If you work in an industry where the employee is the one who’s calling the shots, you’ve probably heard this urban legend. Someone went to an interview, didn’t show much of their skills but still got the job. Maybe this person was you? If that’s the case, you’re in the lucky minority. Only a few industries are like that and, on top of that, a job interview is a stressful experience for most people. COVID-19 pandemic changed the game for us all, including those previously privileged with their choice of industry. Even IT specialists are looking for employment right now.
For this reason, I decided to share my experience from hundreds of hours spent on interviewing candidates. If I were to limit myself to one piece of advice, I would go for “be prepared”.
I sense an avalanche of “O RLY?” and “You don’t say?” memes showing up in your head right now. And I agree with you, this is super obvious.
Over the years, I’ve interviewed many candidates, both technical and non-technical, from Juniors and interns to managers and leaders, and guess what? Despite their experience, lots of them were not prepared right. So I’ll extend my advice a little bit and tell you to “be prepared in the right way”.
The Right Job Interview Tips: This Way, Please
‘In the right way’? What’s the right way to be prepared? Read on and you’ll find out. Am I able to give you an ultimate check-list and will it guarantee success? No, I’m not. This is much more complicated.
Some values are universal and will always prove to be a grand feature, like your experience, attitude, achievements, and willingness to develop your skills. Preparation won’t make up for a lack of these but don’t feel daunted! I’ll help you present your experience in the best way possible. Hopefully, you’ll never step out of an interview facepalming over something you said when stressing about making a good impression.
But First, Ace That Resume
Before you say thanks to Captain Obvious (yet again), let me tell you something. One in three resumes I go through, give or take, doesn’t apply best practices. This topic is too big to cover in a few sentences, so look out for an in-depth article on this soon. Still, there’s a rule of thumb you can always apply: your resume has to tell the recruiters why they should invite you to the interview.
Look at the job description. Look at your resume. Then look again. Compare & conquer. Highlight the skills and the experience that match the job offer and don’t let irrelevant information outshine the key points. Ask yourself: would I invite myself to this interview if they want A and my CV says B, C, and D?
Don’t write a block of text. Focus on things that you’re actually good at. Stating that you have good Excel skills and then not answering any related questions during the interview will reduce your credibility even if this skill wasn’t required in the first place.
One thing I always appreciate is when candidates mention not only their duties but also what they achieved in their past.
Make Sure You Know Your Own History
Did you just go through your resume and make sure it reflects your goals? Great! But do you remember what’s in it?
I won’t exaggerate if I say that about half of the candidates seem to be surprised when asked about something they put in their resume. I’ve lost count of all the times I wanted someone to elaborate on a skill they mentioned, like tools or rules they apply to stay organized at work, and heard something like this: “well... um… I mean yeah, I am good at this because I never crossed the deadline… and stuff” as an actual response.
Not the answer I was expecting. And I get that you’re stressed! I know that in casual circumstances you’d start a monologue on your perfect Trello board, Google Calendar, and how much you loved that particular Brian Tracy’s book.
This is exactly why you should know your resume perfectly and be prepared for any question related to its content.
Conquer The FAQs
I won’t give you a list of questions you’ll definitely hear at your job interview. They vary depending on the position you apply for and the industry you’re in.
But it won’t hurt to make sure you’re aware of your strong and weak spots and what you expect from your employer. What motivates you and what stresses you out?
I hope you’ll never hear the dreaded “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, but be prepared for anything related to your interests and your growth as a professional. There’s a good chance you’ll be asked why do you consider changing your job and why this particular offer got your attention.
Let me get something straight. I’m not saying these are good questions, I’m saying they’re popular. There’s a huge probability that you will be asked to answer them.
Assess What You Can Be Asked About
Be prepared for questions related to the position you’re applying for, especially if your experience isn’t a perfect match. You’ve already looked at the job description while checking your resume. Look once again and imagine you’re a recruiter. What would you ask yourself? Putting myself in someone else’s shoes works wonders for me when I prepare for an interview. I like to imagine myself as a candidate and think about the questions they’d want to hear and answer.
