10 things to remember on your job interview
Here are some items to remember as you prepare for your next job interview – some are obvious, but hopefully there are some are new ideas to think about as well.
1. Your interview should be a conversation, not a one-way monologue
I have interviewed several job candidates that regurgitated their prepared interview script so excitedly that I couldn’t get a single word in for over 5 minutes after asking the first question! Keep in mind that the interviewer has a list of things they want to learn more about you, so let them guide the conversation. Speak concisely and give them plenty of chances between sentences to let them ask follow-up questions or change the topic. If you talk on and on about being president of your college sorority, your interviewer may not get to learn about all of your valuable experience in analytics and marketing.
2. Learn about the “company culture” before you interview
Qualified candidates are VERY often turned down because they “don’t fit the culture.” Is the company culture super aggressive and competitive? Or is it a more supportive and team-oriented culture, with lots of mentorship and guidance? You should be honest with whether or not the culture is a mismatch with your personality; if you pretend to be a match in your interview, you may be in a world of pain a few months down the line.
That being said, if you want the job, keep the company culture in mind and tailor your answers accordingly. The chill marketing manager at Google may not be too keen on hiring somebody that comes off as confrontational and overly competitive; similarly, the aggressive finance director may not want to hire somebody that seems too “nice” (they might get pushed over and taken advantage of by clients).
3. Are you the “kind of person the interviewer may want to get a beer with” ?
No matter what kind of culture the company has, interviewers look for co-workers that would be cool to hang out with. Inevitably, there will be company picnics, lunches, happy hours, holiday parties, bumper car and laser tag outings, or whatever. OK probably not bumper cars and laser tag, but in any case: nobody likes hanging out with robots. When you first meet your interviewer, make some small talk and have some nice friendly conversation. They can start asking you the tough “interview questions” when they feel like it.
P.S. If you read the newspaper regularly, it will make it easier to make and respond to small talk, particularly with older people or people you don’t have much in common with (e.g., “Big win for Federer at Wimbledon, huh?” or “Crazy weather these days down in Florida?” It goes without saying that you should avoid politics).
4. Remember: you are also interviewing the company!
The job interview is your best opportunity to get an honest look at whether YOU want to work at the company. If you have concerns about the company or your role, directly and confidently ask about them and see how your interviewers respond. Make sure that your interviewers seem like they would be good co-workers and mentors; if they don’t impress you and treat you well during your interview phase, it will only get worse once you join!
5. Do your research on the company (duh…)
I know this seems obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth reminding: you should know everything there is to know about the company or organization you are applying to. Scour their website and read all the recent news articles related to the company. Have a really good answer as to why you want to join them versus another organization.
6. Do your research on the position you are applying for
Make sure you understand what skills are required to be successful in the job you are applying for. Be prepared to talk about how your skills and experience will allow you to perform well on the job. Sample questions:
- We need somebody that has specific skill _________, what experience do you have? (e.g., graphic design, programming)
- Are there specific experiences / goals you would like to achieve in your next job? (e.g., manage a team, lead an initiative, learn financial modeling)
7. Do your research on competitors and general industry trends
In the weeks leading up to your interview, make sure to read industry news sources / blogs so you can talk intelligently about what’s going on in industry. For example, Internet startup folks might read TechCrunch or VentureBeat; cleantech people might read GreentechMedia or GigaOM.
- QUESTION: So tell me, why are you interested in the online Internet advertising segment?
- BAD ANSWER (no research): I am hoping to join the next Google or Facebook, because I heard even the part-time masseuse at Google became a multi-millionaire when they had their IPO.
- GOOD ANSWER: I think it’s an exciting field with lots of growth. Americans now spend more time on the Internet than they do watching television, and advertisers have been shifting their spend accordingly. Google has consistently been able to grow their business at 25 – 30% each year without sacrificing profit margins. I think there are definitely opportunities for companies like ___________ to help satisfy this growing demand for Internet advertising, particularly by looking at new advertising methods such as ____________.
(As you might be able to tell, I don’t know about Internet advertising… but it’s a decent answer)
8. If you’ve listed it on your resume, be prepared to talk about it – and it better be good:
We recommend that your resume focus on explaining just 3-5 of your major accomplishments in depth. Interviewers often use your resume as a guide when asking questions, and I guarantee you will look REALLY bad if they ask you about your role as ”Co-Founder of the Campus Video Game Club,” and you have to reveal that as Co-Founder, your role was to set up a Nintendo in your dormitory lobby on Friday nights. Your resume and interview should steer the interviewer to ask about your biggest and most relevant accomplishments.
9. Prepare your “stories” in advance:
This was covered extensively in another post, so I won’t repeat it again here. There are a bunch of questions that inevitably get asked in almost every job interview; make sure you rehearse the “stories” that you would tell that illustrate your abilities and experiences.
10. Be enthusiastic and interested
Your excitement and enthusiasm will be well noted in the interview. One important way to show your interest is by preparing some smart questions to ask at the end of the interview. 99% of interviews will end with the interviewer asking: “So, do you have any questions for me?” If your answer is: “No, I don’t have any questions,” then you just lost like 1,000 points.
11. WARNING: Try to avoid salary discussions until you have an offer on the table
You have nothing to gain by discussing salary before you have an offer in hand. You can politely defer the question by saying something like “If the interviews work out, which I hope they will, I am sure we can figure something out.”
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