90% of your success in getting the job offer is your preparation.
If you are reading this post, at this stage you’ve gotten an invite to go onsite to meet with the hiring manager and the team (or to interview with the team via Zoom/WebEx for remote work) .
But how do you prepare given the time available? Usually, you have a few days to a week to prepare.
Today I’m going to give you my secrets of effective interview preparation. This guide will help you save time on things that don’t matter, and focus on steps that move you toward landing the offer. It’s the process I honed from getting 6 job offers while accepting an offer at Google in 2008, and getting subsequent offers from Fortune 500 companies since then at manager levels.
Excited? Great. Here we go:
The day before the interview:
- Take 1-2 hours to research the people you are interviewing with and write down a few bullet points. You should have a list of all the names of people you are meeting by now. If you do not, email your HR contact/recruiter immediately and ask, “May I have the names of my interviewers so I can prepare for them”. Use LinkedIn and Google for their career profiles and test YouTube too see if they have public speaking events online. You want to get an idea of their professional history and what kind of person they may be to work with. Some people have more publicly available info than others. Your bullet point should be brief: 80% professional, 20% personal. Here is an example:
- Hiring manager 1. Went to Harvard undergrad, majored in Political Science. Worked at Intuit for 3 years. Rose up the ranks. Currently Marketing Director for tax product. Volunteers at Habitat for humanity. Working on Tax product launch. Listed interest in ballroom dancing on LinkedIn.
- Write down 3 professional and 1 personal question. Example: What has your experience been like increasing your knowledge and responsibility at Intuit? What are some qualities you are looking in a great hire as a director of your team? What is your biggest challenge in the new tax launch and how can a great new hire help?
- If the interview is going well you can calibrate and ask a personal question at the end when they ask you, “do you have any questions for me?”. Example: “Do you still do volunteer work and how do you balance that with your work schedule?” The reason for this is…sometimes you can get someone talking for a long time about their passion. I had people ask me about salsa dancing and talking about traveling with a great follow-up question. Do this after the professional stuff is already discussed and you’ve demonstrated that you are stable, reliable and intelligent.
Make sure you sleep well, and set 2 alarms either on your phone or computer or both. You want to make sure you look refreshed, ready and you don’t want to wake up late and be in a hurry to get to the interview.
The day before, pick out the clothes you are going to wear and get 10 print copies of your resume. You want to dress efficiently and any wardrobe change decisions should be done the day before, not on the day of. Many interviewers are rushed and want a copy of your resume. At least 2/3 times, the person appreciates a printed resume even though the recruiter already sent them an electronic version.
You would be shocked at the number of times my interviewer has not read my resume or has lost a copy of my resume that the recruiter sent them already. Having this ready just saves them the trouble and sets you up as a prepared candidate who has contingency plans when trouble arises.
On the day of interview:
Arrive 30 minutes early because you want to have time to find parking. Make sure you have a credit card and cash so you can pay for parking in any situation. If your interview is in a busy downtown area, consider coming earlier to find parking or taking Uber/Lyft.
You absolutely do not want to feel rushed for your interview. You start sweating and your clothes get wrinkled when you run or are in a hurry. Also, you appear out of breath and unorganized. You also never want to be in a position where you are late for an interview.
15 minutes prior to the interview, I usually find the closest Starbucks/Peet’s Coffee or any other tea/coffee shop. I want something to hold and also warm hands when I meet the greeter / HR person and hiring team. Why do I do this?
As Tony Robbins says “In a 2008 study conducted by Yale psychologists, one researcher casually asked the participant to hold their coffee in the elevator on their way to the lab. The team member would then write down some information about the participant before asking for their coffee back. Each participant would hold the cup of coffee for somewhere between 10 and 25 seconds. For half the participants the coffee was hot, while the other half held cold cups of coffee. That’s the only difference between the two groups of participants.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In the lab, all the participants read the same brief description of a random individual and rated the individual’s personality using a questionnaire. Participants who’d held hot coffee rated the person as happier, better natured and more generous and social. Participants who’d held the cold cup were more likely to say the person was unhappy, irritable and selfish.”
This small priming technique is powerful. Combine this with a high energy, warm greeting to ensure that the initial impression is a good one.
About 7-10 min before the interview, I put my phone on vibrate/silent and walk into office. This gives you some time to check-in, print a name badge and deal with security. You don’t want to walk in too early and make it awkward for the receptionist or hiring manager to have to escort you when they’re not ready.
I bring a sleek leather binder/folder with copies of resume and notes of the company.
I’ve experimented with this, but staring at your phone doesn’t look good – people have a negative connotation of your attention being elsewhere, so I usually review my notes, or I hold my tea and take in the environment of the office. I also experimented with bringing a book, but it just looks too out of place / too try hard.
Sometimes I’m just calmly waiting and slowly gazing around. I’m thinking, “how is the energy here and how would it be like to work here?”
Whoever the host is, be warm and friendly. Remember, everyone here has a say in your hiring process, including the wait staff and janitor. Conduct yourself professionally and warmly at all times. The interview starts when you arrive on the parking lot. I’ve met the CEO of a company once after I parked my car and started walking towards the building.
Maintain good eye contact, shake hands and properly greet everyone.
If you are doing this on a computer and on camera, wave and have a formal greeting introducing yourself. “Hi, I’m Giovanni and it’s good to be here today. How are you?”
Now for the interview – see our advice on answering the questions behind question
Afterward, ask recruiter for each interviewer’s email or check their business card and send thank you emails. Most people will give you their contact in the interview or hand you a business card for follow-up questions. This is a common courtesy in the process.
You can ask the recruiter for their contact by simply writing, “Do you have the contact information for Jeff/Mandy/Rich. I want to send them a brief note to thank them for their time today”.
Make the thank you note short and to the point. 3 sentences is fine. Use callback reference. In other words, reference something that you feel like you connected on. If applicable, you move that conversation forward. For example:
Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed our discussion on the ways attributions work in multi-channel environments. In giving this some further thought I think the new integrations with GA360 will really allow us to build out a more robust tracking system that can be coordinated with FB’s reporting.
Whatever the outcome is for this recruiting process, I’m glad we got to meet”
Don’t pester them. Work with your HR contact/hiring manager as appropriate.
You can give them a polite update once every 2 weeks that’s coming from a helpful place of informing them. Abundance mentality is key here. Remember, you are a candidate who’s going to get picked up soon so you’re evaluating the best options. Here is a good update if you don’t hear back in 7-10 business days:
“Hi Hiring Manger / HR Contact
Thanks for taking time to organize a great recruiting process. I wanted to write and update you on my job search journey so far.
I currently have 1/2 offers and just completed a final round with another. I’m still very interested in the role at your company and I think I will be an invaluable asset for the reasons we discussed earlier (X, Y, Z). Working for Google in this role is my first choice (don’t lie about this, if this is not true omit the last sentence)
I have to make a decision by Sep 2. so please feel free to reach out if I can be of assistance.
If you have another offer, you can politely give them your timeline. There’s nothing wrong with seeing what you have on the table to make a fully informed decision.
The best frame is from a helpful place, and find out what their schedule is like if possible. You’re not pushing. You are informing. Even if you do not have an offer, you can adjust your email to “I just completed 2nd / 3rd round with XYZ company”. Always communicate with the energy of progress and advancement.
With these preparation tips, you are going to have a significant advantage over your competitors.