What if I told you that you are in control of your fate?
Often we think that our professional future is out of our control. Some people even blame bad luck for an unsuccessful job interview.
The secret to passing an interview is to prepare, prepare, prepare. If someone told you in advance the trivia answers to the show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" wouldn't you want to know? After learning the answers, you merely have to repeat them live on air.
By following these 10 steps on how to prepare for an interview, you'd be giving yourself all the tools and information before the "game show" started.
I developed this preparation method after passing the interviews and working at the world’s leading tech companies such as Google, LinkedIn and Wix. Hopefully, you too can find success with these steps.
How to Prepare for an Interview
Job description Venn diagram
Company website mission statement and product offering
Questions for the interviewer
01. LinkedIn: thoroughly investigate the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile
"Don't play the odds, play the man," said Harvey Specter. Approach your meeting with the same mentality. Understand who the person is behind the interview question. By looking at someone's LinkedIn, you can learn much more about them than their role. Examine what their career was like before joining that company. Did they also switch career paths as you might be now? Look at what university they attended and the subject they studied. If you see their major was statistics, you can already prepare for the interview with more analytical answers. Did they volunteer somewhere? Maybe you both are passionate about teaching coding to the disadvantaged. Find common ground. Whatever you find on LinkedIn is public knowledge. You can kindly reference you've had a chance to look them up online. By saying, "I studied psychology in college, I saw on LinkedIn you did as well. I am sure you too understand how psychology is tied to this market research role." People love talking about themselves. They often remember more how you made them feel rather than what you said. Let them talk about themselves by asking them about something relevant you learned from their profile. It will also show you went above and beyond to prepare for an interview. Just try not to make your talking point too personal. Avoid using this step based on Facebook information. "How was Cabo 2012?" is probably not the best conversation starter ;)
02. Job Description: re-read and take notes on each part of the job description
We've all been there. We've mass applied to similar jobs by only skimming the job description. Now they called back to set up the interview. You might wonder, which position was this again? Now it's time to go back and re-read the responsibilities and qualifications line by line. Next to each section, write your notes about how you've done something similar in the past. Let's say the job requirement lists "project management" as a requirement. Then, you would write next to it the name of a project you managed. This process will help you predict the type of questions they might ask. Think of this process as doing personal inventory. If you know your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, you can better present yourself. I recommend creating a Venn diagram, such as the one made by Jennifer Davis. Put your skills that are not related to the role on the far left side. In the middle, list the skills and experiences that are relevant to the job. Lastly, on the right, name the areas you do not have any experience in. The more points you can come up with in the middle section, the better you will be prepared for the interview.
03. Company website: fully understand their mission statement and all their product offerings
What better truth is there than the source itself? When researching, don't just skim their homepage. Go to their About Us and mission statement pages. As you might know, Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. When I interviewed at Google and got asked, "why do you want to work at Google?" I referenced it. Likewise, at LinkedIn, I mentioned how I was inspired by their mission to build an economic graph. You also should understand their products and offerings. There is nothing more embarrassing than not understanding what a company does or how they make money. When I interviewed at LinkedIn, they asked me, "how does LinkedIn make money?" Through prior in-depth research, I was able to know that their B2B monetization model includes Talent Solution (job posts), Sales Solutions (tools for salespeople) and Marketing Solutions (advertising). By knowing the business model of where you’re interviewing, you can much better understand where your role fits in. You can even ask how you and the XYZ department or product team will cross collaborate.
04. News: check what headlines the company is making
People who regularly read the news are assumed to be more knowledgeable. What better way to make a first impression than congratulating the CEO at the start of the interview for the new acquisition they made last week? But how could you know this? By looking them up in the news. To do that, go to Google.com, type in their company name and press on the tab called News. This knowledge can also come in handy to show your qualifications. As an example, you can say, "I am passionate about helping B2B marketers. I saw that next month you are launching a retargeting tool as part of your product offering. I believe my experience in selling retargeting ads at my last company can make me an expert in this role."
