A friend recently called me and said she was both thrilled and a little nervous to be invited back for her third interview for a job position she has wanted for over six months.
She’s smart and talented and has obviously done a lot of things right by advancing through two previous rounds of interviews. She wanted moral support and any advice I could offer.
It got me thinking about my own career trajectory – from my post-college internship at CNN through a constantly evolving and advancing career as an entrepreneur, executive, and board member.
As I reflected on my past interviews, I realized that I cannot recall a single time when I was not offered a position I truly wanted after interviewing for it. I chalk that up to a combination of luck and timing, but also to a process that began intuitively that I’ve improved upon over the years. This process is based on a genuine desire for a win/win for my prospective employer and myself.
My process involves questions before, during, and after an interview. It brings clarity and results on your path to your dream job - one where you are learning and growing, using your strengths, and offering tremendous value.
Here are my 10 quick job interview tips:
1. Ask questions of yourself
Before the interview, do your own due diligence – this is key to finding and being offered the win/win job of your dreams.
Do the self-assessment of your career past, present, and future. This is so often overlooked. Ask yourself how this opportunity aligns with your aspirations, strengths, and short and long-term goals. Leaders begin by understanding themselves first.
There are many data points for you to consider - Your own assessments of your strengths and weaknesses, and also what you believe your purpose is. I’ve written about this on my blog. One of the best resources I’ve found is Strengths finder, because it reveals previously underappreciated attributes each of us possesses and gives you an improved perspective and vocabulary on your value.
2. Get a feel for the company you’re interviewing with
What is the leadership and culture of the company? Does it align with your values?
There are many sources for this. Scour the company’s website and the web for information about leaders and company direction. Search for speeches and articles written by leaders of the company and the person interviewing you to get a sense for what their values are.
If it’s a publicly-traded company there will be analyst reports and a lot of information. A fantastic way to get a sense for a company is by listening to earnings calls that are usually posted in investor relations sections of their websites, or you can find these online.
You will gain an appreciation for their quantifiable business goals, and if they are making progress toward them. You will also pick up on attitudes and values - and, you will find nuggets of information that you can use during the interview. Make a note of aspects that genuinely interest you so you can raise these opportunistically during the interview.
3. Leverage your network
Ask people in your network if they know the management of the company and the person you are interviewing with. Ask for opinions on the leadership, values, market potential of the organization.
This is essential in assessing whether the company is a good fit for you - whether you are interviewing for a position as a mid-level manager, an executive, or a member of the board of directors.
4. Talk yourself up
If you conclude that this is a fantastic opportunity, ask yourself why you believe you’re the best candidate - and be prepared to articulate this in your interview. Here’s a great cheat sheet by The Muse, which gives excellent answers to the most common interview questions about the role and yourself.
You should make notes on all of the above questions and be prepared to answer each one.
Now that you have prepared for the interview, let’s discuss some job interview tips for the actual interview:
5. Make the interview a two-way street
The objective for both you and your interviewer is to determine whether this is a good fit. Legendary CEO of General Electric, and bestselling author, Jack Welch, once said that during an interview, he assesses whether someone is smart, motivated, and likable – as simple as it sounds, those three simple elements really matter.
Determine that you will do no more than 50% of the talking, even less.
I’ve found that asking questions and listening during an interview is the key way to not only learn, but to connect.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos goes above and beyond in his hiring process to ensure he hires the right people for his team. On Inc.com, he shares the three questions he asks himself before hiring anyone.
The takeaway from Jeff Bezos is that it is crucial to make a connection with the person who is interviewing you. The best way to do this is by interviewing them as well and making the interview more of back-and-forth dialogue.
Bottom line: Be prepared to answer questions, but also to ask them.
Here’s a fantastic list of questions you can ask in your interview, including questions such as:
"If you were to rank all the people who have done this job in the past, tell me about No. 1 and why you would put them there?"
In the past as I interviewed for a board role, I asked my interviewer about a specific point in the narrative of an SEC document that I found unusual. In another interview, I mentioned several institutional investors and the interviewer said I knew more about investors than other candidates did! It pays to do your homework.
6. Don’t ask about salary or benefits
I’ve never gotten into the particulars of benefits in an interview – compensation, paid time off, and any other perks. I wait until an offer is made. I’ve found that if it’s clear there is a win/win, that these finer points can be discussed and even negotiated in an atmosphere of trust.
After the interview has wrapped up, here are some more tips on how you can land your dream job:
7. Take time to process
Sometimes you will be offered the job on the spot. I would recommend taking a step back to assess how the interview went, and if you think the company is still the perfect fit for you.
Ask yourself: Do I see myself as part of this particular culture? What does your intuition say about the leadership in your direct area and company-wide? As you met people at the office before/after the interview, did they seem happy and energized, or negative and overly bureaucratic? Were there any red flags or areas of concern? You can follow up with questions in email or by phone.
If you are put on the spot during the interview about accepting the job position, you can answer truthfully and let the hiring manager know that you would like 24-48 hours to think about it. He or she will not think less of you for being thoughtful in your decision.
8. Write a thank you note
Did you write a thank you note? I always do one by email immediately following the interview. In that note, I usually say that this is just a preliminary thank you and that one will follow in the mail. Then I mail a personal notecard with a sincere message, and reiterate the value and enthusiasm I would bring to the position (when I’m interested in the position).
9. Assess the offer
So, you nailed the interview and got an offer - congratulations! Now the ball is in your court and it’s time to think about your options.
Is taking this job position the next logical step in achieving your short and long term goals? Is the salary offer what you wanted?
There have been a few times in my career where salary really mattered – when I was working part-time to put myself through college. But after that, financial compensation was not the #1 item on my list of priorities for work. Doing work I considered virtuous and rewarding (where I was both tapping into my strengths and expertise while learning and growing) has been the top priority since then, and that has never failed me.
10. Be timely in your response
Today’s job market is competitive - and chances are, the company may be looking at several other candidates to fill the role. As such, you should respond to their offer in a timely manner.
If you're waiting on another offer, you need to be clear in your communication and let the company know this - and give them a date that you will give them a decision by. All parties will be much happier if you communicate clearly and effectively.
To wrap things up, , my friend emailed me after the interview and said it went very well. She did the legwork to prepare for her interview and took the time to ensure the interview and hiring process was a win/win...