Job Interviewing Tips

A few weeks ago I was invited to be on a job interview tips panel at San Jose State University hosted by the Latino Business Student Association. Having lived in Chile for 2 years and having Latino family, I was honored to be invited. I was also impressed! The students questions were insightful and they are far more prepared to enter the business world than I was in college.

Aside from the usual interview tips like attire, be on time, research the company and job, general preparation, and sending a thank you note, here is some additional thoughts I have had on how to do well in the job interview. As with all advice, take it with a grain of salt. I might be wrong 🙂

vince vaughn stock image sm

Know Your Story

The first question is either “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume”. This is your moment to shine, to make that first impression. You should know your story down cold. You should be able to concisely explain your history and how it has led to that moment and why you are perfect for the company and the role. Know what makes you stand out. The key is practice. Practice a 30-90 second elevator pitch on why you are awesome. Practice A LOT. All the time and over long period of time. Practice with friends, family, neighbors, whoever. If you can tailor your pitch for the job you are interviewing for, even better. It has to feel natural in the interview and not rehearsed. Confident, but not cocky.

Know the Role and the Company

Before going into the interview you should know what job you are applying for and the company.  Do as much research beforehand has possible. Talk to people at the company, former employees, do internet research, and whatever it takes to be prepared. Know their business model, products, and company culture. If they are a public company, listen to and internalize the latest earnings call (the Q&A at the end can be especially insightful). A friend of mine was interviewing for a sales role at a hot startup. He pitched the company’s product in the interview. The interviewer had never seen that before and was impressed with his knowledge. He got the job.

Don’t Recite Memorized Answers

In finance interviews, many times a candidate will be asked “what is our stock price?” and usually they will answer with the price they looked up that morning. But instead of replying with an answer like “54.62”, how much better would it be if they said “it’s trading around $50-55 per share, but the impressive part is the y/y growth is about 20% which tells me the company is on  a good trajectory”? The first answer is technically more accurate, but the second is by far the better answer. It shows the person really has done their homework.

Ask Insightful Questions

They will almost always give you time to ask questions. This part can be tricky. You want to convey your knowledge and passion for the company, but it has to be meaningful to you. Don’t ask a question just to sound smart. The interviewer sees right through it and can tell when you googled the company that day and pulled something from a headline. Be prepared for the “boomerang” of a question being turned back around on you. Only ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to and think the person would have specific knowledge on that question. A recruiter will not know about the latest acquisition or shift in corporate strategy. A marketing person will probably have thoughts on the shift of ad spend to new platforms away from traditional media. Know your interviewer.

Follow up with Value

When you send your follow up thank you note, add something that provides value. Whether it’s a link to an interesting article you read or a follow up to something discussed in the interview, adding something extra to the standard “thank you” is a good way to stand out.

Qualities I Look For

There are 3 qualities I look for in a candidate.

  1. Hard work with progression. It matters less exactly what you were doing and more that you were working hard to get things done. I also want to see an increase in responsibilities over time and a desire to improve things.
  2. Trust and reliability. Can I trust you to get things done accurately and on time? Will you admit to a mistake when you make it rather than cover it up? Can I count on you when the going gets tough? Will you help others even if it has no direct tie to your role?
  3. Intellectual curiosity. Are you invested in the work we are doing and do you want to learn more about it? It doesn’t matter if the subject is boring, I want to see that you want to know the “why” behind things and that you care about the business we are in.

Unless the job is really specific, less important to me are the technical skills. If you are a hard worker and have the intellectual curiosity to learn more, you can learn the technical skills.

And finally, be yourself! Don’t create a work persona version of yourself. There is obviously ways to behave at work versus in your personal life. But don’t make up things that aren’t true about you. It rarely works and if it does, the job probably isn’t for you anyway.

You can find me on Twitter @rhettweller