More tips for Interview Preparation

Use Social Media

This is the one thing that most people forget to do. We sometimes prepare for an interview with someone we don’t know anything about. We don’t bother asking the name of the person who will interview us, we don’t open their linkedin profile, let alone their facebook profile. I make it my mission to know everything I can about my interviewer before my interview takes place. I spy on their lives and I digest all that information before I meet them in person or over the phone. This is powerful because it allows you to picture and visualize the type of conversation you might want to have with them. This can give you insights on how they got to the position they occupy today. This will also help you define the types of conversation you should avoid with them. Maybe you can discover their favourite football team or their country of origin and you can try to use this information in your favour.

This is not cheating, this is simply the art of studying your opponent. Hiring has changed over the last few years because of the advent of Social Media. We have the possibility to discover a lot about people before we actually meet them in person or talk to them over the phone, so use this at your advantage because the recruiter has probably done the same thing to know more about you!

In most cases, the in person interview is the last step of the interview process and that is when you finally meet the team with whom you might be working. This is basically when the interview revolves mainly around cultural fit. Are you a going to fit in that office and feel comfortable with the formality/informality, the jokes, the speed, the technical terms and jargon and the hierarchy? This is also where Social Media can come in handy. Reading reviews and other people’s opinions on the targeted company is highly useful and recommended.

The face to face interview or last round is the last chance to discuss salary and negotiate pre-booked holidays. Once you are in the job, it’s too late. This is the best time to discuss the final arrangements of this relationship before the next step: signing the contact. I have clients who have mastered the art of discussing salary and who have asked for what they think they deserve and I also have clients who settle for less than what they deserve. In my opinion, you should always negotiate. The worse that can happen is: you don’t get the salary you wanted, but you still get the job! Use Social Media to help define the salary range for your job and prepare to defend your point of view regarding your compensation. Maybe you can accept a smaller hourly rate if you are offered 2 extra weeks of holidays yearly or maybe you can receive coupons or vouchers if you are in retail, maybe you can receive transportation allowances or other perks instead of traditional compensation. It is important to prepare yourself and only arrive at a face to face meeting after doing your homework on Social Media.

Break Down the Job Description

Before an interview, we should try to put ourselves in the shoes of the interviewer who will most likely build questions based on the Job Description. They usually want to hear examples of similar tasks that you undertook in previous roles. You can use the Job Description to guide you through the possible questions that will arise. Look for the key words and look for the words or tasks you don’t understand or are not comfortable with. Rehearse possible responses and be ready to answer questions regarding possible gaps in your resume. We already discussed gaps in the first section and I exemplified how to best explain them.

Remember also to train for questions that have no right or wrong answer, such as:

“Why would I regret not hiring you?” or “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” or “Why do you want to work for us?” or “Where do you see yourself in 3 years” or “Describe your best/worse day at work”.

These are all valid questions that you can ask yourself before you start the interview. These are not behavioural questions linked to the Job Description, but they tend to be recurrent.

Behavioural questions are those that start with, for instance: “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with (…)”. They are usually built around the skills you must demonstrate on the job and these skills are listed in the Job Description. This is why I ask you to break down the Job Description and extract from it all the possible conclusions, comments, behavioural questions and skills so you can predict the topics of the interview.

Know the Challenges of the Industry

This is actually the most challenging part of the interview preparation. This requires you to, not only, study the company’s website, but to also understand the industry challenges that it is facing or will be facing soon.

If you are applying for a job at Ebay, Amazon or AirBnB, for instance, you must be aware of the challenges of marketplace building and scaling. You must understand how these companies generate their revenues. You must understand what e-commerce is all about and be prepared to have conversations around those topics. If you are applying for a job with Whatsapp, for instance, you must definitely have a minimum amount of knowledge about online Marketing and how it generates revenue. Whatsapp was acquired by Facebook and it’s revenue comes from online advertisement displayed on the Facebook page of the Whatsapp’s users and it is based on key words typed into chats. Business models differ depending on the industry you are in.

If you are applying for a Consulting firm, than you will have to learn more about client account management and business development strategies in order to generate more clients for your firm. Knowing the challenges of the different industries and business models will help you have a more strategic conversation about your new role and it will definitely impress the interviewer!

