How To Smash Any Interview

So you’ve submitted a killer resume, crafted a powerful cover letter, made it past the screening round and now you’ve been invited to an interview! At this point, you may be experiencing mixed emotions. You’re excited that you’ve gotten to this stage but you’re also a bit nervous about what lies ahead. I mean you’ve shared your work experience in your resume and expanded on why you’re interested in the role & company in your cover letter so can’t help but wonder what more do they want to know? More so, what more do you need to do?

The interview stage is typically the make-or-break part of any recruiting process. At this stage, the recruiter has likely shortlisted candidates they believe are suitable for the role and are now on a mission to identify the most suitable candidate. It’s no longer about being good enough to do the job, it’s about being the best for the role out of the candidate pool.

Daunting, I know. The good news, though, is that the fact that you’ve secured an interview means that the recruiting team sees potential in you and with the right preparation, you can secure the job!

I think of interviews in 3 stages, namely: before, during and after. I’ve broken down what I do in each stage to maximise my chances of success.

BEFORE

For me, this is usually the most time consuming stage because I go above and beyond to find all relevant information. As I said in my Google story, I studied for my Google interview more than I studied for my exam in that same month (needless to say, it paid off!).

There are 3 key areas that you need to prepare for (and one bonus area for those of you who want to be extra!). The good news is that you should have touched on all of them when preparing your cover letter and resume. Interview preparation, however, differs in that you need to understand each area such that you are able to discuss it comfortably from varying angles.

Since I elaborated on each of the below areas in my article on cover letters, I won’t repeat what I already said. Instead, I’ll focus on how these areas are nuanced when it comes to interviews.

1. Company

Most companies have characteristics which they consider unique to them, whether it be their culture, their problem-solving approach, the calibre of their people or their work schedule flexibility. Take the time to understand and practice articulating what attracts you to this company in particular.

2. Job Description

The interview is a great opportunity for the interviewer to test whether you really understand what the job entails. I won’t elaborate on this too much because it differs from role to role but ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of what the role requires. Also, be ready to answer technical, case or pitch questions (whichever is most relevant).

3. YOU

This is likely the part the interviewer will hone in on so it’s best to have thought it through thoroughly beforehand. A good way of doing this is by going through lists of ‘commonly asked interview questions’ and ensuring you have an answer for each one.

Naturally, we are diverse humans with a variety of experiences so it’s important to take the time to identify what the most relevant experiences are to share. Ask yourself which experiences best highlight your ability to succeed in this specific job.

I once had an interview where the interviewer just stared at my resume and asked me about each and every single point so be ready to do that too! What usually catches people off guard are the questions around strengths and weaknesses, “tell me about a time when…” and the plain old “tell me about yourself”. I usually have my answers to these questions pre-planned.

If there’s a particular interview question you are unsure how to answer, comment it below with the #moredetails hashtag!

*Bonus: The Interviewers

This may sound a bit strange but a trick I have found quite handy is to stalk research my interviewers beforehand. This includes reading up on their work history, checking out their LinkedIn and even going through their YouTube & Twitter pages! (I usually skip out of stalking their Instagram though). The idea is to get a good understanding of who will be interviewing you and to identify and possible commonalities.

Prior to one of my interviews, I had looked up the interviewer and found a video where they discussed a marketing framework they frequently use. I took note of the framework and during the interview, mentioned it when asked a marketing question. The interviewer was so impressed that I knew about it and that undoubtedly earned me some brownie points!

I also highly recommend you do a couple of mock interviews (even if just with your friends) beforehand and ask for honest feedback. Sometimes you sound one way in your head and a completely different way out loud!

DURING

Okay, so the moment is finally here! What do you say? How do you start?

A lot of interviewers like to begin with a conversational style. This means general greetings and small talk. Don’t let this fool you though, as soon as the interview says “tell me about yourself” (or a question along those lines), it’s officially game on!

If you’re someone who gets uncontrollable nerves, try to pay attention to your speaking pace and breathing. We often speak strangely fast and forget to breathe when we’re nervous. If you need some time to think about your answer, don’t be afraid to ask for it. What I often do is take three deep breaths right before the interview and even practice power poses!

Lastly, make sure you are dressed appropriately (I suggest risking being overdressed rather than risking being underdressed). Make sure you are punctual and friendly (remember to smile). If the interview is in person, make sure you smell alright and pay extra attention to the details of your appearance. If the interview is via video call, make sure the lighting isn’t too shabby and the background noise is minimal.

AFTER

I cannot emphasise how important it is to be polite to all the people you engage with from the company throughout the recruiting process. While your formal interviews may only be an hour or so, all your interactions with the company serve as opportunities for them to assess your character.

At one company I worked with, a candidate was the preferred person until he sent a rude email to someone from HR. He was then disqualified completely! Moral of the story is to be polite and stay humble (even if the company has not responded for over a week or you lowkey believe you’re overqualified for the job and ‘deserve’ it).

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that interviewers are people too and the more you’re able to connect with them on a human level, the higher your chances of getting the job. At the heart of connection is authenticity and commonalities. The latter can include what attracts you to the company, how you deal with challenging situations or your career aspirations.

So as you prepare and study the company and interviewers and whatever else, remember to be yourself and simply focus on highlighting the aspects of you and your experiences that make you an ideal candidate for the position.

As usual, let me know if you have any further questions and use #moredetails if you’d like me to elaborate on something. 

Thanks for reading! 🙂