You Got the Interview, Now What?

Research is the name of the game when it comes to interviewing these days. Companies and interview teams have high expectations for candidates to do their research and perform at a high level.   There are basic expectations that every candidate should meet but if you want to leave the interview as the front-runner you need to go above and beyond what the average candidate does and knows.

To make you stand out from the crowd, I have compiled a list of the all-time best pre-interview tips. From what to wear, researching the interview team, gathering intelligence on the company, to correlating your answers to the role and audience, we’ve got you covered with 30 ways to make sure you are a top performer.

  1. Cramming about the company, role, or interview team the day before the interview will not produce the result we want.  Recommend you spend a couple of hours over a few days prepping for your interview.  Sounds like overkill but no one lost a job opportunity because they were over-prepared. First, focus on the company and learn everything you can, from as many sources as you can. Talk to friends and contacts, and read current news releases, the more you know the better. Everyone else in the interview process just looks at the information a company is pushing out via the website and social media. Average candidates mention press releases but high performers go deep than that to ask insightful questions that interviews will talk about during the debrief.  Here is how you make an impression via the information on the company and discussion during the interview.
  2. Think of every company as having a personality/soul, you need to get a sense of “who” the company is and how to interview in a language(verbally & non-verbally) that will resonate.  Start by reading the company’s website, blog, and social media posts, the tone of the company’s content on these sites will give you a good foundation. This is what the better-than-average candidates will do but exceptional candidates do a little more.
  3. Twitter can also be an excellent resource because you can see what the company and its employees are talking about. You can get a sense for their business attitudes and personality.  Great way to see how the company portrays itself in short bursts.
  4. No matter what role you’re interviewing for—engineering, sales, or marketing, you should always be able to describe what the company does and what differentiates it in the market.  You would be surprised how many candidates stumble over the simple question, “what do you know about our company”.  You should have a 2-minute elevator pitch ready to answer this question and similar ones about what makes the company you are interviewing with special.
  5. Check out Glassdoor for company reviews from current and previous employees but take them as a guide, not fact. Glassdoor gives disgruntled employees a bullhorn with no repercussions.  Too low of a score for a company might be a red flag and no constructive criticisms might be another red flag.  Review the feedback and if you see a pattern of feedback make note of it and make sure to address it in the interview. Here is how to address it without putting the interviewer on the defensive(Subscribers Only).
  6. When you are invited to interview and things are getting scheduled, get a list of the people you’re meeting with from the recruiter. Then start researching them including what type of behavior might intrigue them or turn them off. How long have they been with the company, where were they before that, where did they go to school, and what organizations do they support, create a short dossier about each person. Then prep some questions that are specific to each interviewer: Ask for details about her focus at the firm, discuss current events on his specialty, or bring up a common interest you know he or she has outside the office.  Recommend having 3-5 topics/questions for each person written out and in our interview folder. More insights on how to use this information strategically without overdoing it(Subscribers Only).
  7. Different firms use different interview techniques and processes, so ask the recruiter how to prepare for the interview. Most times the recruiter will be happy to give insights into the process and technique that will be used.  Asking the recruiter or HR contact about the interview format ahead of time is totally fair game.  Highly recommend going back to Glassdoor to see if other candidates have left feedback on the process so you can confirm what the recruiter said or add to it. Some companies will ask case questions, behavioral questions, or brain teasers while others will give a standard set of typical interview and leadership questions. Investing time to become familiar with this style can make a huge difference and will help calm your nerves in the interview.
  8. 2xoq530Even the most polished and experienced executive must spend time preparing for the interview process and accessing how their background, skill set, accomplishments, and goals align with the role they are interviewing for. One of the best things you can do to prepare for the interview is to look at each interviewer’s dossier and identify 3-5 questions that the interviewer might ask given their role, level in the organization, and skill set.  Then write out a short outline answer to those questions.  You are not trying to memorize an answer to the question but get your mind active thinking about how you draw parallels to what you have done and what you want to do. Think of this as a mental warm-up before the real thing.  You will definitely be asked questions you have not thought of but if you have engaged your brain in preparation to identify how your skills and experience make this role a great fit you will be better equipped to respond with answers that will make an impact.  Need more expertise or someone to help you mock interview go here(Subscribers Only).
