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How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Whether you are a recent college grad launching your tech career or a seasoned professional seeking a new role during the Great Resignation, to land the job, you need to prepare for the interview. For this blog in our Hiring Academy series, we have pulled together some tips from our experience that have helped our candidates during a job interview.

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First, learn all you can about the company and its products. A great place to start is the company’s website; but do more than click around on the home page – spend some time reviewing their products, checking out their leadership team, and diving into their latest press releases. The more time you spend on their site, the more you can begin to characterize the company and determine if it is a good fit for you. Is there diversity in their leadership team? Do they have any statements about social responsibility?  How is their stock doing, or are they a venture-backed start-up? Are their product lines or services innovative and do they mesh with your values and interests?

If you are working with a recruiter, make sure you ask them to help you understand the culture of the company, how they approach interviewing, and any other details that will help you prepare for your interview. Ask questions that help you get a feel for the work environment – does the company manage by influence or hierarchy? Are there a lot of compliance, regulatory or data requirements that drive operations? Is the feel entrepreneurial or more like an enterprise with many moving parts? The answers to these questions not only help you prepare for the interview, they also help you determine your level of comfort and interest in the company as well.

Check on the company’s dress code. Many interviews—especially those conducted by video—are business casual today. If that’s the case, you don’t want to wear a business suit or tie. A nice polo shirt may work. Plan to arrive on time and for virtual interviews, make sure that the area where you will be doing the interview is quiet and free of distractions.

Ask for the names of the people who will be part of your interview and take the time to look them up on LinkedIn, making note of their title, job responsibilities and any other interesting aspects of their profile. 

Next, spend time with the job description, bullet pointing the requirements and responsibilities in a list.  Write down next to each bullet point where you’ve done what is described in the bullet point – this way you are making examples that are in line with the specific requirements in the job description. Examples are what the interviewer will want to speak with you about – they will form the core of the conversation that you have during your interview. 

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If you don’t have much work experience, think of ways you used the skills as an intern or as part of a school project. The more time you spend with the job description and developing your examples, the better prepared you will be to have an engaging conversation about the position with the person conducting the interview.

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I work with clients where self-management is a skill in high demand, so I counsel candidates to choose examples that show their ability to move their work forward without a lot of structure, or to use good judgment about when to ask for help. 

Other organizations have clients that are ego-less. They want to know what you do well, but they aren’t comfortable with a candidate who comes across as bragging about their capabilities. In these environments, a great way to demonstrate what you do well is to front load a question with a strength.

For instance, I have noticed that many job descriptions for recruiting roles are looking for candidates with experience using LinkedIn Recruiter. If you nerd out on LinkedIn Recruiter, I would suggest formulating a question like this: ‘I’ve used LinkedIn Recruiter for the past four years pretty exclusively and I found a couple of great ways to shorten my time to fill - is LinkedIn Recruiter something that I will use on this team?’

Finally, metrics are typically a part of any business role – be fluent in the metrics that drive the work that you do and be prepared to share them in an honest, practical, thoughtful way. One of the things I have done for a sales interview was to prepare a few simple charts and graphs of the metrics I am accountable for. When the interviewer asked about my productivity, I asked if I could show them my data and took over the video presentation briefly to share my charts. They were thrilled and I got the job.

You will know that you’re done with the job description when you have created specific examples for each bullet point in the description and you have crafted questions that share your strengths – remember that each bullet point and question should map to a need identified in the job description.  You should also notice that your anxiety is a little lower because you’ve taken some control over the process – this should also result in a more conversational style in the interview, because you won’t be a passive listener waiting to be told about the job – you’ll be an educated candidate who is learning and sharing and coming to your own conclusions about the company as well.

After the interview, send a thank-you note. The note should be thoughtful, but brief. Sending a thank-you puts you in front of the hiring manager again—in a positive way. In your note, do more than thank the hiring manager for their time. Convey your excitement about the position and ask about any follow-up questions. The thank you notes I remember are the ones that refer back to a unique comment made or situation that occurred during the interview. “I am intrigued by the [specific challenge] you mentioned. I think my skills could have an impact. I really enjoyed the conversation and look forward to speaking with you again soon.”