How to smash your interview in 5 practical steps

You’ve typed and typed and typed trying to ace your resume. Maybe you even sent me your application to be edited to perfection. Wink wink. 😉

Finally, you sent it all off and you waited, patiently. Well, as patiently as you could. Then you heard… YOU GOT AN INTERVIEW, WOOHOO!!!

Oh wait, a new dread sets in.

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What should you say? How should you say it? What should you wear? GAH. Just when you thought the hard times were over, a new kind of panic has arrived.

But don’t worry. Here are the 5 essential steps you need to follow for a successful interview.

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1. Research

Okay, so the first thing you need to do is research the company.

Start by creeping on their website …

Research the company’s background to get a bit of an idea of how the company started and what their mission is. You can usually find this info on their “About Us” tab from their website.

Next, get a general understanding of the structure of the company.

Who does what and where? Maybe their main office is in London, but they have partners all across the country. This you can find underneath the: “Who are we”; “Where are we” or “Locations” tabs.

Side note: This is the kind of information you can pick up and then use to your advantage in the interview.

For example you could ask whether you need to travel to (enter specific location name) from time to time?

#casualnamedroppingsoyouknowIknowallaboutyourcompany

Next, turn to Google … 

Once you’ve clicked on and exhausted all the tabs of the company’s website, do a Google search.

Look for press releases or online newspaper articles where this company has been featured. Even looking for when people Tweet / Facebook the company.

What are they in the news about? What are people saying about them? What are people asking?

This kind of research gives you an insight into what direction the company is trying to go in, and what they care about. Finding out answers to these questions will give you things to talk about in the interview.

For example … Maybe the tech company you’re interviewing at was in the news for developing a new and controversial “read-your-mind” technology. Bring up a relevant article, and then you can shed a thought or two on this (pun definitely intended 😛 ).

One really good thing to research is any issues or problems the company is currently facing.

You can usually find this kind of information in articles online about the company, or even on their feedback page if they have one.

Look over the customer reviews and try to find a problem you can solve.

Obviously, you don’t want to go into the interview shaming the company for its failures or setbacks—that wouldn’t be a good idea. That said, if you have an actual solution to this problem, present it.

It’ll show you to be a “problem solver” without you ever saying that over-used phrase. The hiring manager will see you’ve done your homework, you’re well acquainted with their products/services and you’ve come ready (and prepared) to improve what it is they do.

Improvements to the business = more happy customers = more money made = more happy bosses = more money for you = win, win for everybody.

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But like I said before, don’t bring anything up you don’t genuinely have a stellar solution for, otherwise this could really blow your chances.

Make sure you don’t come at it too directly either. Casually mention the problem and how you could solve it. If you need any help with knowing how to navigate this, please drop me a message, it is a tricky balancing act.

Where else can I search?

Another good place to do some research is LinkedIn.

If you can find the company there, find some people who work there so you can get a bit more familiar with some faces.

Not only can this help you with being nervous, it can make it a little easier to imagine the workplace, and yourself in it.

Being able to imagine this stuff is not about being all airy-fairy. It’ll genuinely make it easier for you to remember things about the company and to generate a list of questions.

“A list of questions?!”, I hear you cry. Whatever am I talking about?

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

As you research and find out people’s names, what they do, what the company does, you’ll inevitably stumble across some gaps you can’t find the answers to.

When that happens, write that question down. And be as specific as you can.

Perhaps you combed through the company’s calendared events the last few months, and noticed one particular reoccurring event suddenly stopped, why?

This is basically the time where you get your obsessive ex-gf / bf hat on and go creeping online.

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Don’t laugh like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Put those skills to good use! 😉

That being said be careful to not conjure up questions where there really isn’t anything there, or ask anything too obvious (by obvious, I mean easily found on their website).

The hiring manager will be able to sense you only asked that question to show you’d done some research.

So get creepy, but then edit those questions down and select only a few, really relevant ones which show you’ve thought a lot about the company and its future (ahem, with you in it).

