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Three Top Tips to Interview with Impact for your Dream Sustainability Job

by Shannon Houde

‘I’m experienced, educated and articulate – so why can’t I get through the first interview?’

If I had a fiver for each time I’ve encountered a jobseeker with that exact problem, I’d be meditating on a Balinese beach rather than tapping away on a keyboard! Selling yourself on paper – whether through the traditional CV or on LinkedIn – is a skill in itself, and here at Walk of Life, we’ve written plenty on how to do it. But wowing the interview panel and making a strong impression in person is a different challenge altogether. Which is why you should take a strategic approach.

As I explained in my recent careers Agony Aunt column for Greenbiz, if you’re already ticking the ‘essential’ boxes by turning up to the interview looking the part, knowing something about the company you’re interviewing for and articulating yourself well, it’s likely that you’re doing a good interview. So why aren’t you getting the job? Probably because you’re not doing a great interview – and the competition is. Sustainability jobs typically receive over 100 applications. It’s very much a buyer’s market. So set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd by following my top three tips for interviewing with impact.

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1. Map your career journey

Interviews are an opportunity to show off your interpersonal communication skills, so a key part of your preparation should be a coherent and descriptive response to that classic interview question: “Walk me through your CV”. Take a creative approach and bring in a colourful, one-page Powerpoint slide that shows in simple bullet points how each step you’ve taken in your career led you to the next, and ultimately brought you to the job you’re interviewing for.  Call it “My Career Journey”.  Doing this will force you to build a strong career narrative and help you side step around the less relevant areas that lose your audience.

2. Show off your competencies

Giving tangible answers to competency-based questions will impress your interviewers, but doing it well requires some preparation. Go through the essential and desirable criteria in the job description and select specific achievements in your career to date that best demonstrate each one. Start by briefly describing the Situation, then describe the Action that you took, and finally explain what the Result of your action was for the project, team, boss, company or client. This is my tried-and-tested ‘Situation/Action/Result’ framework – trust me, it works!  But you have to prepare in advance so that you know which achievement you will choose to use to best prove that required skillset.

3. Share your knowledge of the impact agenda

If you’ve been offered an interview, the hiring manager already thinks that you can basically ‘do’ the job. The live interview is testing you on who you are and links to the notion of values and traits (read more about these here). You need to show you are committed to the impact sector and passionate about creating long-term results for society and the environment, so come armed with the specifics on your passions and theories. A question that I hear a lot is ‘Where do you see the sustainability (or climate change adaptation, CSR, carbon) agenda going in the next five to ten years?’ Some other key questions to consider here are – What thought leadership have you built in this space?  How will you grow a niche for yourself around two-to-three key sustainability issues?  Interviewees are usually not ready for it, but it does get asked, so do your research and have your sound bite ready.

I’d love to hear how these techniques work out for you in your next interview. Let me know in the comments section!

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