  9. Every professional whether interviewing or not should have their 2-minute elevator pitch that addresses “tell me about yourself”.  You should have a basic outline for this question that you then customize depending on the situation.  You should have a version for social events, plane/mass transit seatmates, meeting clients, interviewing, and even for kids to understand what you do. Interviewers always ask it, and you want to be sure to nail this first part of the interview.  Be short and concise and leave them wanting more. Need help building your blurb.
  10. The next question that appears in almost every interview that seems like a throwaway question but can make or break you is, “What’s your biggest weakness?” Be real, and don’t give a fluff answer, every interview question and interaction must be treated like an opportunity to make an impact. Focus on something that you struggled with in the past and took detailed focused work to improve. Even if you have conquered that skill mention it by detailing the weakness, how you noticed the need to improve it, what you did to improve it then the improvement you saw, and finally how you continually work on it.  For example, maybe you had a fear of public speaking, and you felt like you could make a better connection with your audience so you took some courses and focused on improving. With effort and focus you have improved and really enjoy public speaking now, but it’s something you continually try to improve because it had such a great impact on your career. You could then highlight how you’ve taken on leadership roles and volunteered to run meetings based on your new skills and continued interest in developing as a leader. More details on using your biggest weakness answer to highlight your strengths(Subscribers Only).
  11. You can easily find lists of common interview questions—but don’t prepare by writing out your entire answer; instead, create outlines for each. You’ll ensure you cover the bases without reading from a script. Take the job description and create outlines for each of the required skills/responsibilities highlighting your background with STAR(Situation, Task, Action, Result).  These are answers to interviewer questions discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing. Make sure that you follow all parts of the STAR method. Be as specific as possible at all times, without rambling or including too much information.
  12. Where’s the Beef?  Make sure your resume has tangible evidence of your success in current and past roles, then highlight them accurately in the interview. Finding some numbers, percentages, increases, or quotas you can use when talking about your responsibilities and accomplishments validates your answers and helps you tell a hiring manager why you will excel in this role. Click here to get help with numbers, even if you don’t deal with them(Subscribers Only).
  13. Almost every company will ask why you are interested in the role and the company compared to another in the industry.  If you can’t answer this question, you shouldn’t be interviewing and you definitely should not be hired. In your research of the company and interview team, you should have identified what makes the company unique and differentiates it in the market. Now drill that down to how that gets you excited about the company and the role. Focus on why you’re interested in the function and identify a couple of key factors that make it a great fit for you.  These better are real because if you fake it or half-ass an answer it will ring hollow.  
  14. Preparing for the interview is like preparing to play a sport there is a mental and physical aspects to prepare for, and failure to prepare for both will hurt your performance. Don’t just think about how you’ll answer certain questions but you need to practice looking in the mirror and answering them out loud. Work on eye contact, pitch, and rate you are speaking.  Do a dress rehearsal a day or two before so you can identify if your outfit is clean and looks professional.  I highly recommend asking the recruiter or HR person what attire is appropriate for the interview.  The day and age of wearing a suit and tie/pantsuit are over and many companies have a more casual dress code.  The old adage of “you can’t go wrong with a suit” is no longer right, in fact, you will look out of touch and put yourself at a disadvantage.  This prep work will help you clarify your thoughts and make you much more comfortable during the interview.
  15. Have a legal folder with a sheet for each interviewer with notes on their background, hot buttons, and connections to topics you share.  Have a list of questions that are focused on their area of expertise and a few questions that you might ask anyone at the company.  Each person you meet with might answer a question differently but give you a tone of good insights into the company and help you be more impactful with the next interviewer.  remember all questions are not created equal, don’t waste a question on the information you should get from the website or google, you need to peel the onion.  Example: “This role sounds exciting, what do you hope to see this person accomplish in the role in the first 90 days, 180 days, and or first year?  What does success look like in this role? What is the biggest challenge someone in this role will face?”  Make sure they’re thoughtful ones that show you’ve been paying attention and have done your homework when it comes to researching the company and the specific job you’re after.
  16. Be prepared to close the interview with each person you engage with during the process.  Hopefully, you have built rapport during your interview, and at the end with each interviewer let them know you are interested in the role, that you want the position, and ask them if they feel you could fill the position.  good-luck-job-interview-ecard-good-luck-at-your-job-interview-try-to-resist-the-urge-to-showDon’t ask the question if you can’t take the answer but not asking leaves an interviewer wondering if you are interested.  You want to close the interview with a declaration of your interest and be direct in seeking their initial feedback. Companies and interviewers want to hire people who take initiative. Practice thanking them for their time, and giving a good comfortable handshake. 

