Job Interview Prep

 
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IF YOU'RE ON THIS PAGE…

... you have a job interview coming up! Congratulations!

This page is here to give you some helpful information on what sort of questions to expect, how to prepare yourself to give the best interview possible, and what to do after the interview.

 
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"I'm worried I'm not good at interviewing for a job."

Good news: you're not good at interviewing! Nobody is!

Over the past 10 years, I've conducted probably 100-ish job interviews, and maybe two of those were good interviews. The rest were just OK, but they accomplished what they needed to, so people ended up getting hired.

You do NOT need to 'ace' an interview or 'blow it out of the water' or whatever. All you need to do is accomplish a few things, and you'll likely get called back for either another interview or for the job. The only two things you need to do are:

  1. Appear competent, capable, and like you know what you're talking about.
  2. Seem better (for whatever reason) than everyone else they're interviewing.

Let's talk about both of those goals.

 
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KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

A job interview can be summed up by a single phrase:

Are you smart enough to not screw this up for us?

You don't need to solve world hunger. You don't need to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to be good enough to do the job you're interviewing for, and reliable enough to be a safe bet for the company. There have been plenty of people I've interviewed who were brilliant, but didn't seem like a good fit for the company. They were too ambitious, or overly qualified, or a million other things, but the end result was that we didn't trust they would do the job correctly for a long period of time. What this means for you is that you need to drive home these three messages: 

  1. I know how to do the job I'm applying for.
  2. I'm good enough at the job to not screw anything up too badly.
  3. I'm reliable enough that you won't have to fire me immediately.

That's literally it. Every question you're asked will be to discover one of these three things, so be sure to drive these points home. If you can convince them of those three things, you're in good shape.

Here are some of the questions you'll most likely get asked, and how you should try to answer them. These are just rough guides; it's better for you to give an honest response than to try and rattle off my answers below, so just familiarize yourself with these questions and you'll probably be OK.

 
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QUESTIONS YOU'LL PROBABLY GET ASKED AT SOME POINT.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Yes, but keep it simple and uncontroversial. Most businesses are still boring places to work, so if you're covered in tattoos or like to drive dirt bikes or love reading books about serial killers, keep that information to yourself. Describe yourself as fun but not too fun -- reading, watching movies, hiking, reading books, cooking, these are all safe hobbies. You can be the wild and crazy or the interesting person once you're hired, but I can safely tell you: people with really unusual, stand-out hobbies get remembered for their hobbies, not for their jobbies. Your answer to this question should imply that you're not going to randomly get killed in the next year doing something extreme (like skydiving) or that you're not a psycho killer who might bring a weapon to the office or something. You want to seem reliable and stable, that's it.

Why do you want this job?
Don't say 'for money', even though that's the only reason any of us work. Say that you like the industry, and you know that the company you're applying for has a good reputation in the industry. Say that you'd like the challenge of working somewhere new and exciting like their business. Do not say 'I don't know' or 'Because I need a job', those are terrible answers.

Why should we hire you?
I like a simple, direct answer for this one. "You're looking for a skilled, reliable person who can do this job, and I can be that person." The interviewer will likely be taken aback by this, but that's perfect -- you stated exactly what they needed to hear. They may ask you to elaborate; if so, tell them about why you think you'd be good for the job. I'm hoping that's something you already know.

What are your greatest professional strengths?
You can be honest about this one, but the best generic ones are reliability, attention to detail, and hard working. When explaining your strengths, don't brag -- just be straightforward.

What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
I hate this question, because they're asking you to lie. Nobody's gonna say, 'Well, about 3 PM I start to imagine I'm at home and I stop working for the day'. Instead, you need to make up some 'not that bad' weakness in order to keep the conversation moving. Pick that you sometimes overthink your work to make sure it's right. Having a hard time delegating work is a good one unless you're applying for a manger position. You can try for the ultimate weakness, that you're never satisfied and are always pushing to try harder and harder even at your own expense, but that one rarely works. Most hiring managers will realize that one is bullshit.

What is your greatest professional achievement?
Pick one and explain it. I can't tell you the answer for this one, just have one in mind in advance.

Tell me about a challenge or conflict you've faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
Same as above; pick something that isn't super serious, and explain how it was dealt with to satisfaction. Try to avoid difficult subject conflicts like racism or sexism from customers/clients, or massive screw-ups. Keep it brief and breezy.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Same as the first question -- you do regular people things, not exciting things. If the interview is going well, you can divulge a little more information about what you're actually really into, but if you're unsure then don't tip your hand too much.

 
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JUST BE BETTER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE.

Remember our two points from above:

  1. Appear competent, capable, and like you know what you're talking about.
     
  2. Seem better (for whatever reason) than everyone else they're interviewing.

If you answered the questions easily, you've already taken care of the first part. Now you just need to lock down the second part. This is where we talk about confidence and behavior.

BE CONFIDENT, OR AT LEAST FAKE SOME CONFIDENCE
Very few people are confident going into an interview, but if you're not, at least pretend to be. Psychology has shown that faking confidence actually leads to real confidence, so start faking it until you make it. Worst case, if the interview goes absolutely poorly, it's unlikely you'll have to see those people ever again AND, even if you do, they likely won't remember you. You don't have too much to worry about going into an interview, so be confident about it. After all, you did read this page, so you're probably overly prepared anyway.

WEAR SOMETHING NICE
Try not to wear black (you're not going to a funeral), but dress nicely. If you're a dude, suit and tie is almost always the correct answer. If it's 'business casual', still wear a suit, but ditch the tie. Women, wear whatever you like, but probably don't wear something low cut because that can definitely be off-putting for more traditional, stodgy interviewers. You're playing to win, not to look fabulous.

BODY LANGUAGE
Sit up straight in your chair, walk with your head held high and your shoulders back, and move confidently. If none of these things come natural to you, start practicing them now. Strong body language is often the indescribable extra 'something' that certain candidates have, so learn it.

MANNERS
'Please' and 'thank you' to everything, and everyone. The receptionist, the security guard, everybody. This is a good life tip in general, but manners still get noticed, and are not as common as they used to be.

 
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Don't panic, you've got this.

Nailing a job interview isn't hard, it just requires a little practice and preparation. By reading this page, you've done the preparation part, now rehearse your answers in your head a couple times and then stop overthinking it. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and you'll never go wrong.

Go get 'em, tiger!