There’s nothing quite like the roller coaster of emotions that comes from a job interview.
First, there’s the excitement of getting the phone call. (Inner monologue: “Yes! I made it to the next level! Now stay calm, act casual, and don’t forget to thank them for bringing you in.”)
Then, the nerves kick in. (Inner monologue: “What are they going to ask me? Am I going to sound stupid? Why did I even apply for this job in the first place?”)
Somewhere along the line, you Google “common interview questions” and come up with strong, solid answers that show you know your stuff. You do some research on the company so you have a basic understanding of who they are and what they do. (Inner monologue: “OK, feeling better now. I’m ready. They’ll be lucky to have me. I GOT THIS!”)
Then, the big day arrives. You get to the interview site 20 minutes early and sit in your car for a little while, waiting for the appropriate time to go inside. You don’t want to look overeager! (Inner monologue: “How’s my outfit? I hope this is the right place. Our meeting is at 10:30 a.m. today, right?”)
Then, it’s time. Your chance to show your potential boss why you’d be an asset to the team, why there’s no one better than you for the role, and why they shouldn’t just offer you the position right then and there. (Inner monologue: “Take a deep breath. Speak slowly. Don’t say anything stupid.”)
Does this scenario sound familiar? I know I’ve experienced it, and while there’s no way to control the questions an interviewer might throw at you, there are plenty of ways to prepare beforehand that will give you the confidence you need to own the room and ace the interview. In this installment of Conversations from the Corner Office, ID Plans CRO (and veteran job interviewer) Seth Garber gives his advice on the interview process – how to prepare, what to say, and what to do when it’s all over.
SG: From a preparation standpoint, I would encourage people to do their research on the organization. Get a sense of the company’s history and how they’ve grown and developed over the years. Also, I recommend that people, especially those coming in to interview for a high-level sales position, should come up with a conceptual organization chart. Know who your reporting manager will be, who they report to, and who the other people are who report to them. Then, actually draw up your diagram so during your interview, you can refer back to it and be able to put yourself somewhere on the chart – basically, you’re coming in with the mindset that you’re already hired and part of the team.
SG: Actually, when I’m interviewing someone, I always go to my LinkedIn page to see if they looked at my profile. If they didn’t, it’ll show me they didn’t do their research. I think it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re interviewing with – their background, their hobbies, their volunteer history – and it’s not a bad idea to look up other people in the company, too. You never know who else might be in the interview room.
SG: Say you discover the person you’re interviewing with is into soccer. You don’t necessarily have to say something like, “I read online that you like soccer.” What you could do is tell a story about an experience you had at work and tie it into a something related to a soccer game. It’s a great way to start connecting with the person interviewing you, and it makes you seem like a human versus just a job candidate. I get it – job interviews are uncomfortable and they can make people come across stiff and robotic, but the faster you can humanize yourself, the faster the person on the other side of the table can see what it’s like to work with you. Stories like these are a good step toward making you more personable in the eyes of the interviewer.
SG: You’ll definitely want to practice your opening statement and your posture. Make sure you sound and look confident. Also, try on your outfit the day before to make sure it fits and there aren’t any stains, and take a picture of yourself to help visualize how you’ll be seen across the table. These simple steps can really go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable and less stressed once you get to the interview.
SG: No. I do research the person so I know a little bit about them, but I definitely learn much more during the interview. I’ll see how prepared they are, how they speak, and get an indication about whether they’ll be a good fit for our organization.
SG: If I’m looking for someone on the revenue or sales side, I purposely ask closed-ended questions. I’m looking for them to articulate an answer beyond yes or no and see how they can tie it back to their metrics. Also, if I see something on their resume that doesn’t make sense I’ll ask them about it directly. Like if they said they are currently 450 percent to goal, I’d ask, “Why are you leaving?” and see if they can articulate the reason. Or if they say they’re in the top 25 percent of salespeople at their country, I’ll ask how many sales reps there are. I’m not necessarily looking for any particular answer – I’m simply looking to see if they can articulate their response and tell their story.
For an operations or support position, I like to ask them how they’d handle specific scenarios. For example, if a customer called you about a simple problem and yelled at you, walk me through how you would react. What I’m looking for is someone who is patient, someone who has the right personality to handle customer service challenges, and someone who can solve problems in a short amount of time.
SG: In sales, it always comes down to metrics and success. You can definitely talk about your big wins, but I think it’s also good to talk about your failures and how you overcame them. Leaders understand that you don’t win everything, and it’s OK not to win everything – what they want to see is how you learned from your losses and kept going.
In operations, have some stories to tell about your work ethic, like the time you stepped up for a customer or helped another team member be successful without taking personal credit. Talk about the people who were promoted underneath you.
SG: One of the killer things people say is, “I was thinking today about whether this organization is the right fit. I want to see if it’s the right culture for me.” While that seems to make sense, you really can research that information ahead of time. Plus, when you say something like that and you’re sitting down with the leader of that organization, what you’re really saying is, “I hope you’re not wasting my time.” Your focus should always be on winning the position – that’s the mindset you need to be in. Worry about the culture and fit once they actually offer you the job. The interview is not the time to be thinking about it.
SG: The best questions, in my opinion, are the ones that make the interviewer think. People always tend to ask about culture and what the average workday is like, and those are good questions, but they also don’t indicate the person put a lot of thought into asking them. I like questions that show the person did their research. For example, a question I’d like would go something like this: “When you made the transition to ID Plans, you came from another tech company. What were the cultural differences that allowed you to be successful here?” One good way to come up with question topics is to look at the job description for the position you’re interviewing for and the key outcomes associated with it. Think about how and why the company came up with them and use them as a guide to frame up your questions.
SG: Anything you can do to differentiate you is great. An email is professional, and a handwritten thank you note is always appreciated. It’s never swayed me on whether to hire someone or not, but it’s a nice touch. Any followup communication should also establish what the next steps are – something like “If I don’t hear back from you by such-and-such a date, I’ll call you on this date.” It’s not being pushy. I call it being professionally assertive. Think about it – the person conducting the interview is extremely busy – any way you can help them keep the hiring process moving forward is beneficial.
SG: You should still definitely follow up periodically. I like to see that because the way someone follows up with me would be the same way they would follow up with a customer. In sales, that’s key. Seeing someone take initiative always makes me take notice.
What are some of your tried-and-true job interview strategies? Leave your comments below.
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