The (sort-of) Cheat Sheet for (almost) all Interviews

Career fair and interview season is right around the corner and that means it’s time candidates and interviewers study up on how to successfully interview. This week I’m going to focus on how candidates can prepare effectively, crush the interview and get the most out of the process. Next week I'll cover how interviewers can give a fair, balanced, informative and overall good interview. 

For the longest time I always felt doing well in an interview meant having the opposite personality of my actual personality. I had been molded by way too many people to be this generic, robot of a person and the more interviews I did, the more robotic I became.

After a number of failed interviews, I decided that if I was going to bomb these interviews, I’d rather bomb them being myself. That’s exactly when I started doing immensely better and how I landed the awesome job I have now. 

So this is 'kind-of' a cheat sheet, it's not everything you need but it'll get you going in the right direction. And it's not really applicable to all interviews, just the ones for the jobs you want

First lesson: Prepare like Crazy for Phone Interviews

This is generally your first crack at a hiring manager or company you’re interested in. Phone interviews always reminded me of take home exams in college. Yeah you can have all of your notes, textbook, calculator, internet, etc. but all of the those resources are useless if you don’t know your stuff.

That same idea carries over to phone interviews, you can have all your notes and company info in front of you but on the other end the person only hears you, compounding the pressure on you to make a good impression with the limited time you have. The interviewer on the other end of the phone can’t see you, read your body language, see your interest, shake your hand. The only impression you can make is through your words and personality, so make it count! 

Right after crushing an interview

Second lesson: Be Yourself

Not the crazy, party time you but the you that shows genuine interest in;

  • the position,
  • the company,
  • the people across the table from you.

I know that's a dime a dozen phrase your parents probably told the first day of high school but trust me, living that ideology makes the whole process easier. 

Preparing is easier – hopefully you’re interviewing for a company or position that's interesting so you don’t have to fake interest. You don’t have to prep for what you think the interviewer wants to hear, you just research and come to your own conclusions. 

Thinking of follow up questions is (necessary but, more on that soon) easier. You’re interested in this company and position, the questions should just pour out. Some of my favorites are: 

  • Where do you see this position leading to?  
  • How, in your mind, would an employee exceed the expectations of this position? 
  • What excites you about coming to work OR what excites you about the future of this position/company? 

Questions like these not only assert your interest in the job but the future of the job, company and how you fit in. 

Third lesson: Follow up your follow-ups

Nothing kills the good interview vibe like not asking follow up questions. Interviews are designed to leave out certain aspects of the job and company so you’ll ask about them! And anyways, there’s no way you could cover every aspect of the company in a single interview.

Follow up! Send a letter, email, notarized document, linkedin message, carrier pigeon (maybe) , tweet (don’t do this). This cements you as a person they’re going to remember. It’s all a part of the process. Make an impact on the phone interview, crush the in person interviews and make sure everyone you met with remembers you with a personalized message. 

Not sure what to write for a follow up? It shouldn't be your life story but it also should not be 'tweetable'. Say thanks, reference something that happened during the interview that makes you stick out/perfect for the position and then say you're looking forward to hearing back. 

I honestly believe the most important thing to keep in mind  when going into an interview is not being afraid to fail. Note: you may have read that wrong, don't actively think about failing before an interview, that would be not so great. Concentrate on crushing the interview but don't be afraid to fail. You’re going to fail one, five, ten (more if you’re me) and each one of those failures is going to teach you a valuable lesson you’re not going to forget anytime soon.