Tips for Interviewing: What I Wish I Knew
Like the majority of recent grads, I struggled during my job search right out of college. I dreaded interviews as I always walked out thinking I could have prepared better. I thought of all the perfect things to say AFTER I was on the train ride home, and knew there were so many ways I could have put my best foot forward. Interviewing isn’t easy. So much is at stake within a ½ hour time frame, but it is possible to prepare for it. It wasn’t until I jumped on my first interview prep with a candidate that I learned that there is so much to prepare for. Here are a few things I wish I knew before going into an interview.
Do your research—why company culture is important
Though it may seem like an obvious requirement, you will be surprised how many candidates don’t know what the company does or who they will be potentially working for. Take the time to do the research. Learn about what the company does, their entities, their culture, and who you will be potentially work for.
You are going toe-to-toe with a ton of candidates with the same skill-sets, experiences, and backgrounds as yours for the role. So why would they select you for the role? Usually, cultural fit is the reason behind candidate selection. Research their cultures; use Glassdoor, LinkedIn, reach out to friends/connections at the company to get clues as to what the social scene is like at work. Will you be in a fast-paced environment? Are they team orientated or will you be working on your own? Once you gathered a substantial amount of information on the company culture, ask yourself if you fit into it. Do you belong? If so, why? Make sure to provide concrete examples.
Provide Examples—You are your own expert
Nobody knows your experience and background better than you do. However, if you are anything like me, pressure tends to make you blank under the slightest bit of pressure. To avoid that from happening make sure you review and practice giving examples of relevant experiences.
Review. Review your background and refresh the most relevant experiences. Review the job description and if there are technical skills or hard skills that they require for the position and be able to speak extensively on your experience. Review their culture and be able to speak as to why you are a cultural fit within the company (soft skills—team player, hard worker, smart).
Practice. Anyone can go into an interview and say, “Yes, I am a hard-worker,” so run through and provide concrete examples from past experiences, whether it is on your resume or not. Tie in your resume as much as possible. During my preps, I encourage candidates to jot down the key hard/soft skills and bullet point the relevant experiences. Once you have those down, you can practice several ways of telling your experience as an anecdote that will best show your relevant experience.
[EXAMPLE] for Russell Tobin, intrinsic motivation is a key factor of our culture. My relevant experience would be:
- Attending college full-time, juggling a time-consuming work-study as a manager for a sports team as well as my extracurricular activities (dance teams etc.)
- My love for martial arts and how the sport is an individualistic sport versus a team sport and how I had to push myself to keep going, keep reaching new levels and accomplishing my goals I set for myself.
Positive spins—Never Say Never
So, what happens when they ask for a skill that you don’t have? More often then not, interviewers review your resume prior to requesting you to interview. If there are specific skills that are required or preferred and it isn’t on your resume, it is important to realize they are aware but chose to interview you anyway. If they ask you about a certain technical skill that you don’t know, don’t just say “no” and leave it at that. Of course be honest and tell the truth, but put a positive spin on it.
When interviewers ask you what your weaknesses are, they aren’t asking you because they want you to feel ashamed or remind you of all reasons why you are not a fit for the role. They ask because they want to know that you are aware but you are constantly working to change it.
[EXAMPLE] “No, I haven’t worked with Pivot Tables in the past, however I am a quick learner. (Provide examples) When I was at (insert experience here) we had to learn how to use the V-lookup function in Excel and I was able to do it after one day of training.”
It is a Two-Way Interview
Ultimately, the managers are the ones who make the decision to move forward with your employment with them, however, my colleagues and I encourage our candidates to take the time to interview them managers as well. If selected for the position, you are going to be the individual doing the job 40+ hours a week working with these very same people. Take the time to learn about your team members and whom you will be reporting to; are they someone you can see yourself working with/for? Learn about what they like about the company and the culture because it does differ for everyone. In any position you do, it is important that you are happy with your responsibilities and tasks, your position, your team members and the company dynamic and culture. That way, it can bring out your best potential.
Always Ask Questions
Typically, interviewers tend to end interviews with the famous line “do you have any questions for me?” Always ask questions but be selective with what you ask. We encourage candidates to have 2-3 questions prepared per interviewer. Stray away from questions that can be easily researched—questions about the overview of the company or about their culture. In addition, stray away from questions that they might have already covered in the discussion. Asking questions surrounding these two topics may come off to the hiring managers as if you were unprepared for the interview or not paying much attention as they were speaking.
Asking a question shows that you were attentive, interested, and that you are eager to learn more about the position. Feel free to ask questions throughout and make the interview more fluid like a conversation. Questions can be simple like: What is the team size? What is the team orientation like? What are the expectations 30-60-90 days into the assignment? These question allow the managers to help you manage your expectation on how your role will grow throughout the role and let you understand the position in a different perspective.
Though these tips are just a few that I wish I knew, I hope that anyone reading this is able to take away something that they can use in their future interviews! There are probably many more tips and tricks on how to better prepare for an interview, however, it is important to understand that all companies are looking to hire people. My best tip would be to be yourself, shake off the nerves, be honest and transparent and show them why you are the best fit for the role.