Written by: Sophie Warwick.
Interviews are exciting occasions to pursue new opportunities, challenge yourself, and grow and develop professionally. But they can also be really nerve racking, especially if you’re early in your career. Here are my top 5 tips for excelling at your next interview and landing the new role.
1. Research effectively and learn from your network to lead an impactful discussion.
Understand the company. Online scouring of company websites and social media accounts can provide you with great insight on the company mission and values, milestone projects, and sometimes a window into the employee experience. If it’s a public company, looking up investor news, share price performance, corporate governance, and annual filings (see our article on items to look up before joining a public company) is very important for understanding company performance. The virtual world is only part of the puzzle though, so I’d recommend using your network to its full capacity. Seek out any friends or colleagues that you know at the company. If you don’t have any direct connections, connect with friends in the same industry who can help put you in front of the right people. Even the dreaded LinkedIn reach out to a friend of a friend can get you a call with someone willing to provide you their candid insight on the role.
Understand the role. If possible, speak to someone currently working in that role or within that team. A lot of effort is typically put into writing effective job descriptions, but it can still be difficult to decipher exactly what the day-to-day may look like. Especially if this is for a lateral move, industry change, or promotion where you’re making a significant shift, it’s helpful to speak to someone who’s been in a similar position.
If someone is taking the time to speak with you, then make sure you respect their time and arrive prepared. Bring a list of questions about projects you’re interested in, company direction, professional development, and mentorship structures, or whatever else may be of most value to you. Think carefully of what excites you most in your work life and where your strengths lie. Is this going to be the right fit for you to grow professionally and continue developing your desired career path?
The goal of all this data collection is twofold – learn everything you can about the role and company so you can show up powerfully in the interview and find out if this role works for you too. Are you interested in the types of projects you’ll be working on? Do they have the employee experience you’re hoping for? Yes, there are times when we can’t turn a role down, but if you’re in a position where you have the privilege to wait, or better yet have multiple offers on the table, then make sure it’s the right fit.
2. Communicating your strengths with confidence & leveraging your unique skill set. What unique strengths do you hold that no one else does? They can be both technical (e.g. specific training you have, experience with a particular software) or soft skills (e.g. public speaking, mentoring). It can sometimes be difficult to think of strengths ourselves so leverage your friends, family, and colleagues in building out your library of strengths.
Once you have each strength listed, start to think of communicating them as a three-step approach. First, the strength itself. Second, communicate situations or examples where you’ve demonstrated them. For example, maybe you’re a structural engineer and you may say, “I excel at X software. I have used X software to design reinforced concrete slabs for high-rise buildings.” The third step is one we sometimes miss, being able to relate this strength to a key metric of the company or role. In my previous example, you may add, “This allows me to design concrete slabs in 4 hours compared to 6 hours with other programs.” Including a metric in this step is powerful when possible. Now not only have you communicated your strength, but you’ve included how this will impact your performance in a very measurable way.
Complete this exercise for all of your strengths and build out a portfolio. Practice them and think about the key ones you’d like to include for each role you interview for. This will help you to easily call on them and reference those that are most relevant to the conversation real-time.
Remember, strengths don’t have to be exclusive to working experience. Don’t forget that your strengths can draw on extracurricular and volunteer experience as well. Especially if this is your first, or one of your first, roles after school. Employers understand your work experience may be more limited and will recognize your volunteer experience. At one point, they were in your shoes too.
3. Setting the stage for a positive & productive conversation that serves you and your employer. Remember why you’re in the room. You’re there because you’ve got an exciting opportunity for a new role. Start the conversation with how excited you are, or how you can't wait to continue growing with the company. This is an opportunity to showcase how passionate you are about this position and provide some insight into what specifically you’re excited about and who you are. Retention is a challenge now more than ever. If it’s true that you’re hoping this will be a long-term fit, your employer will be excited to hear it and it’s a great way to kick-off the conversation in a positive way.
4. Asking the right questions to ensure you have the information needed to make an informed decision. What is it that is attracting you to this company? Did you read a great article, was there a project that really caught your attention? Research a few key features that attracted you and prepare questions around those items. Don’t fake it – it’s obvious when you do. But if you’re genuinely interested, it’s still good to prepare some questions on projects or topics you’re interested in as we can sometimes be nervous in the moment. Prepping will help them come more easily in the interview.
5. Understanding your non-negotiables & where you do, and don't, have room for flexibility. Make a detailed list beforehand of the key components you need to be happy in this role. Feel free to brainstorm with friends and family but be empowered to narrow down the final list solo. Everyone’s priorities will look different. You may feel strongly that you want to work directly with senior leadership, a formalized mentorship program, a collaborative and team-oriented environment, flexibility, or vacation. Know exactly what elements are most important to you and feel confident in communicating them clearly and concisely. If you discuss these components real-time in the interview, make sure to follow up with an email (or have them included in a new contract if applicable) so they’re documented accordingly.
Interviews can be scary, but they don’t need to be. You have an opportunity to challenge yourself and develop professionally. You are also able to seek out a great role for you and ask important questions to make sure it’s a great fit long-term. If you’d like additional coaching and support for your upcoming interview or performance review, send us an email at email@example.com to book a session today.