If you’ve ever wanted a one-stop, interview prep-shop, this is IT. From an in-person meeting or a video interview, we're here to help.Interviews can be the most intimidating thing in the entire world. A close second could be asking someone on a date—in real life. You know, not through an app. Swipes aside, we’re aiming to lay out the prep work for a fantastic interview.
The kind that feels like you’re floating on air afterwards or the kind where you hear the cash register’s KA-CHING after an eloquent and to-the-point response.
Interview homework: what to do to prepare for the (video) interview
During the interview: what to expect, what to avoid, and what to deliver
The interviewer's 3 essential questions
Like a quote on Pinterest once said, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance”. Abraham Lincoln may not have said it, but if he had a fondness for alliteration, he probably would have. After all, he is the figure that said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Preparation is where you win the interview. The interview is where you show the interviewer you won.
Research the Company
The first line of defense is a good offense, a well-known military strategy. The same goes with an interview. Researching the company is essential to create a positive impression. It shows you’ve prepared well, take the opportunity seriously, and may possess a few ideas on how to contribute. Not all research is created equal. It’s important to land on a few key areas. These areas will prepare you to freestyle if any unexpected questions arise; they also showcase how thoughtfully you’ve considered the company, its industry, and its potential roadmap.
When researching, find the answer to these questions:
How do they view themselves?
What sets them apart in their particular niche or field?
What are keywords that showcase their uniqueness?
What are some ways that their intention may fall short of the reality?
If possible, learn about these areas:
Recent news and/or highlights.
You can find this out in the PR/News section of their website—companies love to brag about themselves understandably. Check out their social media channels, including their Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for news. For negative things (or less-glamorous news), ask ye olde search engine, Google. Type in the company’s name and hit “News” and a slew of information will be listed.
Most famous client and/or project.
Check out who their customers are and check out whether these organisations are small, mid-sized, or giant corporations. You’ll be able to get a grasp onto who their audience is, giving you information on what their potential business goals may be. Additionally, it sheds light on a specific company’s niche: they may be selling accounting software to airlines or FitBits to dog food companies. If they’ve historically been selling FitBits to dog food manufacturers but also landed a big project with an agricultural firm, this could give you ideas about you’re a great fit as they expand.
Know the Job Position
This may be the most “Dad-like” advice—ahem, obvious—but it’s an important point to thoroughly investigate. Look over the job description, and take some notes. A little exercise might be helpful:
- Print out the job description
- Pick a colored marker or pen and circle skills or areas you have direct experience in, that was your main “job”.
- Pick another colored marker and circle skills or areas you do not have direct experience in, but have been related. ie. you ran a company’s social media, but learned to create infographics.
- Write down how you’ve developed and/or learned these skills, like attending a webinar or an online course.
- Your “direct skills” education
- Your “related skills” education
- Write down why this job position stood out to you personally—do you have a particular passion about the product, the industry, etc? Why are YOU drawn to it?
Know Why You’re a Fit
Use the earlier job description analysis to help you build a story in your mind about why you’re a fit. This is the time to reflect on possible questions or concerns the interviewer might have, “You worked as cosmetics store manager and now you want to work as a Data Scientist at our company?” Highlight how you taught yourself, took online courses, and always had interest in computers (your thesis was on how cybersecurity after multi-stakeholder organizations). Don’t be ashamed of your past; this is your story: own it and then construct the narrative.
Practice Talking About Yourself
Now that you know you’re a fit and you’re taking control of your narrative, it’s practice time. Another quote coming your way: “Practice makes perfect”. Interviews are often a nerve-racking affair. However practice is the proverbial shot of Vodka to interview anxiety. It makes things a bit better. You’ll know what to expect and how to answer. Use the list of common interview questions below to make flashcards or have a friend interview you. Research by Rice University and Michigan State University shows that "deliberate practice” or “engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance” as the biggest predictor for success and performance improvement.
What is deliberate practice?
Deliberate practice is purposeful and systematic; it requires focused attention over a period of time. A famed golfer, Ben Hogan, broke down each section of the golf game and studied how to master each section.
Similarly, deliberately break down each step of the interview process:
-insight into skills and experiences
-the “challenges” faced
-odd-ball questions (questions about industry, position, random trivia)
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Show up on time.
If you’re a person that has a habit of arriving late. Make it your goal to get there 30 minutes beforehand. Being late to an interview puts you on the weaker foot; remember YOU’RE the prize—finding dedicated and skilled talent these days is getting tough. When you’re running behind schedule, you forfeit that hand. Now you just look like the genius who is a jerk. Avoid being late at all costs. If you're lucky enough to be having a video interview (video interviews means worrying less about road traffic), still make eye contact and be on time.
Always Call Casual Cannibals Into Pink Washpots
Don’t worry, you won’t have to call a cannibal anywhere—it’s a pneumonic device to help you remember 8 essential characteristics to exude in an interview: be authentic, concise, confident, interested, passionate, and warm. The (video) interview should be a pleasure to hold, both for you and your interviewer(s). These traits are guideposts in what important feelings to project, from the moment you shake their hand till you send a follow-up email. With a video job interview, you may want to emphasize body language, eye contact, or vocal pauses or a bit more. In video interviews, sometimes the camera may disengage, so be sure to make the potential employer can see you emotionally connect with questions.
