These days, it seems like getting an interview for a job is almost impossible. So many people are sending out 50 job applications only to get one or two invitations for an interview. So, once you finally land the interview, no pressure right? I wouldn’t say I’m an exceptionally confident person but I do know that I interview really well. I’m going to share with you the most important job interview tips I’ve developed over the past 8 years.
You might ask what makes me qualified to give you advice. It’s true that I’m not an HR professional or a career coach. However, I have had a lot of successful experience interviewing and I know what works. I even keep a massive folder of papers and preparation from all of my years of interviewing, going back to 2010.
I had to develop my skills quickly because my first job out of college was in a rotation program for a large bank. This meant that I had to interview for my next rotation (job placement) each year against the other 40 analysts in the program. Competition was fierce and I luckily had a mentor to help me through it. I had networked with (basically an interview except I drank coffee each time) over 50 people during the course of my program. I ranked #1 with several coveted hiring managers so the hard work paid off.
I’ve been honing my interviewing skillset ever since. The timing for the post today is actually because I have wrapped up another successful round of interviews over the past month. I started my new job last week and I had to turn down several companies after accepting this position. The position was in a completely new industry for a prestigious company. It was definitely a job that many would have considered out of my reach but I was able to land it using the below techniques.
Know Your Resume
For every bullet on your resume you better have the back story to it and why it was important to your company. You saved the company $10,000 in vendor fees? How did you do it? You streamlined a new process? Why was that needed? You want to show that your resume isn’t a lie and that everything on your resume was valued by your previous employers.
Also, if you know the ins and outs of your resume, you can easily answer all of those annoying behavioral questions like, tell me a time where you worked in a team. Since you know all the details behind your resume, you will have tons of examples for these types of questions.
Be Able to Answer This One Question Above All
Why should we hire you? Even if this question isn’t asked out right, this question is the ultimate purpose of the interview. Your interviewers are trying to see how you stack up against your competition.
Before going to your interview, you should prepare to answer this question in multiple ways with a bunch of specific examples. Think of all your achievements and the different skillsets that you’ve gained in your career so far.
If you have a background that is different from what the job spec is asking for, use this difference to your advantage. You need to be prepared to turn almost any question into “why should be hire you” even when the question is a concern.
A few of my recent interviews were for industries I’ve never worked in before. Obviously, this came up as a concern to them. Why should they hire me over someone who has experience in their industry already? I pointed out that each of my previous roles have been completely different from each other despite being in the same industry. I explained that I chose these different roles to expand my overall skillset and that my promotions clearly show that I can learn new roles quickly and successfully.
Be Aware of Your Weaknesses
Confidence is important in a job interview. You want the company to know how much you have achieved and why they should want you. However, chances are, someone is going to ask you what your weaknesses are. Sometimes the question is a simple, what are your 3 biggest weaknesses? Other times, it will be a more nuanced question such as, how are you continuing to grow in your industry?
The key to answering these types on questions is the same. Tell the partial truth and show how you have been working to improve your faults. You have to be strategic when telling someone a weakness. If you struggle getting to work on time, don’t share that with your future employer. Being late is a choice not a weakness. You want to use a real fault because sharing examples is key. Then you want to explain your plan to improve this weakness.
For example, if you are early in your career, you may not have had the chance to manage someone. You have a weakness of lack of managerial experience (might not be your worst weakness but still counts). However, if you have helped train an intern on a process or trained a teammate to take over a process while you are out, you can use these experiences as a positive. You have taken the initiative to work on your weakness even if you were unable to have an official subordinate. Companies love seeing that you have taken the initiative. It shows leadership quality.
Know the Company
This lesson I learned early on in my career. It was the evening before my first Fortune 100 internship “super day” interview (a super day is basically where all candidates show up on the same day and have several rounds of interviews). The prestigious bank had a networking event the night before and I only remember one piece of advice they gave us. The speaker said that if you are interviewing for a Finance internship, you should know the opening stock price. I wasn’t even interviewing for a Finance position (Internal Audit position instead) and it just stuck with me. I thought, wow, that’s a really specific question. Besides knowing what the company does, I should know some quick numbers on the company like the stock price.
As I have gotten older, I have added to my quick facts list. It doesn’t matter what field you are interviewing for, it is always good to have the following memorized.
- What the company does. If you aren’t interviewing for a sales or front office position, it may be easy to overlook what the company actually does. Do not make this mistake! If an interviewer thinks that you didn’t do your research, they will think you don’t care about getting the job. They don’t want to waste their time coming up with an offer if they think you don’t even want the job.
- CEO’s name. At the very least, know their last name.
- C-Level executive that your role falls under. If you are interviewing for a tech job, know the Chief Technology Officer. If you are interviewing for an HR position, know the Chief Human Resources Officer. You’ll be forgiven if you don’t know this but you’ll definitely stand out if you do.
- Competitors and how the company differentiates itself from them. Someone may ask you flat out what their competitors are to make sure you have done your research. Even if that isn’t asked you should know how your future company sets itself apart. It will give you an idea of whether this company will last in its market and it will help you answer the question, why do you want to work for this company instead of another in our industry.
- Recent news on the company. If the recent news is positive, try to find a way to add this into conversation. People love compliments so sharing that you are aware of recent positive news on the company is always a good look. Don’t bring up any negative news like a cyber-attack or a lawsuit.
Ask the Right Questions
This is one of the most important parts of the interview that is often overlooked. After acing all your interviewer’s questions, you can still lose the job in this last part. You need questions that show that you are smart, interested, and that tell you what working there will be like.
To show you’re smart and interested, ask questions related to recent news on the company or their industry. Are there new regulations impacting the industry? Is there any new technology that you’ve seen in this industry? If so, ask them about how they are incorporating this new technology. All of your research on the company and its competitors will be used for these questions. As a warning, the interviewer might turn your question back to you so be prepared for that as well.
Besides using this time to impress the interviewer, you need to get a feeling about whether you want to work for this company or not. There’s nothing worse than landing at a new job only to start hating it immediately. Ask about their department and company culture. What would make a successful candidate (if they answer working long hours and you want work life balance, then you know that this is the wrong place for you)? Are there mentoring or learning opportunities so you can continue to grow in your career? Are there volunteer opportunities? Ask the questions that matter most to you.
The one question you should not ask is about pay and benefits. Do not discuss pay and benefits until an offer is brought up. You will either make yourself look rude or end up losing your negotiation leverage. If they ask you for desired salary, avoid it at all cost. Say that you are looking for a market rate salary that is in line with other companies in their industry for someone with your experience.
Last but Not Least
Have self-confidence! Job searching and interviewing is exhausting and can be very de-moralizing. The interview process isn’t perfect. I’ve taken time off of work to fly across the country for an interview just to have the company never respond to me again. I didn’t even get a rejection email (yeah I’m still a little salty about that one). There were several times where the interviewer was plain rude and insulted my intelligence. You know what? I still know that I am a great interviewer and a great candidate for most jobs I apply to.
An interview can still go badly even if you prepare as much as possible and are extremely qualified. If an interview leaves you feeling down about yourself, then it’s definitely a sign that you don’t want to work there. Know your worth and know that you deserve to work at a place that is excited to have you on board. A good company sees the potential in people and tries to grow them in their career. It doesn’t make you doubt your intelligence and your capabilities.
Have any other interviewing advice or stories? Share in the comments!