The job interview is where the job hunt starts to get interesting.
The personal marketing materials you’ve prepared – your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, previous work – have been good enough to pique the interest of the hiring manager. You’ve set yourself apart as a qualified candidate, at least on paper.
Now it’s time to prove it.
In this guest post, Bennett Garner of Comfortable Conversation explains the interview strategy used by only 1% of candidates.
Over to you Bennett…
The interview is where you win or lose the job. If the hiring manager is ambivalent about you when you’re walking out of the room you’re in trouble.
Your goal for the interview shouldn’t be to “survive.”
You should plan to knock the socks off the hiring manager.
Don’t just “survive” the interview
There’s a lot of questionable advice on the internet about what you should do in an interview.
Bloggers talk all the time about rehearsing stories, memorizing answers to “common” questions, and avoiding mistakes. In my experience helping my readers land jobs in finance, human rights, and government, I’ve found that…
Rehearsed stories sound unnatural.
The so-called “common” questions rarely come up in interviews (outside of food service, retail, or hospitality jobs where hiring questions tend to be standardized). You’re more likely to make mistakes if you rely on memorization. Yet we see advice like this all the time.
Generally, what do you notice about these pieces of advice?
They reflect a passive mindset!
So often we think of an interview as a test, where the interviewer has all the power and the interviewee just does his / her best to handle the questions.
I want to show you a system to take control and walk into the interview with a plan.
First, though, a quick word about mindset.
Mindset is key to knocking an interview out of the park. The steps I’ll show you today are an active approach to interviewing, not a passive one. These specific steps will set you apart from the field, and more specifically your active approach to the interview will leave a lasting impression on the hiring manager.
Because so many people take a passive approach to answering the interview questions. Your active approach, asking questions and anticipating the hiring manager’s needs, can’t help but stand out.
With just a few extra steps of preparation before the interview, you can drastically increase your chances of getting the job. This is a classic instance of a little extra work that leads to big results.
Here is my strategy for dominating your interview.
Find out what the hiring manager needs
The person hiring you has a job. The fact that they’re hiring someone means they need help with that job.
Knowing this can fundamentally improve your interview strategy.
This was a huge paradigm shift for me when I first started using it in interviews. Instead of seeing an intimidating interview, I was just somebody offering to help. This shift in mentality makes a huge difference.
Hiring managers want you to succeed. They want competent help!
Knowing that, you can de-construct the interview into how you can best help the hiring manager.
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In order to answer that, you’ll need to know what they’re working on. This is a simple bit of research, and it pays huge dividends. Find out what programs you’d be working on at the new job on the company’s website or in the job description. You should also learn what you can about the interviewer on LinkedIn and on the staff page of the company’s website.
A lot of time is wasted in interviews going over the introductions to the projects / programs. Nothing is more baller than interrupting your interviewer and saying:
“Sorry to interrupt. I’ve done research on your website and I’m already familiar with the basics of the project, but I do have a specific question about the way my position would fit in…”
Immediately, you’ve established credibility and an image of yourself as someone who always comes prepared. Not only that, you’ve also taken the interview to a deeper level, and you’ve turned the interview into a conversation because now you’re asking questions.
You’ll begin to get into the hiring manager’s hopes and fears for his / her projects. Talking about the project will also help you display your competence in your area of expertise.
Now that we have some basic information, we can take it to the next level and get in touch with someone who already works at the organization.
Get a warm contact at the company
Talking to someone at the company has huge benefits to your interview:
- They’ll tell you about the projects you’ll be working on;
- They can talk more generally about your role in the organization;
- They can give you information on challenges in the organization;
- They’ll tell you about the organization’s goals and initiatives that may not be public;
- The person you talk to will tell other people on the team that you got in touch.
It’s as easy as emailing your predecessor or someone who has a similar job at the same organization, yet so few people do it before they interview.
I’ve struck gold with this technique.
Here’s an example of an email in action.
My name is Sarah Smith. I’m interviewing for a job as an analyst at Deloitte. I found your email on the website, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to send you a quick note. [Always let them know where you found their email address]
I want to learn more about data and research at Deloitte. I have a background in web development with experience in php and Python. I’m wondering what projects you work on day-to-day right now and how you like working at Deloitte?
I want to be respectful of your time, so you can respond with as little or as much info as you feel. Anything you can tell me would be a big help.
A simple email like this one can pay HUGE dividends.
When I’ve used this technique, I’ve gotten back responses that are hundreds of words explaining the job, the programs, the organization, and the people I’d be working with. It was a gold mine.
Then when you’re in the interview you’ll be able to drop lines like, “Oh, I already spoke with Matt actually, and he indicated the position requires x…”
With all this background info, you’re already better prepared than most candidates. But there’s one final step you can take to push you into the top 1% of job applicants.
Make your pitch on paper
This is something that will immediately set you apart as a candidate.
By now, you’ve already gotten inside the hiring manager’s head, you know how the organization works, and you even have a handle on some of the pain points for the organization.
Imagine with me for a minute that you’re in the interview. Because you did your research ahead of time, you’ve gotten deeper into conversations about the projects, and the hiring manager is starting to imagine working with you.
To seal the deal, you reach into your bag and bring out a piece of paper that you’ve prepared ahead of time that outlines the major projects and how you can help.
In front of the hiring manager’s eyes are problems they know they have, and you’ve listed all the ways you can help solve them.
How could the hiring manager say no?!
Here’s how you do it:
Look back through the job description, program summaries, press releases, and emails with your warm contact at the company. Identify common themes, problems they may have that you have the expertise to fix.
Then, prepare a 1-3 page document. Identify the top handful of problems and present a timeline for solving those problems. What will you do in the first 3 months on the job? The first 6? What could you do if you had a whole year?
This is the single most powerful tactic I’ve seen. Hiring managers will be surprised when you first pull the paper out, then their jaws will drop. Hiring you becomes a no-brainer, and that’s exactly what we want.
Anyone can do this
The amazing thing about this interview strategy is that it’s so simple. Anyone could prepare like this, but 99% of candidates don’t.
If you do, you drastically increase your chances of getting the job.
Bennett Garner helps readers find what they want to do, get respect in the workplace, and be paid what they’re worth at Comfortable Conversation.