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Leadership

How to nail the job interview?

You have written an outstanding CV, and you made it to the next level. It’s is going to be the first job interview. But what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “job interview”? I think for most of us it’s a quite stressful event. Some folks, including recruiters, will refer to it as a “grilling”. There used to be some sophisticated methods to check candidates and to break them so that we can see how they behave under stress. I heard of the stories where interviews were conducted in a small, hot room for hours to check where is the breaking point of the particular candidate…

There may be some reasons for this kind of interviews. I cannot find any. What I am going to focus on it the conversation where both sides will try to align on the fact whether they match and they want to work together. Yes, the job interview should always be two-way passage. It is as much for the employer as for the candidate.

Job interview steps 🔄

There are usually a few stages of the job interview. It highly depends on the company and its procedures. I am going to describe my experience from both sides. Recently, however, more from the person who recruits and helps to shape something we call the hiring engine.
There are usually a few main things that need to be checked:

  • soft skills and culture fit
  • self-awareness and ability to learn
  • hard skills, experience and knowledge
  • technicalities about expectations, compensation package and so on

Cultural fit 🧐

What is the organisational culture, and how do we check if someone fits it?
I compare it to marriage. For people to match, there will be some similarities, but also differences. The differences cannot be radical. If one person wants to have children and the other absolutely not, its not a good match. But if one person is a morning person and the other is the evening person, it will be okay.

Similarly, if you love going to the office and the company that you want to work for is fully remote, that will probably not work. If you like flat organisation and the company you apply to is very hierarchical, it will not fly eighter. You should check the company website and find the culture section. Some companies put their core values in the culture section. Read it, check it and see if it resonates with you. For instance, my corner of the company that I work for has the following values:

  • Raise your hand: Take initiative and take responsibility
  • Evangelise greatness: Solicit help early and involve others
  • Be the strongest link: Commitment to improving
  • Always be advancing: Exceed expectations
  • It’s your ship: It is never enough to hold a position
  • Success always comes from advancing

Self-awareness, tell me more! 🙌

We, humans, love stories. This is how we are wired. Every good blog post, podcast exposed, book or marketing campaign is based on some story. Why not use this “method” to nail the interview? We should start by preparing your elevator pitch. The term is coined in the startup community to spark the interest of the potential investors.

The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale. The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project. And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb. No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.

-Seth Godin, Marketing Guru and Best Selling Author

I am asking you to write one paragraph about who you are, what are your strengths and how you can help me if I invite you to join my team. As a result, I want to know more and ask more. My example, slightly modified for the blog bio purposes, is in “about me” section.

Self-awareness: what is your story? 👀

Here are some more stories examples that are universal, and you should prepare:

  • What is your professional journey based on your employment so far?
  • Are you able to connect all “dots” – your roles and positions that have led you to this point and this interview?
  • What is the story of any gaps in employment?
  • Did you take a sabbatical? Did you travel? What have you learned during this time?
  • Can you describe the most significant project that you were involved or you have led?
  • What is the project that was not so successful, what have you learnt from it?
  • Why are you leaving the current employer?

What do you know? 🎓

Next on the list is technical ability to do the job. It depends on the role, the company and their processes. It will be challenging to provide specific information on how to prepare for this part of the interview process. Let me give you some general tips, based on experience from my field.

  • What are the requirements based on the job spec?
  • Write them down on the piece of paper.
  • Try to remember when and how you used the technology, tools and other things from the spec in the past.
  • Be honest with yourself, and later the recruiter. If you don’t know something, say it. You can always say “this is something I wanted to explore more in the future”.
  • Try to prepare some story about how you used the given technology/tool/requirement in your career so far.

Do not be discouraged! ✊

One more thing to remember. There is an ongoing effort in the industry to make sure everyone has equal chances to apply and to get the dream job. However, the study suggests that women and men act differently when they see a job post that consists of a lot of items in the bullet point requirements.

While both genders browse jobs similarly, they apply to them differently. Research shows that to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.

Gender Insides Report: How women find jobs differently

Please do apply for the job, even if you feel like you do not meet 100% of the requirements. What matters the most is your ability to prove you can learn, you develop yourself, and you are self-aware where you are in your professional journey. How to do it? Here are some of the ideas:

Technicalities 💲

One of the steps during the interview process will be talking about the compensation package. For some folks, this is the most tricky bit. Some people will find it easy. We will need to have these conversations, and it’s better to be prepared.

Those are my suggestions:

  • Do you know what your current package is? I mean all ingredients of your compensation: salary, bonus, commission, company stock, car/transport/bicycle allowances and so on. Name them, check them, sum them. It is your baseline.
  • Answer the question: are you willing to be paid less to join a specific company?
  • Can you name your expectations? Set up the soft and hard limits of what you can accept and where you will need to say that this is something that you cannot go for.
  • When asked for the concrete number, ask back “what are the ranges that you offer on that kind of position?”. It will give you and the recruiter some flexibility, and it’s an excellent method of bouncing back the hard question.
  • If the recruiter insists – ask for what you want/deserve, NOT what you currently make. The latter does not matter and in fact, can perpetuate pay parity issues but many recruiters still ask it sadly.
  • It is usually fine to ask for some time to think about the offer. Consult it with spouse, friends and go back with your decision.

Never burn the bridges 🤝

There is only one thing to do if you will not qualify to the final step, and you are not going to be offered a job. Thank the interviewers and ask for detailed feedback. It is better if both sides don’t start a collaboration, then do make a mistake. It will take time and will lead to frustrations if any side finds it was a mistake.

As a candidate – the fact you have not made it this time, doesn’t mean they you are not going to work for this company in the future. As a recruiter – the fact that you need to pass this particular candidate this time doesn’t mean that you may have another role that will suit this person more.

Mutual support and respect is the key, and it goes beyond an hour or two when the job interview is happening.

Tips and tricks for remote interview 👩🏾‍💻

Finally, I would like to share a few points for a specific type of interview – fully remote job interview meeting.

  • Try the technology in advance. When it’s time to join, and you have issues with the meeting link, headset or anything else, it’s going to be extra stress right in the beginning. Not good.
  • Connect 3-5 min in advance, see above. It’s better to be ready and try to relax.
  • Prepare a piece of paper and a working pen. Get it ready for taking notes.
  • If possible, try to organise small whiteboard that is visible during the meeting, and it’s in your camera frame.
  • During the session, try to look at the camera lens. This way, the person on the order side will have the feeling, you are looking at him/her. It will establish a good report from the very beginning. It may be a small thing but could help when it comes to making a decision.
  • Smile often. Over-communicate your positive emotions. When the meeting is not in person, but via camera, it will “flatten” our mimics and emotions. It’s the trick that all TV presenters use. Smile wider, gesture more and so on. It feels unnatural in the beginning, but it’s helpful once communication is remote.
  • Be clear, use short sentences, pause, ask if something requires clarification. Ensure that the communication flows smoothly.

I wish you all successful interviews to find the dream job! Tell me if you have any questions and there is any topic that should be clarified. My goes is to help you to do what you love. Especially, it this tough time.


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