Career Tips

How to Ace the Interview and Land Your Dream Job

So you found your dream job, applied, and were just invited in for an interview. CONGRATS! You’ve got the company’s interest and are one step closer to the job of your dreams. Next step: the interview.

The interview is your time to share your experiences, career goals, and personality. It’s also your chance to learn more about the company and figure out if this opportunity aligns with your career goals. Interviewing is a two-way street, always. And in order to make sure it goes well, some prep work is needed.

Below are some tips to get you started. Whether this is your first interview ever or you’ve lost count, here’s a quick guide to run with.

Phase One: Research

The company

Understanding the work they do along with their mission and values is a pretty important part of determining if you’re going to be happy in this role. Regardless of the research you’ve already done, or what you think you know, you will want to do a good bit more before your interview.

Visit their website, read their blog and check out their social media presence. Try to identify the voice of the organization. This will give you valuable insight into the tone of the interview and the voice you should bring as well. You’ll also want to check out outside sources like the news and press releases. How the company is represented through the voice of others is equally as important.

Be prepared to talk about, answer questions and express your interest in this particular organization. If you fall flat on any of the three, it’s a red flag.

The hiring team

Once you’ve received your interview itinerary, spend some time getting to know the folks you’ll be interviewing with. If the recruiter hasn’t provided the names of the people you will be meeting with, go ahead and ask. You will feel much more at ease after doing so.

Once you know who you’re meeting, there are a couple places you can go to learn more about them. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Check out their summary, work history and education. Anything spark your interest? This is where you can begin to gather talking points and questions based on where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished. Another great way to find some common ground is checking out their second connections. If you’re lucky, you may have a mutual connection or two.

More ways to learn about the hiring team might be through the company website, other social media channels, and Google. I recommend checking them all out. The more you know, the better you will feel and more confident you’ll be.

The job

While this may sound obvious, you want to be super well informed on the role you’re applying for. By using the job description, you can really dig into what will be expected of you and start crafting questions for any missing information. Always come prepared with detailed questions about the role so you leave the interview with a strong understanding on whether or not this is the right opportunity for you.

One example of an area to dig into might look like this, “The job description mentions that Tableau experience is a plus. I would love to learn more about how your team is using this program to drive value for clients!” This shows you’re informed while allowing you to get more info on an area of interest. It’s also a great segway for you to share your experience with the tool while providing insight on other areas you can contribute and maybe even help train others.

By understanding the essential skills highlighted in the job description, you can frame your experience within the context of what’s most important for this opportunity. Be ready to bring real world examples of how you have driven value here in the past, and how you will carry this into the position you’re interviewing for.

Phase Two: Interview questions

Preparing for the unknown

Despite the contrary, you can prepare for the unknown questions you may or may not be asked. If you can confidently speak to your past experiences, you will have a strong framework to call on real world examples to support any questions you encounter. Spend some time thinking about your experiences, accomplishments, workplace challenges, and career goals. Write them down so they sink in a bit and make sure they fit in with the position you’re applying for. You will want to help the interviewer connect the dots. Finally, search for interview questions online and improv a bit. The better and more comfortable you are at thinking on your feet, the better off you will be.

“Tell me about yourself…”

If nothing else goes your way, this is the one question you can be sure of and the one you perfect. This is your elevator pitch. Your chance to tell your story, separate yourself from the other candidates, and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

So what does the interview team actually want to know about you? They want to hear your unique story in the context of their culture and the position they’re hiring for. You’ll have about 2-3 minutes max, so keep it succinct and audience-first.

What got you to that interview room? How did you find the career path you’re on and what are you doing in your current role? What did you do before that and how did that lead you to what you’re doing today? What brings you to look for new opportunities and more importantly, why this one? How will you add value today, tomorrow and for years to come? This is your story. Moving through your past, present and future as it related to this opportunity. Always focusing on the positive and sharing your personality through conversation. Oh and keep it brief, 2-3 minutes max.

Bring questions of your own

You know you best and the people you’re meeting with know the company and job. They are trying to determine if you’re the best person for the role and you should be asking questions to figure out if they’re the best fit for you. Does this opportunity align with your career goals? What is the growth trajectory for someone stepping into this position? Make sure that if you receive an offer, you will have all the information you need to make a well-informed decision.

Do some research, soul searching and draft questions that are unique to you. Once you’ve identified the questions you want to ask, tailor them to the people you will be speaking with. The questions you ask a potential colleague should be different than a potential manager or CEO. Think about who will have what information and adjust accordingly. There’s no magic number, but having about three to five questions per person is a usually a safe space to be. If you don’t get to them all, no big. You can always ask any questions you may have missed in your thank you note. Hiring teams generally give you around 5-10 minutes to ask questions during an interview, so make sure you prioritize your questions accordingly.

Phase Three: The obvious

Arrive 10 minutes early

Unless instructed otherwise, always arrive 10 minutes early. This will give you time to settle in and get comfortable in the space before jumping into the interviews. Anything greater than 15 is too early, anything less than 10 is cutting it too close. Seems nitpicky, but trust me on this one.

