. The chair asked if I was ok to go ahead.
Chair: You seem to be breathing a bit heavily.
Me: No no, I’m fine. Hold on a sec [moves phone away, breathes deeply while swinging hips around for about 30 seconds]
Chair: Ok, well if you’re sure, let’s get started. Kristin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you think you’re the best person for this role?
Me: [I launch into discussion about how my experience all the great things I’ve done…]
Excuse me for a sec
[puts phone down. Sound of heavy breathing while I sway my hips around like I practiced in my yoga classes. Takes about 30 seconds.]
Ok, I’m back, now where was I?
We continued like this for the whole 30 minutes or so of the interview – the panel getting more incredulous as I paused every 4, then every 3.5, then every 3 minutes – and me pausing perfectly in the middle of sentences to sway and do my yoga breathing, before coming back in to whatever topic I had been talking about.
My answers were clear, to the point, and I had more confidence than ever before. My answers flowed out of me easily, and the calm after each pause gave me a few seconds to re-group and improve my responses. The panel thanked me for my time and wished me all the best with my baby. It was pretty obvious at this stage I was in labour, but while they knew, I was still in denial – but very pleased to have done such a great interview!
Finally, we were done, and I could admit to myself that this was actually labour. Needless to say, I had my baby later that afternoon. Four hours after I finished the interview, my daughter was born.
It was, they told me later, one of the best interviews any of the panel had witnessed. and I did eventually get the job.
And so began my journey as a mama leader!