Be prepared to elaborate on your skills and experience that’ll help you with your new duties. If you apply for a sales position, don’t be surprised by questions about your scores. When applying for a team leader post, expect to be asked to speak about a conflict that you resolved. If you apply... Okay, I’ll stop here. I’m sure you get the idea.
Get To Know The Company
“What do you know about our company” sounds familiar, huh?
To be honest, I don’t like this question and I never ask it. Most job-seekers can’t focus on one company only, so I understand that it’s hard to go through multiple success stories and memorize hundreds of core values. I’d rather tell you about what we do myself (okay, I simply enjoy that part).
But! I’ll always appreciate a candidate who shows that they’ve checked out our website and social media. When speaking about our office vibe and the benefits we offer, I often hear ‘that’s exactly what drove me here! I saw you guys on Instagram and I feel this atmosphere already!” Wow! It’s so nice to hear that!
If you’re applying for a manager position, go the extra mile and check out your potential employer’s competition. Sharing your insights and thoughts during the interview will always give you extra points.
The (Not-So-)Obvious Reminders
It’s time for me to put on that Captain Obvious suit once again and remind you of some basics (I feel you can never speak about them too often). Arrive on time, look good (ask the recruiter if there’s a dress code; if there’s not, looking good doesn’t mean that you need to iron your suit), be polite to everyone. Send your task in an agreed-upon format (dear Developers, zip please! :)) and sign it with your name. It may be hard to believe, but trust me, only a few candidates actually sign their recruitment tasks. Are you willing to trust that the recruiter won’t mix your task with someone else’s? Should this ever happen? Absolutely not! Is it possible? I think you know the answer.
Be elastic! I’m not saying you should agree to a meeting held at 6 AM the next morning, but if you really care about the job, try to fit in one of the proposed dates. Be aware that sometimes time may be the key.
Ask Questions! Or Don’t Ask Them!
The internet is full of ‘nailing that job interview’ tactics and nearly every one of them (or at least of the ones I’ve encountered) advised to ask questions because it shows that you’re interested and prepared.
Well, I can tell a lot about your attitude just after the first few questions I ask. Sometimes the interviews I hold transform into casual conversations during which we discuss the position and everything we consider important (I genuinely love these kinds of interviews). If this will be your case, don’t feel like you HAVE TO ask some questions at the end just because you think I expect that.
It’d be a smooth move, however, to change roles for a second. The recruiter has already asked you what kind of employee you are, so it’d be fair to ask them back: “It was a very nice talk and everything about this position is clear to me, but I’d like to ask you what do you look for in your employees in general?” I’d actually love to answer this question! At MPC we look for team-players with a positive attitude and committed to their work. So if you want to send the “I’m interested” signal, I think this kind of question will definitely show off your mindset.
Be Prepared - For Realsies
Some of you will say that you know your profession, you’re sure of your skills and you don’t need to prepare yourself anymore. Well, if you’re sure, then you’re sure and I wouldn’t want to convince you otherwise.
Still, notice that I didn’t say anything about the possibility of you meeting inexperienced recruiters who will have no idea of good questions to ask you or the chance of you spilling coffee on your shirt in the middle of the meeting, or that the hiring manager won’t listen to you because there’s a “fire” at the production and they lie to themselves that they can divide their attention. If you’re familiar with Murphy’s laws, then you should know that it’s best to lower the risk of suddenly forgetting your name. It’s impossible to predict everything, but if you don’t like taking chances, then be prepared. In the right way. :)
To Sum Up
Do you feel like you’re ready to conquer the world of job interviews right now? I hope I’ve shown you how not to waste your time and direct your efforts exactly where you need to benefit. Remember, job hunting is pretty much like a battle - preparation is a key to smart and successful wrestles.
So before you put on that armor and head for that attack, make sure you went through your resume, polished and tailored it to the offer, and recognized the points you can elaborate on. Then wear Captain Obvious suit yourself and nail that “little things everyone knows about but no one does”: show up on time, plan ahead in case of traffic, pick a good outfit and be polite. Boost your confidence by crafting answers to questions you sense you may be asked. But most importantly: stay calm, you’ve got this!