It is important to do your research on the company’s webpage you are applying for. Read about their vision, their mission and goals. The vision and mission will give you insights into the company’s culture and their way of working. Most companies align their employee’s performance evaluation to the company’s goal and mission, so this is not only about cultural fit, it’s also about raises, bonuses and equity stakes.

Prepare a Smart Question

Once you have done your research about the company you are applying for, you will most likely have questions and doubts and it’s important to note them down so that you can ask these questions at the interview. In some interviews (such as the interview process at Whatsapp, for instance) you will be asked to present your questions before the start of the interview. The intention here is to test your knowledge and to put you on the spot. You can’t ask smart questions if you didn’t do your homework and the surprise element is definitely part of the selection process.

Tech companies have created creative selection processes where they ask unusual questions and they have restructured traditional interview processes. Facebook uses videos to select applicants. They request you to shoot a little 1min video about yourself and that is part of the selection process. Google asks questions around problem solving and sales. They will ask you to sell them a pen at an interview. They will ask you to explain cloud based computing system to a 12 year old child, they will ask you questions that don’t necessarily relate to the job, but that will expose your “Googliness” and will allow your creativity to shine through.

May your questions be creative and pertinent. Prepare them with care and make sure they are relevant and interesting! Here are some good examples of questions to ask:

“How do I compare to the other candidates you have interviewed? Do you want to proceed to the next step in the interview process? How long will the interview process take? When I am expected to start working? How is the team composed? Who do I report to?”

Remember not to ask questions around compensation until you are offered the job. These questions should not be asked or answered until you have a written offer. Also remember that salary can be negotiated until you sign the contact. Once you have signed it, you can’t negotiate compensation or paid time off. Salary negotiation is a lot easier than it looks like. Once you have been selected, you will be able to ask for what you think is fair and remember that the worse that can happen is: you don’t get the salary you want, but you still get the job!

Irrelevant Information

It is important to not talk about personal matters or former Managers. Avoid any opinions that are not supported by facts. Don’t comment on your previous Manager. If you were fired, simply say that you and your former Manager decided that is was time for you to find new professional challenges. If you left your former role because you didn’t like the work environment, explain that you wanted to seek new opportunities and felt that you wouldn’t be able to grow professionally in your previous role. If you were on an expat assignment and the contract was interrupted abruptly, explain that the company you were working for had to downsize or go through a difficult restructuring phase. It’s important not to get caught in details that can cast a negative shadow on you. You are worth hiring, because if you weren’t you wouldn’t even be called for an interview.

Avoid interrupting the interviewer or speeding up the flow of the conversation. Take your time when answering questions, don’t hesitate to create a little bit of silence in order to organize your thoughts. My advice to you is: don’t spend more than 1min answering each question asked. If you go above that, you end up losing your train of thought and you can even end up forgetting the initial question.

Wrong Colours

Dressing for an interview is important and can convey the right or wrong impression about you. According to R. Hill & R. Barton from the University of Durham, red is consistently associated with higher probability of winning.

According to Pam Belluck, from the New York Times, red can influence people’s work to make it more accurate and blue can make people more creative.

Lisa J. Mandell, from AOL jobs, states that blue is the best color for a suit to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence. You are more likely to get the job when you wear navy blue to an interview than any other colour.

On the other hand, red conveys passion and power and is the best color to wear when you are trying to persuade or impress, says Kenny Frimpong, Brand Maketing & Dev. Manager at Eredi Pisano. He explains that red is linked to courage, excitement and energy.

Before dressing for a job interview, we must study the company’s culture and discover their dress code. Some tech companies insist in dressing casual, but if you are applying for a job at a law firm or at a Consulting firm, you might want to consider high heels and suit.

Each environment has its code of conduct and behaviour. Some companies are highly hierarchical, some are horizontal and high ranking Executives are accessible. I recommend you dress to impress, but never dress in something that you feel uncomfortable in. Your outfit must tell your story and should convey confidence and power, especially when trying to convince an audience. I usually recommend my clients to wear red, pink, yellow or blue. I like to avoid black because it’s too comfortable and it’s not for risk takers.

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