You did it!
Your resume and cover letter stood out amongst your competitors and you got past the anonymous gatekeeper.
You’ve conquered one mountain only to find yourself at the base of another.
Interviewing is an essential skill that we only practice a few times in our lives if we are lucky.
If you have gotten here, you’ve already know there are thousands of articles out there that give the same 10 interview tips or give you a slightly different version of the same HR interview questions & answers samples.
They can be extremely helpful but in general, it is hard to feel prepared because there are infinite job interview questions and answers.
This is a step-by-step FINITE guide on how to nail an interview. Whether it is an in-person interview or a video interview, this approach will get you results.
Interview Tips | Better Said
1. Research Company
Goal: Figure out how the company operates and what are their values are.
Where can you look for this information? The obvious answers would be in the job description and company website.
More unconventional spots include but are not limited to articles from the company, Social Media of the company and leadership, interviews from employees especially the heads of departments in larger companies or founders of smaller companies.
For example, if you are applying for a design job, google the name of the company along with “Head of Design” and you’ll likely get a name that you can pop into youtube for interviews, IG/Linked in for their profiles, and Medium for articles they have written.
On the other hand, if you are trying to figure out if the company is a place you’d like to work at, try forums. You may find unfiltered complaints on Reddit from current or former employees that give you a different view of the realities of working for the company.
Particular aspects you’d want to keep an eye out for include working conditions, onboarding, and performance reviews.
2. Self Inventory
Goal: Figure out what makes you stand out from other candidates, in skills, experience, personality, and preferences.
Often people start jumping into answering questions before they have identified their strengths. Just like you need a strong thesis to build your essay around, having a clear message of who you are will give the direction of your answers.
There are two ways to help you get there. You can self-reflect or ask those around you.
With self-reflecting, you’ll be able to cover all the aspects listed above. It may take a little bit of digging but here are some questions to get you started:
Skills and Experience
How is your career journey atypical? What have you gained through this?
What do you get complimented on that others don’t?
What are you known for at work?
This could be for something technical or more based on interpersonal skills.
For example, when the team wanted updates from cross-functional teams, I was asked to as I had built personal relationships with other teams. My relationship-building got us updates and information faster and more frequently which made for smoother sailings.
Personality and Preferences
What do you like/hate most in your past workplaces?
What are the most important things to you?
Salary, time off, flexibility, career growth, stability, physical work conditions, management, etc
Prioritize your answer by comparing each component. Ie, which is more important: salary or time off?
Ask them how they deal with situations you have been in. Often it can be difficult to figure out on your own as your actions seem obvious ad the only choice but others can recognize what stands out. Co-workers, friends, or coaches.
If you are struggling, book a session or free consultation to point you in the right direction. For a self-guided exercise, try Chapters 3 & 4 in What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles.
Goal: Build out an array of examples that exemplify you and how you’d fit into the company
Don’t: Prep for every question possible.
This is an impossible task that will drive you close to insanity. Instead, prepare ~5 examples that can serve multiple purposes and exemplify your standout qualities and overlap in company values
Don’t: Give stock standard answers.
If you’ve gotten to this article, I’m sure you’ve already read through the Q&A formatted ones and noticed that they give pretty much the same answers. Imagine you are the interviewer, you’ll likely have heard the same answer over and over again.
Think outside of the box. Often questions have a typical answer, go beyond the obvious whilst still being honest. Tie in your strengths when related.
Example: How do you deal with a stressful situation?
Answer: Break down an example of a stressful situation you’ve handled and what you do to prevent this from happening in the future.
Do: Work on your storytelling.
Humans connect through stories.
You probably know someone who is an amazing storyteller. They can turn a small event into a whirlwind of emotions. You also know someone else who if they told the same story would suck the air out of the room. Practice telling stories so you can be the first, it will make you stand out.
In addition, when appropriate; get vulnerable. This is where your research of the company will come in handy. You should know how casual the workplace is and what stories would be appropriate. Stories that are unexpected, that make people shocked or laugh will make you memorable.
For example, a friend of mine was asked the most embarrassing moment in his life. He knew that the start-up he was interviewing for has a tight-knit group that was friends outside of work hours so he went big.
He told the story of how he wet the bed of a new lover and his escapades ended in him racing out into the freezing cold to throw away his underwear in a dumpster and blaming the girl’s innocent dog for the wet spot in the bed.
The interviewers were laughing and gasping for air by the end of the story and he got the job. Obviously, he also demonstrated that he was technically qualified but it doesn’t hurt that they would love to hang out with him outside of work.
Likeability is shown to affect productivity in a team so it is advisable for a team to take that into consideration. Read more about this in my upcoming toxic workplace article!
Do: Practice out loud.
Friends and family, if they can give honest feedback can be great for this but you can also do this on your own. Record yourself to get an idea of any nervous ticks or bad speaking habits you have.
Not sure what you should look like?
Think of your favorite famous people giving interviews. Politicians, entrepreneurs, actors, and athletes all have teams that help them prep so choose people that your want to emulate and pick out what they do. You can even compare them to people whose styles you don’t like to better identify what the differences are.
4. Questions for Company
Goal: Gain clarity of what it would be like to work for this company.
Much like a first date, we are usually so worried about making ourselves shiny and desirable during an interview, we forget that this is also an opportunity to evaluate your compatibility.
Go through your self-evaluation to identify the core must-haves and nice-to-haves in your work. Create questions that would allow the company to demonstrate its values.
Example: A workplace with high turnover usually means the work environment is lacking. It can cause progress to slow and resources to be spent in hiring and training whereas high retention could mean that the same resources are spent on scaling the business.
How long on average do employees stay and what reasons do they give for leaving?
What was the path of the last successful person in this position and how did the company assist in their success?
How do you attract and keep talent differently from your competitors?
Must-Ask Question for All:
Ask about how they handled the pandemic. It is/was a time of crisis that put a lot of pressure on the world. Hearing how they adapt and take their employees into consideration should reveal a lot of how the company will operate in the future.
How did the companies’ direction change due to COVID?
How did you help your employees adapt to the new working conditions? Any ongoing support?
With the knowledge that the company has now, what would have been done differently?
5. Pre-Game Ritual
Goal: Be in your top-performance mode.
Make good choices.
This pretty much goes without saying but continue your regular healthy habits to make sure you are in tip-top shape. Relax, sleep, exercise, eat and stay hydrated.
Get there early or if it is on Zoom, make sure everything is charged and working with a clean background. These are a few of my favorite virtual backgrounds.
Power pose (see above), take deep breaths, meditate or practice any relaxing rituals you prefer. If your body is relaxed, your mind will follow and allow you to think better on your feet.
Don’t be afraid to pause after the question is asked. “That’s a great question” or “let me gather my thoughts” is better than stumbling over an answer. Have a plan to execute the complete answer.
If you are finished with your answer and they don't immediately fill the space, sit tight. They are taking notes, you don't have to fill the silence.
And that wraps up all the interview prep tips. I hope that you found something new & useful that you haven't heard before.
What am I missing? What are some unconventional interview tips you’ve seen floating around?
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