Winning in Interviews
Crushing an interview is all about how you tell your story when answering the interviewer’s questions. Ultimately, the goal of an interview is to get them to like you. Your skills earned you the interview, and the interview communicates whether they must hire you or whether you’re someone they can pass on. Which message will you leave your interviewer with?
Now it's important to keep in mind that an interviewer is not only evaluating you on the job-specific skills and traits that you have to offer but also will evaluate whether you will mesh well with the teams already in place. Interviews are given to people that already have proved that they have the necessary skill sets, and this is your chance to show that you're somebody they”ll want to work with day in and day out.
- Are you a person who brings energy and fun to the team?
- Are you a joy to work with?
- Do you handle conflict well?
- Do you work extra when it’s required?
- Do you have integrity?
- What do you do in the face of a problem?
Remember, an interview isn’t just about telling people about your experience. You wouldn't have gotten the interview if you didn’t already have that experience. The interview strictly exists to evaluate you as a person. The interviewer seeks to know if you have what it takes to be successful. The HR rep or hiring manager wants to excel in their job, and that comes from hiring awesome candidates that provide positive outcomes for the business.
This brings up a good point: know your audience.
When you prepare for an interview, it's important to know your audience and to keep in mind who you're pitching to. The HR rep or hiring manager wants to excel in their job, and that comes from hiring awesome candidates that provide positive outcomes for the business. Think through what this means specifically for each job that you interview for. What do they value, and how can you (yes, you specifically!) deliver that value? Until you sell yourself on the fact that you’re right for the job, you won’t ever have the ability to sell your interviewers that you’re right for the job.
Let's pretend for a second that Elon Musk didn't found Tesla, but instead was hired into the company by an HR rep. Musk provides breakthrough ideas, strong technical expertise, an aptitude for learning new things, a business mind that can evaluate the efficacy of new ideas, and a charisma that inspires his teams. You better believe that the person who hired Elon Musk has since received multiple accolades and promotions for their decision, right? While this example is certainly an exaggeration, the individual that you interview with is certainly hoping you will make a huge impact on the business to make them look good.
Are you following where I'm going with this?
Don't just answer the questions that your interviewer asks you. Answer their questions in such a way that you convince them that you will bring tons of value to their teams. Don't just talk about a time you delivered a successful outcome. Lead your interviewer to believe that you won't rest until successful business outcomes each day. Don't just share about a single time you overcame a hurdle on a previous project, talk about how you changed process flow at your previous employer to eliminate all future hurdles- a fix that even today helps their business run efficiently. Anyone can sit in a room and give answers. Your answers need to be compelling, inspiring, and show that your next employer will be lucky to have you.
For example, one of my favorite interview questions is “why should we hire you for this role?” This question is an opportunity to talk about why you’re a great candidate why they’d be lucky to have you. (Pro tip: don't say specifically that they would be lucky to have you, but instead compel them to think it on their own)
In answering “why should we hire you for this role?” you're given the floor to brag about yourself and distinguish yourself from your competition. Take advantage!
I personally love this question because I've developed a perfect answer.
Early in my career, I was given an incredible opportunity to work as a project manager on a team that made complex multimillion-dollar equipment. In that role I successfully managed priorities for more than 30 people and exceeded all of the high expectations that leadership had placed on me.
I brought energy to the team. I brought rigor to the team. I learned to adapt on-the-fly as business needs and team resources constantly changed to make life easier on everyone else.
Even beyond those achievements, I also left the team better than it was given to me.
As Millennial, I’ve grown up with technology. I intuitively know software better than the Boomers ever will. In today's businesses, many digital tasks, processes, and workflows are tried and true. That is to say, old and outdated. I championed for the team to use a (company approved) cloud storage tool called Box to improve how shared files and collaborated on documents. I mentored others on how to seamlessly integrate it into their workflows, and how to create links to share with their colleges. It sounds so simple, yet the results were substantial. No more duplicate versions floating around in email inboxes. No more wasted time updating yesterday's version of the slide deck and then struggling to merge in changes to a new doc. Less stress. Less waste. Well worth it.
Additionally, my familiarity with computer tools allows me to get far more accomplished in a 50-hour work week (implying that I also have a personal expectation to work more than the rest) than many of my well-seasoned co-workers. Aside: this was a helpful fact to include as in most jobs I interviewed for, I was considerably younger than my competition. I thought to myself, what advantages do I have over my adversaries that can help me overcome the fact that I have less experience than they do?
If at this point I don't feel like I've fully won them over, I'll work in a quick story about a time I received positive feedback from a colleague I looked up to. A positive testimonial is sure to convince them!
My energy, my track record of success, my inherent ability to connect with others, and my eye for continuous improvement. These traits are what distinguishes me from my competition. This role checks the boxes for what I seek in a fulfilling position, and I believe it too will bring out the best of what I have to offer.
While this may not be the same story that you would tell, come up with similarly-compelling reasons why your interviewer needs to hire you.
Tell your story proudly and confidently.
- mentoring new teammates
- time management
- not afraid of hard work (compared to the stigma of millennials)
- constantly learning new skills and tools to keep up with each model year release
- managing conflict & conflict resolution with unhappy customers
- motivating and influencing others
- managing and balancing many priorities simultaneously
- battling procrastination and planning ahead
- communicating complex and new subjects clearly and succinctly
- directing and growing a team by buying into their success
Waiter/ Waitress (customer service)
- balancing simultaneous needs
- conflict resolution
- team buy-in (delegating work and offering to help others to balance the load)
- accustomed to shifting hours to support team wins
- iterating and patience to get the job done right