Know where you’re going and use GoogleMaps to plan your route ahead of time. If you’ve never driven there before, consider running a test drive. What if there’s massive amounts of construction or traffic is a nightmare? Test driving a couple days prior will allow you to adjust accordingly for the day of your interview. Give yourself room for traffic, wrong turns, or anything else that might make your commute lengthier than anticipated. If you arrive early you can go for a walk, call a friend, or do something relaxing until it’s time to head in. Aim to keep your commute as stress-free as possible.

If you realize you’re running behind and won’t make it to the interview on time, reach out immediately and explain your situation. Don’t wait until you’re already late, and don’t try to brush it under the rug when you arrive. This is a big deal and it really sucks, but being honest upfront is always the right thing to do. If handled correctly, you can still bounce back. As with most things, transparency is your friend, even when it seems scary.

Dress the part

When you look sharp, you feel sharp. And everyone wants to feel sharp when walking into an interview. So how do you decide what to wear? Ask around for the inside scoop on interview attire. If you’ve been working with a recruiter or someone from HR, start here. Asking what to wear might feel a bit uncomfortable, but it’s nothing compared to feeling over or underdressed. Think back to being the only one who dressed up for the halloween party … we’ve all been there.

Next, pick out your outfit and try it on a couple days prior. It’s probably been a little while since you last wore your token interview outfit. You don’t want to find out it doesn’t fit, there’s a stain on your shirt or a tear in your tights the morning of. Again, we’re trying to minimize any and all stressors.

Finally, pamper yourself a bit. Do whatever makes you feel good the night before so you wake up in your best skin. If you feel well rested and refreshed it will radiate through you.

Bring your best self

In case the point hasn’t been hammered home, bring your best self. This starts with de-stressing the night before and getting a good night’s rest. Make sure you’re well prepared and save time to do whatever you do to get yourself in a good headspace. Practicing yoga, meditating, drawing, singing—whatever that outlet is for you, do it. Set an alarm an hour before bed to remind yourself to begin winding down and get however much sleep your body needs to feel rejuvenated.

Most important, out of anything and everything, be you! Yes, your skills and qualifications are important, but the energy you bring will always be the biggest driving factor in your success. In the interview, in the job, and in life. Bringing your best self is your secret weapon, use it unapologetically.

The interview’s over, now what?

Follow up

You made it through the interview! Congrats! You can finally breathe a sigh of relief, the hardest part is over. But before you jump into the waiting game, there’s one final piece of business to take care of…thank you notes.

Thank you notes are super important. Regardless of what you heard, how the interview went, or your level of excitement afterwards, everyone you met with deserves one. I’m talking genuine, personalized, thank you notes (handwritten or digital) for each person who shared their time with you. Similar to preparing for you interview, there’s an art to writing these as well. Thankfully we’re not leaving you in the dark here either. Everything you need to know on thank you note etiquette is coming your way in next month’s blog post.

WHAT? You got the job?!

*YAY* Dreams do come true! (With a little hard work, time, and investment in what you want, of course.) Time to celebrate, jump up and down, call your mom, sing a song, do a dance, and then, give notice.

Telling your current employer that you’re moving on to a new opportunity is nerve wracking. We’ve all been there. Increased heart rate, sweaty palms, letter of resignation in hand. I’m having flashbacks just thinking about it. CHILL. It is possible to quit in style. In fact, we’ve got a brief three minute video where Wil breaks down how to leave your company and strengthen bridges (not burn them!) when giving notice. Thanks, Wil!

Or maybe you didn’t…

Sometimes what we want isn’t quite we need, and that’s okay. Life has a weird way of guiding us there and making sure we’re well prepared when we arrive. I know what you’re thinking, what a bunch of rubbish. But seriously, this clearly wasn’t the one. Not right now at least.

So what can you do about it? Well, when you receive news that the team’s moving forward with other candidates, do your best to handle their decision with grace. Your response could sound something like this:

Hi Emily–

Thanks so much for keeping me in the loop. Although disappointed, it’s been a great experience exploring opportunities with the team.

I know I still have a lot to learn and would love to use this as an opportunity to better understand these areas for growth. If you’re open to sharing, I’d greatly appreciate any additional feedback you can provide.

I hope we can continue to keep in touch. If you ever see an opportunity to explore other positions together, please do keep me in mind. Wishing you and your team the best!

We’ve all experienced rejection, and it sucks.

But this doesn’t have to be the only take away. Ask to keep in touch and nurture these relationships. Ask for feedback, uncover new areas of growth, then apply what you’ve learned.

In 9-12 months, you’ll be ready to share your progress! The team will love to see how you’ve transformed their tough feedback into an opportunity to better yourself. Finally, leave the door open. Who knows when a new role might pop up that’s better suited for you.

If you handle rejection with poise, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

 

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