If you came here to read about “tips” or “tricks” on “how to ace an interview”, you may want to try the first few articles that captured Google’s SEO. This post details a process that I’ve found is best at preparing one’s self for an interview. It won’t tell you what to say, but more importantly it will provide some direction on what to do and how to think …allowing you to accurately, effectively, and authentically demonstrate who you are and what you bring to the table.
1. Put Your Introspective Hat On. Start with some introspection. Start with why.
First, don’t think of it as an interview. What I mean by this, is truly ask yourself why you are interested in the company, the role, and its responsibilities. And keep asking why. Here’s an example. I ask candidates, why does sales appeal to you? I get answers all the time that sound something like, “I’m competitive, but I’m a team player”. Or, “I like money”. Those things are fine and dandy to say… as long as they are true. You will be asked follow-up questions in an interview, and there is no better way to prepare for those tough follow-up questions than to have a rock-solid conviction. But why are you competitive? Can you think of examples? When was the last time your competitive spirit drove you to accomplish something? If you think deeply about why you’re interested in the role before the interview, you’re no longer trying to recall fancy phrases—you’re simply telling the truth.
2. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to turn into a bit of a stalker.
Do your research. Do your research. Do your research. Start with their website, poke around on each page. Read the about section intently. Have questions? Jot them down. Go to their Team page. What does their structure look like? Who are the leaders? Who are the ones in Sales? How many engineers do they have? How do they make money? Who are some of their clients? What does their ideal customer look like? <unclear? Jot that question down. Go to LinkedIn. Check out leadership, specifically those you’re going to be interviewing with. Send them a personalized LinkedIn request. Look at their past. Do you have anything in common with them? Check out those currently in the role you’re applying for. How do they look? What’s their background like? What do those in the role above you look like? What does it look like you’d have to do to get a promotion? Unclear about anything? Jot it down! Do a simple google search. Any news articles about them recently? Anything exciting? Why are they hiring? Unclear still? Jot it down! At the end, look over your questions, and ask yourself what’s still glaring. What else do you still want to know? If you can’t find it online (or if you need clarification) these are the questions you’ll want to prioritize. Finally, ask yourself the question, “what do I
need to know in order for me to truly understand if this is the best next step for me or not?”.
3. Be Honest. Sometimes even brutally honest.
Honesty in an interview and in sales (and in life) builds trust… trust is the foundation of quality relationships… and quality of relationships determines quality of life. Here’s an example of being honest in an interview. The hiring manager asks the candidate, “why do you want to join this company?” (Let’s say during the step above you determined that you liked the leadership, it’s in the industry you’re looking for, the pay is good, but you’re not quite sure about the culture because turnover seems to be a bit high and the glassdoor reviews are horrible. You’re debating not even taking the interview.) Your answer, “To be honest, I’m not really sure I do. I did some research, and it looks like you and the rest of leadership have rock solid experience taking Series B companies in MarTech to IPO, and that excites me. However, I read some less than positive online reviews and I have some concerns about your culture. I’m looking for a company that has a really strong culture.” This answer does 3 things: it shows your interviewer you did your research, you’re confident enough to tell them your concerns which demonstrates trust, and you’re likely going to get a direct answer to your concern. I guarantee this answer will be much more informative than a simple “how would you describe your culture” layup question. Also, more often than not, high turnover does imply a strong culture. However, it’s up to you to find out what kind of culture it is, and if that is indeed your preferred culture.
4. Take Accountability. For both the ups and the downs.
This goes for each step in your career so far. Take accountability for your successes, and your failures. Go through each step in your career from the beginning of college until the present and pull out the things you learned and the goals you accomplished in each. Be brief and direct in this. For example, “I took on a new territory at company x. I knew it was going to be a challenge, so I spent 2 days at the beginning of each quarter forecasting my accounts and prioritizing accounts with a game plan. I grew the territory by 235% and made President’s club.” Don’t be cocky, don’t be too humble, but do be brief and provide numbers. If they ask follow-up questions (which they probably will), then go deeper. Let’s look at the flip side: you have a gap in your resume, or a few jobs with only 3 months tenure. Remember: you’ve already scored the interview. You know that they’ve seen your resume, they’re willing to speak with you, and they’re most likely going to ask you about it. One way to approach this is to bash the company. Another is to explain why it wasn’t a fit, what you could’ve done better, explain what you learned, and why you’re better for it. (I’d suggest the latter).
5. Put your Extroversion hat on. Let your personality shine, bring some energy.
Enjoy the process, trust you’re ready, and go in excited! Be grateful you have a chance to potentially advance your career and meet maybe the next group of people you spend the majority of your waking life with The fact is, people respond to enthusiasm. This enthusiasm should be genuine now that you’ve done your research, came with all your questions, and thought deeply about the company, role, and product. Have fun with it, the hard work is done!