…Okay, so below are a few (top of mind) tips on how you can be a better interviewee. My qualifications here are that I’ve gotten my fair share of job offers in life, and I’ve interviewed a few hundred people for various jobs at this point in my career (first as a full-time recruiter and now as part of my day-to-day whenever I need to fill this or that job for my client group). I also have lots of HR friends and we talk about this sort of stuff all the time (part of the below is attributable to them). Take this advice for whatever it’s worth to you with that context. And without further delay…
1. If your interviewer is talking just be quiet and listen.
This cannot be overstated. If your interviewer spends, say, 80+ percent of the interview talking then that is almost always good for you. At the end of the (one-sided) discussion they’re going to think “That went well” and then project good things onto you and advance you in the process. Actually, if you can get an interviewer in a chatty mood without forcing it (and some people have this skill) then go for it. “What do you like about working here?” and “Tell me about the best parts of the culture?” are softballs that can sometimes invoke this response in a talkative interviewer (because people like talking about themselves and giving their opinions, respectively). But be careful with asking questions like this to a novice interviewer (which you will often encounter during a first round phone screen) because they will often become very uncomfortable if you take them off their list of questions script (which will produce an effect opposite to that intended).
2. Have some rehearsed talking points.
Let’s try not to exceed 3 or 4 minutes on any given bullet point here. What (I think) a lot of interviewees do is spend a few minutes trying to go over their resume/questions they found online in private, stumble through them, and then (because they are uncomfortable with how bad they are) don’t practice anymore. They reason that they will “turn it on” when the time comes, and that it’s a bad idea to “over prepare” and then in an actual interview give long, rambling answers that have their interviewer check out. Don’t do this. Practice talking through your last 5 years’ work experience in 180 seconds, have a good answer prepared for why you want the job you’re interviewing for/are looking to leave your current one, and have a half-dozen great examples (again 3-4 minutes an answer tops) highlighting examples of why you are awesome.
3. If the interviewer asks you a pointless question (like “what sort of animal would you be?”) answer it quickly and then pivot to something that matters.
If this is a phone screen the hiring manager isn’t going to care about the answer you give the recruiter/screener here. And by giving an exceptionally thoughtful answer, you’ll just be wasting valuable time that you could be using to go through your talking points. Conversely. If the hiring manager asks you this then – provided you’d still like to work for this person after – then go ahead and give them a good answer. You want them to like you, and that’s obviously what he/she is screening for (or else they are new to interviewing and working through a list).
4. Mention something that impressed you in the company’s 10k (or 10q if it’s later in the year).
Specific numbers help. Something like (for a hypothetical tech company): “I am impressed your company understands that its user base is shifting to mobile and is making changes to its product offering and strategy accordingly – I think your 10q said 75% of your ad revenue in Q3 was from users on mobile devices (up from 50% in Q1), which shows you’ve been able to quickly alter your business model.” or perhaps: “I love that the company is growing – your monthly active users went up 40% the last 3 months of the year!” Your interviewer probably doesn’t know the information you’re sharing off the top of his/her head, and it will impress the heck out of them that you do. Just make sure you stay away from potentially touchy subjects when showing off company knowledge (like pending litigation or underfunded pension obligations etc.).
5. Ask the interviewer what doubts (if any) they have about your qualifications at the end of the interview.
If you’ve already bombed at this point the interviewer isn’t going to tell you anything useful (it’s too late), but if you were on the bubble but had one glaring issue (like your salary ask is 5% outside of the position range or they really wish you had more experience using ___________) then they will probably tell you and you can re-assure them (i.e. “I am flexible on salary, maybe we can talk about perk XYZ instead” or “Well, I am doing blah blah blah to close the gap on skill __________.”).
You’re welcome? Or maybe I have this wrong. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.