A Brief Debrief

taking notes after an interviewAfter a big game – win or lose – a good coach always gathers the team together and talks about how they played. After each performance, a world-class musician reviews where they made mistakes, and practices those passages repeatedly before the next performance. I could go on, but you get the drift. We have to figure out what needs improvement, before we can improve it.

Think about your last job interview. Did you leave the meeting, head home, send a thank you, cross your fingers that you’d hear back soon, and – more or less – leave it at that? If you said yes, you’re not alone. This is true for most people.

Today, I’d like to leave you with an exercise that I hope becomes a habit for you after every single interview you have from this point forward: a self-coaching debrief.

Ideally, you should do this as soon as possible after the interview is over. Maybe in your car before you start driving, or on transit. At the very latest, the next time you’re sitting down, back at work or at home. Write notes for yourself. They can be as short as single words or as long as an essay, but please trust me when I say you’ll get the most benefit from this if you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and hang onto your thoughts in this way.

Think about every aspect of the interview, and squeeze as much potential for improvement you can out of each one. This is just for you, so make it a really honest conversation with yourself, especially when it comes to things that could use some improvement.

What went well? It’s fair game to give yourself a pat on the back when you ‘done good’. If you did something well, you’ll want to repeat it in future interviews, so take note where credit is due.

What didn’t go so well? It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge moments where you stumbled, but doing so makes it less likely that you’ll do the same thing again.

What questions did you find most difficult to answer? Whether the questions were unexpected, or just ones that hit on some challenging things for you to speak about, making note of that gives you the opportunity to plan and practice so you can give better answers more confidently next time.

What did you notice about the interviewer’s body language? Were there any cues that can help you respond differently in the future? If their body language became less engaged, perhaps your answers were off-point, or too long. If their body language became more engaged at times, that may point towards stories you should tell again.

One broad final question to ask yourself is: what did I learn? No matter what happens with the job you were interviewing for, what can you take from the experience that will help improve your interview skills for the next one?

Keep your debrief notes together, so you can use them in your preparation for future interviews. At the same time as you’re doing the rest of your practice and preparation, review your notes and make whatever changes your ‘past self’ has coached you to make.

Make this a habit, and – at the risk of mixing metaphors – you’ll be in shape for the big game and ready to give a masterpiece performance each time you interview.



Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash