How to Crush Your Next Interview

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Posted May 21, 2014 by Kristen J. Zavo in Building Your Brand
interview

I’m willing to bet that most women do more “prep” work before going on a first date than they do for an interview. You know who you are. You’ve researched your date online, spoken about countless “what-if” scenarios with your friends, maybe even gotten a professional blowout or manicure for the big night.

If this sounds like you, it would be helpful to think of your next job interview like a first date – one where you do your research, arrive prepared, dress to impress, be yourself – and leave them wanting to see you again.

Here are a few tips to crush your next interview – at every stage of the process!

Research

Before the big day, make sure to do your due diligence – on the company, the industry and the people you will be meeting with. A few places to start:

  • Company Website:
    The company website, especially the “Investor’s Section” is a good place to start. Read through the Management Discussion & Analysis section of the latest Annual Report. This will lay out the current state of affairs, perceived challenges and strategies for the upcoming year from the point of view of the Company.
  • Social Profiles:
    It’s also worth checking out the social profiles of your company and it’s top competitiors. Likely they have a LinkedIn group and are also on Twitter and Facebook.
  • News:
    Read up on current news about the company and industry. What challenges is the industry as a whole facing, and what is specific to the company – both positive and negative?
  • LinkedIn & Other Professional Profiles:
    Odds are, you know who you’ll be interviewing with – look at their LinkedIn and other professional profiles. Understanding who you will be speaking with will help you prepare. It’s great if you have something in common (similar backgrounds, same school, common interests). If not, you’ve got some time to think about how your unique experience will allow you to add value to the team.

Prepare

Besides doing research on the company, it is important to be prepared to discuss your background in detail. Review your resume and make sure that you’ve got some solid examples for the qualities that will be important in this role. Hoping to lead the e-commerce team at your favorite brand? Be able to show where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills in the past, and elaborate on specifics about your digital experience.

We all know that we should have some good questions in mind for the end of the interview. But rather than look up some generic ones, take some time to really think about what you want to know. If you were going to take on the role, what would be your top concerns? For example, beyond the specific position I’m interviewing for, I’m always interested in learning more about the team, its top priorities in the short and long-term and how it interacts with other groups.

Trial Run

It doesn’t hurt to do a dry run a day or two before your interview. Make sure you know where you’re going and what you’ll be wearing (I like to give myself two options for the latter!).

It’s also a good idea to send a confirmation email to whoever set up the interview. Schedules change, and if you’re interviewer gets pulled on a last minute trip, it’s better to find out before, not after you show up.

During the Interview

By the time you are sitting across from a potential manager or colleague, you should be prepared for whatever comes your way – even a curveball question or two. And remember it’s not just them interviewing you. You also want to determine if this is a place you’d like to work. Take note of how formal or informal the culture is, how people are dressed, whether it is an open layout or a cube farm. How do the interviewers speak of each other and the groups they work with? Can you see yourself fitting in and enjoying working there?

Ask the interviewers about the timeline. Sometimes you’ll get different answers from different people, but it will give you a general idea about whether the position is a “need to have” or a “want to have.” Feel free to ask if you can follow up if you don’t hear back by a certain date. Finally, make sure to get business.cards for everyone you meet with.

Post-Interview

Write your “thank you” emails as soon as possible, by end of day or first thing the next morning at the latest. You’ll find conflicting advice on exactly what you should put in the note, and even whether an email is sufficient (as opposed to following up with a handwritten note). In general, I’ve found that email works best. While a nice gesture, by the time they get your note in the mail, they might have already moved forward with another candidate.

As far as what to write,  I think it’s best to thank the interviewer for their time, mention something you spoke about and reinforce that you’re excited about the opportunity. Don’t forget the people that help set up the interview in the first place. You’d be surprised how much work is involved in coordinating multiple schedules so that you could see everyone on one day, close together.

The “How to Prepare for a Job Interview” below is compliments of Undercover Recruiter. It’s a great cheat-sheet to make sure you’ve got your bases covered and are ready to crush your next interview. Good luck!

InterviewInfographic


About the Author

Kristen J. Zavo

Kristen J. Zavo is a product development, strategy and innovation professional, with a special interest in the retail industry. Having always been interested in the people side of business, Kristen loves to explore, reflect on, and share stories about the challenges and adventures of being a businesswoman. No topic is off limits - whether it's how to handle being the only woman in the boardroom, or figuring out how to to pack all the "essentials" for a 2-week business trip in just a carry-on! Outside of work, she loves exploring new places, spending time at the beach and meeting friends to workout (spin or yoga, anyone?!).

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