What to do with all this research?

One thing I’ve found people forget to do is give themselves time to REVIEW the research they have.

It’s no good doing a ton of research on the company, if you don’t end up knowing it so you can casually drop it into conversation somehow during the interview.

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You’re going to be nervous in the interview. It’s only natural. To make use of all the time you’ve invested in researching for this position, give yourself a couple of days to digest the information you’ve found out.

Go over the notes you’ve taken from researching the company and re-read them as many times as you can.

Even practice replying to some likely interview questions using the same words/ideas this company expresses on their website.

Doing this means it will become more natural for you to say the kinds of buzzwords this company uses.

Phew, research section is over and here are the key* things to remember:

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  • Start researching the company by using their website, search every tab!
  • Google to see where the company comes up in the news & check on LinkedIn.
  • See what people are saying & asking the company on Facebook & Twitter.
  • Give yourself time to read your notes & prepare answers.

2. Prepare your responses

The next thing to do to prepare is to get out your CV and cover letter and re-read them. I know, you’re sick of seeing them, but dust them off and give them a thorough read.

Since you’ve written so many drafts you need to make sure you are more than familiar with the actual version you sent to this employer.

You don’t want them to ask you a question based off of your CV and be caught off guard because you forgot you kept that bit in there.

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So re-read it until it’s burned into your brain. Next, it’s time to go back to the original job ad. Print it out if you can.

Compare the job ad to your application, side by side …

With the job ad, your CV and cover letter in front of you, circle the skills/experiences the job ad asks for.

Then write them out in a list on a separate piece of paper. Next to this list, write down how/when you’ve met this requirement.

You might have done this before when you were creating your CV and cover letter to specifically match the job ad’s words. If you did, then get that list back out (no need to write another one!)

What you then need to do is see which of the skills/requirements you’ve already included on your CV and cover letter, and which ones you didn’t mention or didn’t highlight that much.

Then, in your interview, you can make sure you mention those ones too. You want to cover all they ask for, thoroughly.

Okay, what’s next?

Make notes on how you can expand on some of your experiences.

It’s likely the employer will pull something out they find interesting from your CV or cover letter. So by making notes ahead of time, you’ll be prepared to expand on anything you’ve mentioned in your CV.

Practice adding in extra details, extra examples of your time working at X, and always keep it relevant to this employer.

If they pull out a particular experience, you want to tell them some more juicy info about that time. If possible, link it to another experience, to show them REALLY how much you could bring to this role.

Like this, butttttt with a little more tact.

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“Oh, yeah I did save the day with the way I spun that story. You should know how I also landed that exclusive interview with X.” 

To do this confidently and smoothly, you need to prepare some examples and practice saying them out loud by yourself.

I’m not saying you need to rehearse specific examples and only say these in your interview, because that would be forced and weird and silly.

But the more time you’ve put into practicing talking about your experiences, highlighting what the interviewer wants to hear, the more confidently and naturally you’ll do it in the real interview.

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The key things to remember here are:Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 1.17.42 PM.png

  • Make a list of all the skills/experiences the job ad asks for and how you meet each one.
  • Circle which skills you didn’t mention a lot or at all, so you know which skills you need to hit during the interview.
  • Practice expanding on your experiences.

3. Plan

The two big steps are out of the way. Now is the simplest one. Planning.

What to wear?

Planning what you’re going to wear and what you’re going to bring. If the interview calls for “smart-casual”, err on the side of smart. It can’t do you wrong.

Also just make sure your general appearance is neat and tidy. First impressions count a lot. So get the iron out and make sure your shoes aren’t covered in mud from cycling (even if you did actually cycle there …).

What to bring?

Try not to bring too much. But if it’s relevant to the job, a portfolio of your best work is always a good idea.

Plus, if you’re the kind of person who finds it really, really hard to big yourself up in person, this is an excellent solution. Just show them examples of your awesomeness.

A list of references may also be a good idea, however don’t lead with that.

If they haven’t asked for it, at the end of the interview you can always offer to provide them with your list, but just give them the choice. 🙂

There, that’s it. Told you this part was simples. No need to get caught up in the whole, “the colour of your shirt makes you more or less memorable …”, crap.

Just be neat and tidy and let your experiences and personality speak for themselves.

4. Mindfulness

This step (after researching of course) is the most important. The way you think about yourself and the way you carry yourself can make a hugeeeeeeee difference to whether you get the job or not.

If you’re not an obsessive Ted Talk viewer like I am, you might not have found out body language can shape: who you are, how you feel, and how you are perceived.

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Shock horror.

It’s amazing research and it’s obviously important to remember when it comes to job interviews that your body language is really important.

Ah, now I have to think about my body-language too?! What should I focus on?

Try to think of yourself positively and carry yourself strong.

Remind yourself to sit and stand tall by consciously thinking about trying to take up more space than usual.

You never know who is watching. In some cases your demeanour and the way you interact with other staff can be passed on to the interviewer.

Walk confidently. Speak in a steady manner and with good volume. Remember how amazing you are, (because you are).

You can even nip to loo before your interview to do the “power pose” Amy Cuddy talks about, to make yourself feel and seem more powerful.  (Here’s the link for you to see what I’m on about).

Bottom line is: it’s natural and normal to be nervous. You’re going into a room with god knows how many people and you’re having to talk about yourself.

But don’t let nervous energy get in the way of showing how great you are.

How can I not let nervousness get in the way?

One small tactic I’ve tried which has helped me in the past, is to think of yourself not as a desperate person who really wants this job (even if you know … that’s the truth).

Instead think of yourself as the powerful, popular woman who has a lot of offers already from other employers.

Just this little mental switch can help you become less nervous, because really, it is a 2-way street. You can turn them down too if you don’t think it’s a good fit.

Go into it confident in yourself, in your research, and not afraid to slow down the pace.

You don’t have to sit on the edge of your seat and answer every question they ask in record speed time. Relax into it a little and take your time to respond. Actually think about your answer before responding.

By taking your time, and giving yourself a little breather, you’ll not only come across as more confident and considered, but you’ll probably respond better too.

You’ll remember the research you’ve done, you’ll remember your notes and you’ll probably even think up something new to add on the spot.

If you’re really still shaking like a leaf before the interview after having practiced this stuff, send me a message with the subject: “Interview Prep”. I’ll help you out with other extra tips.

5. Follow up

The dreaded question: “do you have any questions for us?” Dun. Dun dunnnnnnnn.

What do you ask?

Well, do you remember earlier on when I said write a list of questions? Bring that list!

Say something along the lines of: “Yes, I’ve prepared some questions.” And whop out your notes.

Have a quick scan and see if there are any questions you can still ask from your list. Obviously, no need to ask anything which has already been covered.

But if there aren’t, pick something which the interviewer mentioned earlier on, and you would like some more clarity on.

Try not to ask anything you can find out by researching the company or looking at the job ad again, because that’ll say to them you didn’t do your homework (even if you did).

And of course there are tons of questions you can ask which they’ll know you’ll have researched beforehand… so be careful which ones you choose.

It’d be better to ask them more specific questions based on something they’ve said during the interview with you. But some good cookie-cutter questions you can ask, (with caution) are:

  • If hired, what would be the top three priorities you’d like me to focus on in the coming year?
  • How and when is feedback provided to employees?
  • What’s your company culture like?
  • What’s the timeline for making a decision on this job position? When would be a good time for me to follow-up with you?

Once your interview has come to a close, shake their hand and say something like: “Looking forward to hearing from you, thank you for your time”.

If you did ask them when would be a good time to follow up with them, make a note of it afterwards and be sure to actually follow up.

There we have it.

If after doing these 5 steps, you’re still not getting a call-back, drop me a line for a free 30 minute consultation call to figure out what’s going on and develop a strategy to fix it. Cool? Cool.

Happy interviewing.

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