In a recent blog post, I shared my week lost to anxiety and interview prep, and I thought it might be helpful to share about how I used Obsidian as my interview preparation tool.
As we now know, I absolutely nailed this interview, so this is a proven method with a 100% success rate.
I historically am not good at job interviews. I’ve had a lot over the years my success rate has been low! I know what I should be doing in them but I’m not a quick thinker under that kind of pressure and my nerves get the best of me. My brain seems to melt and I have a hard to translating the questions I get into answers with examples to enable the hiring manager to tick the boxes they need.
For this interview, I was determined to prepare myself and make sure I have everything at the front of my brain. In the past, I’d done this with my old bullet journal and hand-drawn mind-maps but now I have Obsidian! Obsidian has taught me how I can connect my thoughts, and even better it now has the Canvas feature which I can use to make mind maps!
I love mind maps. I use them whenever I need to understand or express something I’m struggling with. Sometimes I feel like all my thoughts are in one tangled-up ball in my head and the visual process of mind mapping helps me pull the threads apart. I’ve used this for job applications before and I’ve even used it for understanding my anxieties, and for expressing myself in difficult conversations.
I was super excited when Obsidian added the Canvas feature because it was exactly what I had been missing!
To prepare for the interview I needed to
- Identify my own strengths and weaknesses.
- Study the job description and pull out the key skills and behaviours they’re looking for.
- Think up as many examples (using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result) for each of those points.
- Work out how to get myself to recall those examples to answer questions that could be framed in numerous, impossible to predict, ways!
- Have a list of questions that I want to ask them.
Strengths and Weaknesses
I started here as a way to dig into my confidence before I tried to apply that to this specific job. It might be an unnecessary step but I tend to need to go around the houses with my thoughts. Like the family dog, before he settled down for the night, I’ve got to circle and scratch at the ground before I can sit and get comfortable.
So I opened up a Canvas file and I wrote out my all strengths and skills, some as they relate obviously to the job and others that are qualities I have outside of work that contribute but aren’t strictly relevant. Each one had its own Canvas note so I could connect it up to other relevant areas.
I tried to think of examples of how those strengths, skills or behaviours are evident throughout my life not just at work.
- I’m great at troubleshooting at work, and I also love puzzles and escape rooms in my personal life.
- My attention to detail can be found in my work, but also in all my creative hobbies. You’re not going to be good at embroidery if you can’t see how every little stitch will play out into your bigger picture!
- I’m generally a very patient person, which is really good for custom service skills and troubleshooting.
Once I had everything down and linked up I had a visual map of the things I am good at, and how those show up different areas of my life. This just helped me feel more grounded in myself, and I then can use that to work on how I represent myself in the interview.
Now I had to apply all this to the job I was applying for. I started by identifying the skills and behaviours I’d need to highlight in the interview. I already had copy & pasted the job description into my vault, so I went through that again and stuck a summary note at the top in a callout that listed my key talking points.
Write my STARs!
Now came the harder part! Now I needed to think through my work experience, and the rest of my life, to come up with specific examples that demonstrate my competency for each of those points.
If you look up strategies for job interview success you’ll probably find a lot of content about the STAR technique. It’s just a useful formula to keep in mind when it comes to construct neat, bitesize answers to competency or behavioural questions.
The idea is simple:
- Situation – When and what was happening
- Task – What did you need to accomplish
- Action – What did you actually do
- Result – What was the outcome (ideally good!)
However it came be hard to think of them, especially when they came be things that you just do every day automatically (like “going the extra mile” for a customer, I just do that without thinking!). What I really have to get into the habit of doing is recording examples of problems I’ve solved, new things I learned and good interactions with customers when they happen because that would also be useful for performance reviews etc! (Another job for Obsidian!)
Coming up with my STAR examples is what I spent most of my time on, I needed to make sure I had at least one for each of the competencies I’d need to demonstrate per the job description! I opened up a new notes files and I added a markdown heading for each of my examples, so that I could link to that specific section later on.
Linking everything up
To link up my key talking points to all my different STAR examples I opened up a new Canvas file. I made a little Canvas note for each point. Then, working a point at a time, I added a Canvas card (not a Vault file note!) for each STAR example and I used the transclusion feature to embed a section for each specific example. This was why I’d carefully given each example a markdown heading. I could also have just made each example a separate note file in my database, and added the whole note to the Canvas, but I found it easier to have them all in one document.
I worked a point at a time so I had to think of my example and pull it out my vault. Some examples worked to demonstrate multiple points so I could link everything up as I found it made sense.
In the end I had a big beautiful visual map of my preparation which alone helped build my confidence that I had plenty to talk about.
As ready as I’d ever be!
Working through all of this got me as ready as I’d ever be for an interview. The first interview was an online one, so I also had written out my key talking points and stuck them on the wall in my eye line, just above my computer monitor. I did also have my Vault open with links to notes next to the meeting but it’s honestly too hard to pay attention to the interviewers and try to read notes, so I didn’t use that!
Even if I had not gotten the job I’d still feel super proud of myself for how I prepared for this!
I hope this has been helpful for someone else out there too!