Last updated June 10, 2020
Companies use interviews to see what the candidate is truly about. Ideally, you should use interviews to feel the company out as well. Although your main objective throughout the interview process is to sell your skills & assets, you should also be engaging in active listening. Use that time to observe the company culture & absorb the business vibe.
When you're answering questions, implement the STAR method as much as possible.
- Situation: Explain a specific situation that can be relatable to the position you're applying for
- Task: Describe the task at hand and what the end goal was
- Action: Elaborate on how you took action & what kind of role you played
- Result: Highlight what the result was & what you learned
This is a good way to highlight specific hardships throughout your career in a professional manner & without talking poorly on your previous employer. If you're going to talk about a bad situation in order to highlight a positive outcome, be very careful with your words. Always keep it classy!
PRO TIP: Some say that taking the earliest time slot available yields better results because interviewers are more likely to be alert with a clearer mind. I personally have always chosen whichever time slot fits my schedule best, so I wouldn't put a lot of pressure on this topic.
Phone Screening Interview
It’s common practice for recruiters to conduct a phone screening “interview” before inviting the individual into the office—or during current times, onto a Zoom call. The reason for this is to ensure that nobody’s time is wasted. For the most part, you’d be given advance notice of then the phone interview would talk place, but even if you don’t, it’s good practice to do the following:
- Be in a quiet space
- Have your résumé in front of you
- Have quick access to your calendar
- Have a pen & some paper to take notes
- At the end, thank them for their time
Before the Interview
Often times, people don’t prepare for interviews because they feel like they’re very sociable & they know how to handle themselves. The problem is that people do not rehearse common interview questions, & then when it’s time to answer those questions, they’re stuttering, frazzled, & unsure of how to positively sell their skills. Prior to the interview, be well-rehearsed (without sounding like a robot) & familiarize yourself with how you would answer these questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What would you say is your biggest weakness?
In addition to practicing interview questions, also take some time to research the company. Definitely do not bring up anything controversial, but be familiar with:
- Mission statement/values of the company
- General history/timeline of events
- Company culture, vibe, & feel
Be sure to do thorough research regarding pay—the industry standard + location. Keep in mind that the values of a salary are not the only component of a compensation package. Also consider things like paid time off, benefits, schedule flexibility, & so much more. When you are asked about your expected pay, do your best to never give exact numbers; if they insist, provide them with a range.
PRO TIP: If it's an in-person interview, plan on arriving 10-15 minutes early, but no earlier than 15 minutes. Oh, & don't forget to bring your padfolio & prepare your applicant packet! The padfolio is more than just a nice folder to keep your applicant packet in--it also provides pen + paper for you to take notes!
During the Interview
Traditionally, interviews are one-on-one, but some companies will do panel or group interviews. Regardless, the process is still very similar. Although you are the “interviewee” & the other person is the “interviewer,” you should treat interviews like conversations.
Let them take the lead, but when it’s time for you to ask questions, take advantage & use the time wisely. Don’t use this time to only ask about the specific job & interview process; also use this time to get to know the hiring manager better & be more familiar with the company. Consider these questions:
- What is your favorite thing about working here?
- How would you describe the culture of the company?
- What does a growing career path look like here?
- What are the next steps of the interview process?
- When should I expect to hear back from you?
If you are in a group or panel interview, be courteous & do not interrupt anyone. Engage with the other interviewees when appropriate, but keep your answers short & concise. Also, don’t try so hard to impress the interviewer(s) or one-up the other interviewees--it’s amazingly easy to see through that kind of behavior.
PRO TIP: For in-person interviews, you introduce yourself to the interviewer, now is the perfect time to hand over your applicant packet. You can say something along the lines of, "Before we begin, I'd like to provide you with a hard-copy of my cover letter, résumé, & some letters of recommendations from previous employers."
After the Interview
Before the end of the business day, send a “Thank You” email to each interviewer individually. Within the email, keep it short, but include these details:
- Thank them for their time & the opportunity to meet them
- Reference something that you bonded over (so they can remember you easier)
- Close the email by saying something along the lines of, "...if things work out, I hope to be a part of the company.”
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