No need to be anyone else but you, boo. Really. You got this interview, so be the best version of yourself. The real “you” may be a person who prefers to observe and stay silent or be a slob at home. At an interview, you’re showcasing how you’ll be at the workplace, what kind of colleague you’ll be. Remember, job interviews are meant to assess fit between the organization and employee. This experience, an in-person interview or video, should be unique and mutually beneficial. Being authentic is one way to assure a match.
You’ve practiced your responses. Great. Be sure to keep responses under 90 seconds. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking the whole 90 seconds, but in general keep your answers to the point. Add emotion to them, if appropriate. In video interviews, be sure the camera is capturing your expressions.
Keep things upbeat and positive. Remain confident in outlining how your skills align perfectly with the job requirements. Don’t feel ashamed or anxious about gaps in your resume; be confident in how you present them and how hard you worked to make up for any deficiencies. Employers want to see people who know their skillset is solid, but also confident to highlight their weak points and how they’re addressing them. In interview videos, be sure to come across sincere with marked pauses, emphatic head nods, and at least one ear-to-ear smile.
Employers receive several applications for a position. If you’re interviewing for big corporations like Google, they receive thousands of applications. Share what excites you. Tell why this job aligns with your personal values and goals. Passion is one of those traits that’s difficult to hide or fake..
Your hands may be a little clammy from nerves, but keep the conversation warm and easy-going. How to show warmth? When you’re doing prep work, jot down some potential warmth-inducing stories. Even if it's not in-person interview, a candidate story creates a special memory for the interviewer.
“Tell Me About Yourself”
This may be the most dreaded question in an interview. “Um…I studied Chemistry and like bread?” It’s a tough one as its encompassing and open-ended. This is simply an introductory question; as the interview progresses, they’ll be able to learn more about you from your later responses. To assist you in answering this, examine yourself:
- What am I good at?
- What do I enjoy?
- What is the unique way I approach a problem?
- Give an example of how that happened in the workplace
The Interviewer’s Secret 3 Questions
At the core, a potential employer has 3 essential questions. The questions that interviewers wish they could ask, but try to answer for themselves:
“What’s it like working with you?”
They’re trying to answer whether you’ll be a cool person to work with. Again they know they’ll be spending considerable time alongside you; they don’t want to hire a jerk or someone that doesn’t contribute to a team project. The more you share, the better picture they’ll gain about working with you.
“Are you a willing learner?”
Are you a person that is teachable? Do you have a good attitude about trying to learn new things? Or are you a person that doesn’t really value trying to learn new skills as needed? Most employers understand if you don’t have the tools necessary for the job; they’re looking for someone who is an eager student.
“Do you take the initiative?”
No one wants a team member that waits for instruction. Are you an individual that has taken on new challenges and projects because that’s what your past employer needed—even before the employer realized it? Highlight your initiate with an example or two. Show the interviewer you can “pull your weight”, while still always trying to contribute to the larger team’s success. Self-starters are a great addition to any team.
Any other special tips if it's a video interview?
Interviewing videos and in-person interviews differ by only one variable: creating the best setting for a video interview. Luckily that's one variable within your control. Video interviewing is very much a candidate-centric approach to interviews. It gives a candidate and those scheduling job interviews a range of conveniences. For a video interview, you may want to keep these key choices in mind:
Use a well-lit space
Interviewers want to see your face; video interviews with good lighting goes a long way. It’s a little odd when people’s faces are in the dark. That may be the primates in us speaking, but we don’t really tend to trust those in dark lighting. Find a room or corner that has natural light that hits your face. Be sure that the light is not behind you, otherwise your face will be in a shadow.
Eliminate a distracting background
A video interview may be an excuse to clean up your living space. Clear out any distracting pieces of artwork, clothes, or anything else that may make an interviewer go, “Wow, that’s a little messy” or “That’s a bit inappropriate”. If you have any questions, stray on the more conservative side. If your prize, mounted stuffed pig head seems a bit too much, just take down for the video interview.
Check your tools (camera, phone, connection, etc.)
Double check that your Internet connection is fast and reliable. You may want to check out Speedtest.net the day before an interview. As a broadband speed testing tool, it assists in measuring how quickly your connection is. If you do it the day before, chances that connection will crash minimizes. Be sure your camera is up and running. You may want to do a test call with a sibling or friend. If your video interview is on-the-go, make sure your phone is charged, or have a charging cord nearby.
In a video interview, an employer typically sees only above your shoulders via the camera. Which is great if you're just wearing pajama pants. Focus on wearing non-distracting clothing. Sometimes even the most fabulous outfits don't translate that well on video. Wear a simple blouse or collared shirt for video interviews that will allow them to concentrate on you.
Interviews, video or not, don’t have to be intimidating. It’s a conversation where you get to showcase your professional narrative and interject what makes you so special.
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