Job Hunting

Actionable Tips To Get You Interview-Ready

Two students having a discussion

Picture this – you are preparing for your first interview at your dream job. You know candidates with similar experience will apply for the position, but you are certain your skills will win out if your interviewers get the chance to see you shine. So how can you best capture your experience and convey your enthusiasm? 

Today we’ll give you a brief summary of what hiring managers look for in your interview and how to maximize your chances of making an impact.

Prepare impactful responses

We are programmed as humans to seek and learn through story telling. It is no wonder, then, that applicants who tell the best stories in interviews often get the job. Here are three ways to convey an impactful interview response: 

1.    Build a story toolbox. Create a working spreadsheet to document personal and professional projects that illustrate your skills. This can be a helpful reference to review as you prepare for your interview and can help you hone in on your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to include:

·       Notable accomplishments, such as a project you spearheaded to solve a problem.

·       Interpersonal situations, including how you lead teams, overcame absent supervision, or successfully resolved conflicts with your team or manager. Pro tip: It’s ok to use examples from jobs in an unrelated field as long as relate your experiences back to your character and work ethic. 

·       Mistakes or failures, including what you did to overcome these obstacles and learn from the experience.  

2.    Take a P.A.R. approach. “P.A.R” stands for “problem, action, result.” Interviewers like to look for an “achiever pattern” within the subtext of responses, even when the questions they ask seem straightforward. This means any question can be an opportunity to describe step by step how you have gone above and beyond. Practice crafting stories that highlight your accomplishments by using the following acronym:

·       Problem – describe what happened and why it was difficult or important to solve.  

·       Action – walk the interviewer through your thought process and explain how you approached the problem. 

·       Result – discuss the end result, your contributions, and any lessons learned. 

3.    Reduce rambling. Interviewers expect concise answers, so use these three tips to keep responses as efficient as possible: 

·       Keep responses to 60 seconds or less. There’s wiggle room here for more detailed answers, but be selective and intentional with your time. 

·       Clarify. Some questions are meant to identify baseline skills, so ask clarifying questions to identify whether your interviewer would like you to expound on a subject or keep it brief. 

·     Check in. Periodically ask your interviewer if you are taking your responses in the direction they were hoping. If you are off track, this will give you a second chance to give your best answer. 

Prepare thoughtful questions

Interviewers will expect you to ask questions in an interview, so take time to research the company and interviewers beforehand and prepare questions that indicate you are vetting the job as much as they are vetting you. The purpose of a job interview is to determine whether this role is a good fit for both you and the company. Coming in with questions (or asking any that come up during the interview) will show you are taking the decision seriously. Ultimately, if two candidates are both equally qualified, the deciding factor will often be who is most excited about the opportunity. Here are four questions to weave into the conversation and help you stand out:  

1.    Ask about the role. Get curious about who was in the position before. Is it a new role (are they growing the team)? Did someone leave for a new role? Or are they backfilling (did someone fail in this role and why)? Finding out why the position is open can help you identify some of the obvious challenges or opportunities. 

2.    Ask about the team. What does the structure of the team look like? Who would this role be reporting to? Find out who you would spend the most time with and how you would interact on a daily basis. 

3.    Ask about the company. Research how the company has grown or changed, and ask what the transition has been like. What does it mean to be a culture fit there? What do they actually value beyond having certain skills?  

4.    Ask about the interviewer. Find your interviewers on LinkedIn or GitHub and research how long they have been with the company. Ask them how their roles have changed over time and what they like about working there. If they transitioned from a big company to a startup, find out how their experiences differed. Showing you did your research can leave a lasting impression and can help build genuine rapport.

Follow up 

Research shows applicants will leave the best impression if they send a thank you email within 24 hours of an interview. Here are two follow up strategies that will take your thank you note up a notch: 

1.    Send an email… and continue the conversation. Thank the interviewers for their time, indicate you appreciate about the opportunity and are excited about next steps, then add a personal touch from your interview. For instance, if you touched on a topic of interest in your interview, mention an article you loved about it and include a link. This will feel more authentic than a generic email and will organically carry your conversation into the next step of the process. Pro tip: Send a personalized thank you to each individual you met, including interviewers, admins, and even receptionists who helped you. Companies want to invest in nice people, so don’t be afraid to spread the love. 

2.    Follow up. If you haven’t heard back yet, don’t panic or assume anything. The hiring process takes time and a simple response back can take 3-5 business days or longer. Take action with a follow up email to show you are a go-getter and not just waiting for opportunities to come to you (here’s a template you can use!). Don’t be concerned about being a nuisance (but don’t follow up more than 3 times before giving up). Companies will appreciate your persistence. 

I hope these interview tips give you the tools you need to prepare well and the confidence to ace your interview.  For more information, including free PDF templates to get you started, join the Self Made Millennial list serve here:

Madeline Mann is HR & Recruiting Specialist and Founder of the Self Made Millennial YouTube Channel. For more information from the Self Made Millennial, subscribe to her YouTube channel or connect with her on LinkedIn.