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The Astute Interview Prep

 

An interview is essentially an audition.  If you want to land the part, it’s critical you prepare.  The goal is to audition rather than try to learn what the job and company is about during the meeting.

Investing in your preparation will increase your chance of outshining your competition, too.  Ultimately, while you want gather data to determine if this job will further your career, your goal is to get them interested so we have leverage when it comes to an offer.

From Now Until the Interview

  • Job descriptions aren't perfect.  Read through the details and interpret what you think they need, as best you can.  Then draft parallels of how your experience aligns.

  • Incorporate the above into a verbal résumé for the “tell us about yourself” question.  Look back at each job on your résumé then script your accomplishments and where you’ve affected change and innovation, not just your day to day responsibilities.  Your relevant experience should reflect the job description as much as possible. 

  • Come up with some questions that are genuinely important to you about the work you'd be doing.

  • Along with what you understand about the job, do your homework on the organization.  Navigate through their website, along with other sources like LinkedInCrunchBaseFast Company or even Google News.  Find some talking points about what intrigues you and where you can make an immediate impact from what you know about the organization and job description.

  • Have answers for why you made certain choices in your profession and education; job and industry changes, etc.  Be ready to defend your track record for making good decisions.

  • Think about one attribute that makes you stand out.  It could be education, life experience, personal interests, or even the color of your socks or webcam backdrop.  Have something that will make you memorable in a positive way.

Phone Interviews

  • Find a quiet place where you can focus on the conversation.  Have your résumé in front of you, along with the job description, specific questions you have, and some blank paper to take notes. 

  • When you answer the phone, introduce yourself, “Hi, this is ______.”  This will eliminate some of the awkwardness by letting the interview know it’s you and how to pronounce your name.  If possible, stand up during the call.  You’ll stay energized and your voice will project better through the phone.

  • Once the phone interview gets underway, follow the Talking Points below.

Video Interviews

  • Have all your equipment ready beforehand, as you don’t want to have technical difficulties.  Test the audio and video.

  • The camera should be just above your eye line, not looking up at you.  If using a laptop, prop it up something, at least 10”-12" above the table. 

  • The background is important but you don’t have to make a whole production out of it. Just keep the background simple and tidy. There’s no need to hide the room with a hanging bed sheet.

  • Eliminate the background distractions. This means street noise, busy windows, music, TV, pets and even children.

  • Check your lighting, ideally there should be more light facing you.  Do not have a bright window at your back creating a silhouette.

  • Have something to drink ready and within reach (but out of frame).

  • Be conscious of your posture and mannerisms.  Have a video call with a friend as a test. Ask for their candid feedback on how you behaved.

  • Have your résumé and job description in front of you. Be prepared to take notes.

In-Person Interviews

  • Have your clothes picked out the day before.  Plan on professional attire unless recommended otherwise.  Be pressed, polished, and refrain from any fragrances.

  • Prepare a few hard copies of your current résumé in a discreet folder.  Be prepared to discuss anything you put in it.

  • Have a good meal before you go in.  You’ll need the energy.

  • We recommend you arrive no more than 10 minutes early.  If you expect to be any later than the scheduled time, call your recruiter and/or the company front desk to let the interviewer know.  Being punctual or calling ahead is one of the first reflections of your accountability.

  • If you arrive too early, then you can visit the restroom for one final check of your appearance.

  • Keep the copies of your résumé in a discreet folder and only offer if they ask you for it.

  • Remember, anything can happen.  Schedules may change, you may stay longer.  Be ready to pivot.

  • It’s important to be engaging, but hold back your enthusiasm until you really know what the job is all about.

  • Stand up and shake hands with every person you meet and remember to interact with everyone in a group interview.

Talking Points

  • Make the theme about learning about them and how you can help; problems they are working on, what want to accomplish long term, and how your skills can help them.   You’ll probably have to pitch that verbal résumé for the “tell us about yourself”.  If you’ve been practicing, then it should go smoothly.

  • Be prepared to answer the following: “What do you know about our company and about this job?”

  • Try to expand on yes or no questions with examples or alternatives.

    • “Yes, I’ve worked in that area. Here’s what I’ve accomplished with it.”

    • “Well, I haven’t done that specifically, but here’s what I’ve accomplished that’s similar.”

  • As for your long-term goals, focus on the job at hand but also share your motivation for professional advancement and taking on more responsibility. Being directly involved in the growth of the department or company doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a hands-off manager.

  • At one point they may turn the interview over to you.  Here are a handful of questions you can ask to show your interest:

    • What do you expect me start contributing to immediately?

    • What do you want this team to accomplish over the next year?

    • Who else in the organization would I be interacting with?

    • What do your top performers have in common?

    • What are the few things that really drive results for the company?

    • What your best moment so far at this company?”

    • Do you have any concerns about my qualifications for this job?

    • Before you leave, politely ask the primary interviewer, when is a good timeframe to follow up.

 

Money

In some states around the US, employers are no longer allowed to ask your current compensation.  If you’re asked about your salary expectations, it’s critical you stay composed and don’t give them a number.  Simply state that although salary is important, you are open to a package that’s in line with your experience and the scope of the job.  Giving them a number first will inhibit your ability to negotiate the best possible offer.

Finally, let them know why you are interested in this opportunity.  Explain what genuinely interests you about the work and/or the environment.  Make it clear you like the company, what you’ve heard and that you’re sure you can contribute immediately.

After the Interview

When you exit the interview, go home and take some notes recapping the meeting while it’s still fresh on your mind:

  • A complete walk-through of your experience in the interview including whom you met with.

  • Your understanding of their business needs, beyond the written job description

  • What you like about it and why you feel it’s an upgrade from your current situation

  • Any of your concerns or anything you would have done differently

  • How the meeting concluded and what next steps were discussed

 

We recommend you send a brief thank you note via email separately to each interviewer, indicating you enjoyed the conversation and you’d be happy to answer any other questions.  It should be no longer than 3-4 lines.  Be sure to include something you discussed with that individual and do not send a mass mail to everyone together.

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