03 Oct 12 Job Interview Tips
Below you’ll find the 12 best tips to help before, during and after your interview.
1. Research Earnings Calls, Quarterly Reports & Blog Posts
In today’s world, content is king. Goldman Sachs publishes quarterly reports, Microsoft records its earning calls, and every startup has a blog.
With so much out there, I’m baffled that few of us look past the company’s homepage. It’s like we’re writing an essay on The Odyssey without quoting a single passage from the book.
Example: If you’re interviewing with Google, here’s two ways to answer: “What’s Google’s biggest opportunity in the next 5 years?”
- Weak: “I think wearable technology will be big because Google Glass and Apple Watch represent a new trend that shows…”
- Strong: “Call me geeky, but I was listening to Google’s quarterly earnings call and was blown away by the fact that display advertising hit over $5 billion in the past few years. Therefore, I think that…”
Neither answer is wrong, but the latter says much more. It shows you’ve done your homework and give answers rooted in data.
2. Use Google Alerts
Keeping up with company news is hard, especially if you’re interviewing with multiple places at once. That’s why Google Alerts is a savior; it’s a tool that emails you anytime a new story appears for a specific term. That way, you learn about current events without searching for them.
Example: If you’re applying to Creative Artists Agency, follow these steps:
- Go to www.google.com/alerts
- Type in “Creative Artists Agency”
- Put in your email address if you’re not already logged in to Gmail
Soon enough, you’ll get updates on CAA and have more ammo for your interview
3. Use Social Sweepster To Clean Your Facebook & Twitter
Nowadays, 91% of employers search your social media for any red flags. While most people tell you to watch every single thing you upload, there’s a much easier solution. Use Social Sweepster, an app that detects pictures of red solo cups, beer bottles, and other “suspicious” objects. It even detects profanity from your past posts!
“Too many recruiters reject candidate because of something they found on their social platforms” Social Sweepster CEO Tom McGrath says. “We help you create the first impression on your own terms.”
4. Schedule For Tuesday at 10:30 AM
According to Glassdoor, the best time to interview is 10:30 AM on Tuesday. Remember, your interviewer has a world of responsibilities beyond hiring. They’re responding to emails, balancing projects, and meeting tons of other candidates so it’s crucial to consider when they’ll be in the best mental state to meet you.
10:30 AM Tuesday is the sweet spot because you:
- Avoid the bookends. On Mondays and Fridays, employees gear up for the week or wind down. By the same token, avoid the first or last slots of any workday.
- Avoid lunchtime. Immediately before noon, your interviewer may be too hungry to concentrate; immediately after, they may be in a food coma.
But there’s a caveat. Research shows it’s best to take the earliest interview slot “in circumstances under which decisions must be made quickly or without much deliberation because preferences are unconsciously and immediately guided to those options presented first.”
Bottom line: if the firm is hiring for a job starting in a few months, try to interview late morning between Tuesday through Thursday. If the firm is hiring immediately, grab the earliest slot.
5. Craft Your “Story Statement”
Though most interviews start with the same prompt (“tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume”), we blow it off with boring answers like:
I studied [major X] because I really care about making a difference in [industry Y] as you can see through my last job at [company Z]…
This answer is like tearing out the first 200 pages of your autobiography. You leave out everything that gives meaning to why you want this job in the first place. What was your moment of epiphany? How did your childhood influence you? Why does this job move you? Most people don’t answer these questions. They start and end with their professional experience, leaving little to inspire the interviewer.
Next time, use what I call a “Story Statement,” which is a Cliff Notes of your autobiography.
6. Wear a Subtle Fashion Statement
We already know dressing well makes a difference. But what if we took our attention to detail a step further? That’s exactly what Morgan Stanley analyst Julio German Arias Castillo did for his interviews.
“Wear something that represents your culture or background,” he says. “In my case, I always wear a pin of the Panamanian flag on my suit lapel. Most of my interviewers ask about it so it becomes a chance to discuss my upbringing and love of my homeland.”
Julio created a conversation starter with his clothing. Depending on the company, you can be more playful: wear a bracelet from your recent travels to India, a tie with a quirky pattern, or — if you can pull it off — a small mockingjay pin if you’re a Hunger Games fan. As long as it’s subtle and tasteful, your fashion statement can build rapport through fun conversations about your hometown or mutual love for Katniss Everdeen.
