Yesterday, in the fourth quarter of a tight-knit football game, my friend asked me, “how do you prepare for a job interview?”
With five minutes left of the game, my eyes were too attached to the TV and my mind was too busy thinking of endless possibilities of the final score. His question slipped through my ear, drifted into my consciousness for a few seconds, and slipped out the other. My response,
“I don’t know, I feel like we’ve done so many interviews there’s really no way to prepare for it. If there’s one thing I make sure to do, is to look up company values, recent news, anything to spark up a conversation with the person on the other side of the desk or phone”.
If you read that again, you could split my answer into two categories.
The first sentence falls in the cocky, I can ace all the interviews bin- don’t listen to that guy. The second sentence, however, is me opening up without even knowing it. Remember, I’m too busy watching the football game to take any questions from the gallery — especially serious ones — to give a more humbling answer. So, this is me turning back the clock to answer the questions as best as I can. This time, it’s just me, you, and a few minutes of advice.
Most interview screenings follow this script:
- Opening: The recruiter, CEO, the person on the other side of the phone feels you out. Questions like: past experiences, personality traits, anything about you. Another way to describe this sequence, do you fit the company culture?
- Qualifications: In this stage, the employer starts to drill you with questions that make or break the interview. Arguably the most crucial part of the interview, this is the part where they secretly determine, does this person have the skills to do what I want them to do?
- Open-floor: The “final” goodbyes. The “is there any other question you have?” segment. Time to make that lasting impression.
48 Hours: Preparation
The 48 hours you have before the interview is where you win. This is the time to get rid of all the jitters, and to erase the question that constantly rings inside your head, “what if I don’ get the role?”. To quote Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher,
“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought”.
As a digital marketer, I have a natural habit to research everything; It often leads to diving deep into the profiles and archives of the company, its competitors, and even employees. By the end of my research, I have more familiarity with the company goals, history, the latest moves, and pivots.
Put yourself into the shoes of the recruiter.
How can you contribute and lead to the growth of the company? Every sentence spoken has to be tailored and aligned to company and job objectives. This may seem like a lot, but how badly do you want it?
By knowing the ins and outs of the job role, the company, and everything in between, we can replace “the jitters,” with preparation.
Filling in the puzzle
The “puzzle,” in this case is how you fit into the company. To them, you’re one piece to a big and complex 1000 piece puzzle. This is what you should be doing at the 48-hour mark:
- Be friends with the company: This can be done by visiting the “about” page of the business website. Here, you should be able to attain company values, how it was built, and more. To dive deeper, I often visit Youtube to watch several videos about the company- it’s past and present. By the end of this stage, you should be able to describe the company as much as you can and be able to talk about them like your second closest friend.
- Who I will be working with: Notice the “believe in yourself mentality” here. After getting to know more about the company, I look to LinkedIn to get to meet the recruiter and anybody part of the team. This may look creepy at first, but we’re in 2019 folks. You can’t sit there and tell me you haven’t visited a persons social media page after you found them cute. Look for small details: how long they’ve been in the company, education, and if they promote their position online as a personal brand… you know it’s the kind of company you want to work for.
- Write things down: Don’t forget to write all this down, I often have a piece of paper with bullet points, things I prioritize to mention to the other person. When the time comes, I have the notes in front of me as a guide.
The Three Stages
Prepared and ready to go? Still feeling the jitters a few minutes before the interview?
With pivotal opportunities like this, our minds tend to battle with each other. You’re at a crucial point in your career and change is often scary. Acknowledge the feeling, and think about the possibilities rather than the miscalculations.
The purpose of the 48-hour mark was to gather intel and increase your confidence. The goal is to dance between your authentic self and also fit into the companies culture.
Opening: Tell me more about yourself?
Do you fit the company culture?
In this stage, authenticity, aligned with company values win. There are many ways to express and be yourself when answering this question but remember your research.
What does the company expect in their employees? Do they value integrity, hustle, philanthropic, radical thinking? The best answer resonates when you find a way to integrate work with life.
As a digital marketer, I consistently market myself online. Writing this article is a demonstration of integrating work and life. When your hobbies and interests align with the companies overall mission statement, you have a winner.
How do you show your passion- off the clock, when nobody is watching?
Qualifications: Tell me more about your past position.
In this part of the screening, I talk about what matters to the recruiter. With limited time, you can only highlight so much of your expertise- so talk about ones that matter. I mention the work I’ve done in the past, but the key is to only mention work that benefits the job role or company.
When applying for a job, you often see a “job description” section. In this section, you see the list of job objectives and expectations. Filter the projects that you’ve worked on in the past, and emphasize them. In fact, only talk about them.
Case Study: Emphasizing Qualifications
Here, we have a job posting on LinkedIn for a digital marketing position. Right off the bat, I spot two things I have experience with. In your situation find your two things and elaborate on them; talk about the headaches and how you solved them.
Working with social media teams to create content calendars for organic social clients. This Includes pitching ideas in brainstorms and copywriting.
I would say: “Creating content calendars was key to our social media planning. I knew by getting things done before the month, I would have a general direction and something to show to our clients. This was important because by creating a content calendar, clients could strategies early on, and make adjustments from there- rather than having to pivot every time if expectations were not met”.
Monitoring social trends and platform updates.
I would say: “As a digital marketer, we never want to fall behind. I often read industry newsletters to see what the internet is talking about. I make sure to visit socialmediatoday.com and blog forums to get the latest buzz”.
Open-floor: The “final” goodbyes.
Ah, the final words. This is where you want to leave a lasting impression. Most people prefer to ask general questions like, “when would I start and what are the hours?”.
What I found worked best is to instead ask questions that leave an impression. Remember when I told you to take notes of the company?
This is your chance to ask. The more personal, the better. Types of questions and or conversation include:
- Do you own the product yourself and how has it changed you?
- I saw in the news that this event occurred…
- How big is the team? (think about your past experiences of working in small or bigger teams)
- One thing I did in my past role was X, will I be able to implement them here?
You want to be as human as possible in this segment. Meaning, relax, and just let your personality loose. Recruiters speak to dozens of potential people a day, it is your job for them to remember you.
Humans are more emotional than rational, so maybe we should focus more on poking the emotional touchpoints rather than list out rationalities as to why we should have the position?
Do you remember when I briefly mentioned “the jitters”?
I vividly remember, moments before an interview pacing back and forth on the street. At the heart of NYC, cars were moving in constant motion and so were the people around me. To make things worse, pacing back and forth right outside the lobby wasn’t helping my mental stability.
Suddenly, moments before I opened the door… time seemed to slow down. That was when I remembered what the past 48 hours have been like. Sticky notes posted all over my desk filled with company notes, topics I have to touch on, and accomplishments I have to emphasize.
Our mental stability is often unpredictable when it comes to change.
In the end, I received an offer. I was the most prepared.
Good luck. Let’s stay in touch on LinkedIn?