What to Wear and What to Bring

  1. As mentioned above you should contact the recruiter or HR rep to ask for the appropriate interview attire.  For companies that have a business or business casual dress code keep your look basic and conservative for the first interview.
  2. Make sure you get your outfit cleaned, pressed, and tailored (a modern fit is best). People often have their “interviewing suit” that’s been sitting in their closet for the past couple of years, and they dust it off for the occasion—you don’t want to be that guy or girl.  You also don’t want to discover an issue the morning of the interview and be running around trying to figure out an alternate outfit.  Be prepared so the morning of your interview is as stress-free as possible. 
  3. Don’t forget about the little things: Shine your shoes, check for loose hems, and make sure your fingernails look manicured. This is the stuff that you don’t always think people notice, but they do!  If you smoke, make sure your coat and outfit don’t stink like an old ashtray
  4. Do a little pampering, because looking your best helps you feel your best. If that means you need a facial, haircut, razor shave, or even a new interview outfit, then by all means do it. Feeling good about yourself will boost your confidence and we all know confidence is key to landing your dream job.
  5. Print one copy of your resume for each person you are meeting with that day. You never know who might need one and sometimes executives forgot to bring a copy with them, and you want to have your resume ready to go in case you’re asked for it.
  6. Prepare a list of references you can share if requested, whether you think you’ll be asked for it or not. For each reference, include a name, title, organization, division or department, telephone number, and email address, as well as a sentence briefly explaining the relationship.  Remove the reference provided upon request from your resume, it’s dated and redundant.
  7. Prep a go-to interview kit for your purse or briefcase. It should be large enough to hold your everyday essentials, plus your interview dossiers, such as extra resumes and a notepad, as well as a special emergency kit stocked with what you might need in an unexpected situation (think: Band-Aids, a stain stick, an umbrella, and breath mints). Also, bring your legal folder with the dossier of the interview team and pilot-custom-823your questions.  Don’t forget a pen or pencil. Always a normal black pen, no crazy colors, no feather quill from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, you should be the focus, not your paper or pens. 
  8. Clean out your bag! If you have to dig past candy wrappers, phone chargers, and old receipts to get that resume, you’re going to look a little unorganized. Everything you need should be neatly organized and readily accessible. The less you have to rifle through your bag, the better.  You don’t want to take 10 minutes to find your stuff and you don’t want to take 10 minutes to put it away. 

Prepare Mentally and Physically…Getting Centered

  1. Spend the most time before the interview not rehearsing questions, but reflecting on your career chronology to date. When you know your story inside and out, it’s much easier to apply examples to just about any interview question.  Practice your elevator pitches and practice like the environment.  Sit in a chair, sit up straight, don’t fidget, and practice how you will sit with your outfit on, just in case.
  2. Getting ready for a technical interview? Start preparing as early as possible. Working through a prep book or sample questions will not only give you good practice, but it’ll also put you in the right problem-solving mindset.
  3. Come up with a go-to phrase that’ll help you avoid dead air if you need time to stall and gather your thoughts. Two strategies that work well are repeating the question thoughtfully before answering but please don’t say “That’s a great question”. Take a breath gather your thoughts and then answer.
  4. Brush up on what certain body language conveys. Be aware of what you’re communicating through your posture and stance—and make sure it’s good. Think your movements through ahead of time so you are not distracted (or distracted) during the interview.
  5. Make an interview cheat sheet to compile all the details you need to remember, jot down notes about what you want to say and ask, and check off all the essentials you need to bring. Print one out for every interview, read it over the morning of, and you’ll be good to go.  Click here for a sample one or details on creating your own(Subscribers Only)
  6. Get a good night’s rest. This sounds like something your mom would tell you, but there are a few things that will throw you off your game like sleep deprivation.