7. Prepare for The “What’s Your Weakness?” Question
Most people overthink this question and give a canned answer like “I’m too much of a perfectionist!” Others give a genuine answer but still fall short of what this question is really asking. It’s not about admitting your weaknesses. It’s about showing how you overcome them. What systems have you put in place? What progress have you made? Include those thoughts to strengthen your answer.
- Weak: “My weakness is that I struggle to run efficient meetings…”
- Strong: “I sometimes struggle to run efficient meetings. But I’ve worked to improve by drafting an agenda before every meeting, sending it to all participants, and then following up with a recap and clear action items so everyone knows what to do moving forward.”
8. Brainstorm 3 “PAR” Anecdotes
Your interview is as memorable as the stories you share. Many people have fascinating experiences but forget them when they’re on the spot. To remedy this, have three anecdotes ready to plug into your interview. Your anecdotes should follow a simple format:
- Problem – what was the situation?
- Action – what did you do to solve it?
- Result – what changed afterwards?
With this format, you can adapt your PAR anecdotes to fit a variety of questions such as “tell me about a time you worked with a team” or “when have you struggled most?”
9. Think Aloud on Analytical Questions
Some interviews include tough analytical questions. Whether you’re solving for an exact number (“what’s the EBITDA of Company X?”) or rough estimate (“how many ping pong balls can fit in a Boeing 777?”), it’s important to talk through your thinking. Don’t just give an answer; show how you got there.
Example: Consider these two answers to “How many lawn mowers are there today in the United States?”
- Weak: After 45 seconds of silence, you blurt out “75 million!”
- Strong: You’re talking the entire way through, sharing your calculations and assumptions.
“Let’s start from the top down. Assuming the US population is 300 million and each household averages 3 people, then we have 100 million families in the US. Let’s assume urban households don’t have lawns to mow and therefore only suburban and rural families buy lawnmowers. If roughly 25% of America is urban and 75% is suburban and rural then we have 75 million households that own a lawnmower.”
(side note: it’s okay to make assumptions and for those assumptions to be off. But that’s why you need to communicate them first).
This is a great way to show your communication skills alongside your analytical ones. Plus, if you make an error, it’s easier to know where you went wrong and fix it.
10. Ask Questions That Kill Two Birds With One Stone
At the end of your interview, it’ll be your turn to ask a few questions. This is a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – that is, asking a genuine question while conveying something new about you. Most people just do the first part and forgo a final chance to impress the interviewer.
- Weak: Will this role provide opportunities to work in emerging markets?
- Strong: I’m passionate about languages and minored in Arabic in college. Will this role provide opportunities to work in emerging markets in the Middle East?
- Weak: Are there opportunities for community service?
- Strong: I used to work with Habitat for Humanity and was so grateful for the opportunity to give back. For a full time employee, are there company-wide community service events that I could take part in?
- Weak: What’s [Company X]’s fastest growing division?
- Strong: According to your quarterly report, your revenues grew by 17%. Is that because of a particular division within the company?
This works beautifully if you haven’t found a natural way to bring up an accomplishment or cite a publication beforehand.
11. Grow A Backbone & Ask This Final Question
This one takes guts — and that’s why I love it. Spredfast Product Manager Luke Fernandez says it’s the “single piece of advice that has consistently made a difference.”
Before your interview ends, ask this one last question: “Have I said anything in this interview or given you any other reason to doubt that I am a good fit for the role?”
“It’s bold, but if delivered honestly, it displays true desire and confidence,” Luke said. “I’ve been commended for that specific question in interviews with Google, YouTube, BCG, Deloitte, Twitter, and Spredfast. In one situation, the interviewer actually said yes and gave me the chance to clarify something that would have otherwise lost me an offer.”
12. Email a Personalized Thank You Note
Thank your interviewer within 24 hours of finishing. It not only shows your gratitude, it also combats recency bias if you interviewed early. Not to mention, it opens the door for dialogue even if you don’t get the job. Sometimes, recruiters reach back out on the same email thread months later, mentioning new job opportunities.
Source: Forbes written by Jon Youshaei