A lot of work goes into getting a job interview, but the interview itself is often revered as the most challenging part of getting a new job. However, bringing your career to life through preparation, practice, and storytelling increases your chances of landing a job offer.
Part one of this three-part series focused on getting the interview. The research you used to get the interview is the same information you’ll use to prep for the interview. The responses to interview questions should show that you’ve done some research about the company. Aside from preparing, you also want to practice answering and asking questions. You can use software programs, like Interviewing, or ask a trusted mentor to help you practice. Your goal should be to tell a story about who you are, your values, and what led you to interview for this company.
Here are some tips:
1. Bring your career to life. Be prepared to answer, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” Use this ice-breaker question to make a great first impression and bring your career to life. Tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end — in 2 minutes or less. Take the interviewer on a journey that showcases your capabilities. Here are the questions your pitch should answer:
- Who are you, and what are your values?
- What do you do, and how do you do it that’s unique to you?
- What are your results (the numbers)? How do you solve problems?
- What do you want to work here?
Write your responses to these to create your story (in under two minutes). Then, practice in front of the mirror, at networking events, and with friends until it becomes second nature. Here’s an example:
- I accidentally found graphic design when I was asked to develop a logo for a startup where I worked, and I really stepped up to the challenge. The company still uses the logo, and I was promoted to head of marketing (a team of one!). In that role, I grew the department to a team of 15 with an annual budget of $500,000. Our marketing efforts increased profits by 25% in our first year, and we’ve continued to boost profits year after year. One of my most proud accomplishments includes our DEI campaign. Through our efforts, we’ve seen a substantial improvement in DEI with our partner organizations. That’s what excites me about this role: using my marketing experience and successes with our DEI program to help grow yours and learn new ways to bring awareness to this important issue in the workplace.
2. Use numbers to show, not tell. Quantify your professional accomplishments. Think in terms of growth, savings, helping, and frequency. How have you contributed to the growth? Or saved money? Does the work you do help others? Once you have the numbers, weave them into your story. Here are examples:
- Last quarter, my team increased revenue by 12% over the previous year by reducing expenses and increasing sales.
- Under my leadership, our team spearheaded the company’s green initiative to reduce our carbon footprint by 21%. The program was initiated just six months ago, and we’ve already successfully realized a 10% reduction by creating a 4-day workweek and saving on computer impacts.
3. Ask good questions. Just as much as they are interviewing you, you are interviewing the company. Questions help you learn more about what it will be like to work for the company. Here are some questions to ask:
- What does success look like in this role?
- How does my skill set fit in with the role?
- What are some challenges you expect the person in this role to face?
Questions also show the interviewer you’re paying attention and interested. Questions on the fly should reiterate that you’ve heard what your interviewer told you. For example, suppose they told you about their company culture and different team-building activities. In that case, a follow-up question can relate to types of team-building exercises. Avoid generic responses such as, “that sounds great.” Generic responses show a lack of engagement.
Knowing what not to say is just as important as knowing what to say. Avoid talking about what you’re not. No one expects you to know everything, but you’re better off not highlighting what you don’t know.
And before heading out the door, make sure you’re dressed for the part. What you wear is part of your overall impression and contributes to the first impression your potential employer will make … in about 10 seconds.
Your first interview with the company is about making a lasting impression, so you’ll be asked back for a second interview. You can expect two to three interviews over two to six weeks (or longer) before receiving an offer letter. The same person may conduct all the interviews, or you may interview with different managers or colleagues. The first interview is usually high-level and includes an overview of the company, company goals, and company culture. It will also cover the job description and perks of working for the company. The second interview dives a little deeper. You’re a top candidate if you’re asked back for a third or final interview. The hiring manager wants to know how your skills will benefit the company. The final interview will include behavioral questions to learn how you will handle workplace situations or prioritize tasks. A third interview doesn’t mean you got the job. But by round three, you’re likely only competing with one to two other candidates.
Whether you have one interview or three, you need to follow up after each interview. That is what part three discusses: How to follow up after an interview.