05. Internal contact: seek a mutual connection, friend, or relative that works at the company for an informational call
Think of this as legal "insider information." If you ask your old friend from college why they love working there, you can later better answer the interview question about what type of work culture you thrive in. In this informational call, try to ask questions you can't find on the web. See what challenges they are facing or plans the company has for the future. Of course, make sure all the information is legal and public. An informal call can also help you get to know the business better and make your talking points more relevant. If you've heard from your contact that they struggle with tapping into a particular market, but this is something you've done in a past role, you can bring it up in the interview by weaving it into what you did in the past. To find a connection, you can use LinkedIn (search by company), your alumnae network or even social media groups. People will gladly lend you their time as they know the favor can come back to them one day.
06. Company stock price: aim to understand if it is fluctuating
If you are interviewing at a publicly-traded company on the stock market, look up their stock price online. Google will show you an immediate search result. Adjust the timeline window from today to 6 months, then 1 year, then 5 years ago. The stock price is public information that will help you know how the company is doing economically. Is the organization in hyper-growth mode? Did they just take a hit? I joined Wix at the end of 2020. Around that time, COVID-19 impacted many brick and mortar stores, restaurants and gyms. Due to Wix's web building platform, many businesses were able to make their services digitally available. Their customer growth positively impacted Wix's stock price. While interviewing, I was able to understand their rapid growth phase from this additional perspective. Furthermore, there are many professionals out there who enjoy following the markets. It can always be a good small talk topic to fall back on.
07. Industry trends: find out what is trending and changing in your space
Whether you work in advertising, engineering, or healthcare, it does not matter. All professional fields are constantly evolving. Most business leaders are well aware of how their market plans to develop and change in the next 3-5 years. The question is, do you? Companies are looking for professionals that will stay and grow with the organization. If you are well informed about the challenges or opportunities this company will face, then you've made yourself a very desirable candidate. When interviewing at Google, I mentioned that voice search would be impacting advertising in the future. Research your field to show you are an industry expert.
08. Elevator pitch: rehearse it so you can win them from the start
You can never make a second first impression. Studies show the first 30-90 seconds can determine what a hiring manager thinks of you. Therefore it is critical to be concise and articulate when you introduce your background. The first question usually is, "tell us about yourself." Make sure you nail it down before the interview and practice out loud. To get feedback on your elevator pitch, you can schedule a mock interview with a friend or mentor. When interviewing, I've recorded myself and my talking points. Later, I replayed it to learn which parts were unclear. Yes, if you want the job that bad, do it. It is worth it.
09. Behavioral questions: prepare a set of situational examples to draw from
A behavioral question usually starts with "tell me about a time when…" This question isn't based on your technical skills. Rather, the interviewer is trying to assess how you act in certain situations psychologically. They want to see if you would fit in culturally and be a pleasant person to work with. Sure, you can craft a fantastic pitch deck. But will people enjoy working with you? Question examples are "tell me about a time you had a conflict with a colleague" or "tell me about a time you failed at something and how you handled it." Most often, these are the questions that start to make you sweat and ramble. But they don't have to. If you prepare for the interview with the most common behavioral questions, you will answer them like a superstar.
A bonus tip is to reply using the SAR method (situation, action, result). First, give background on the situation, then list the actions you took. Lastly, what was the result? Here is an example of how to use the SAR method to talk about a time you failed:
Situation: "A time I failed was in Q2 of 2019 when I did not hit my sales quota."
Action: "To ensure I wouldn't fail again in the next quarter, I doubled my client outreach and sought more product training. I then asked my team about how they handle objections. I also utilized our sales coach by inviting her to join my large customer calls."
Result: "As a result, I hit my Q3 goal at 115%."
10. Questions for the interviewer: brainstorm and ask meaningful questions at the end.
When you prepare for an interview, the last impression can be as important as the first one. At the end of an interview, hiring managers typically will ask, "do you have any questions for me?" If your answer is no, then you might as well be saying, "no, I don't want this job." For some, it can be hard to think on the spot. So come up with 3-5 meaningful questions in advance. Stray from common questions you could have found answers to online. Your questions should want to get the hiring manager engaged and excited when answering. People love feeling important. You can ask them about their vision for the company. Alternatively, you could find out what excites them most about coming into the office each day. When you give them the stage to inspire you and speak from their heart, they will more likely have a positive recollection of the conversation. A bonus tip is to reference something that stood out to you in their answers in your Thank You email.
As you begin preparing for your interview, remember what Tim Notke said:
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Which new tip will you start using? If you have any other hacks on how to prepare for a job interview, share them below!
By Lena Sernoff
Career Mentor and Marketing Writer