The secret to prevailing in a job interview is to remember one simple fact.
There is only one job. You have only ever had one job, and (as far as I can tell) you’ll only ever have one job.
Your job is to solve problems.
The problem may be as trivial as “The customer is bored, find a way to entertain them” or as important as “Figure out where $12 billion a year is going”; as basic as “I’m hungry” or as troublesome as “I didn’t get along with the last person I hired for the position”. But that is what they want… someone to solve the problem.
Figure out what problems the person on the other side of the desk wants solved, and you are halfway to getting the job.
The details regarding what problems need to be solved are what makes career paths different, and the unique skills and problem-solving methods that we have are the value propositions we bring when we sit across the table from a potential employer.
Remember, too, that the employer is also there to solve problems – not only do you have rent or a mortgage to pay, but your last boss was a jerk, or the upper management was out of touch with the front line workers, or what you did just wasn’t appreciated at your last employer.
While your problems aren’t part of your pitch (and you should be very careful to stress what you can do for them more than what they need to be doing for you), you should be interviewing them as much as you are being interviewed by them. You are looking for your next job, not your next layoff! Just choose your questions carefully so that you get the answers you need while demonstrating your understanding of their business and their needs – the problems they need you to solve.