Over the course of my career I have built a variety of teams, interviewing over 1,000 applicants across a number of positions––from recruiting roles to marketing, sales, and operations.
This wide spectrum of interviewing experience has led me to one conclusion: let’s be honest, interviews are terrible. They’re fake constructs that can be influenced by anything, the interviewer being distracted or just in a bad mood or the interviewee overheating from nervousness. Interviews are just not a great reflection of who people are or how they work.
But there are definitely ways to make the experience better. Here are my top 5 tips on making an interview the best reflection of you and your professional performance.
1. Be yourself
STOP! Before you roll your eyes because “everyone says this,” read on because I have an alternative take about this tip. A lot of interviewees feel like they need to be someone else during an interview, their resume self. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make in an interview. By showing your true colors, you will be able to be more authentic and, in turn, much more honest with your interviewer about who you are in a personal and professional context.
Remember, it’s just as important that you choose the company as much as the company chooses you, so by being your real self over your resume self, you set yourself up for success when you join––both professionally and culturally.
2. Organization, organization, organization
Do your best to make sure that your thoughts are organized (hint: practice the STAR method) and that you are communicating in a clear manner, at the right tone and pace and, most importantly, giving the interviewer the ‘meat’ of the answer. In the end, the interviewer is searching for insights into what you’re saying – make that search as easy as possible.
In a nerve-racking setting like an interview, organization may be easier said than done. So, if you need to, breathe, pause, organize your thoughts, and then speak. As mentioned, interviewers have one goal: to distill your answers into insights and, later, refer back to them to make a decision on whether the role is a fit. And so the more coherent your answers are, the easier it will be for the interviewer to assess you.
3. Ask thoughtful questions
If I think back to some of the best interviewees I have had, they all shared one thing in common: they asked thoughtful questions and asked them to the right person. These questions must challenge the interviewer. One of the best questions I’ve ever received, for example, was from a candidate who read my blog post on mentorship, and asked me: “how do you balance the company’s desire to grow with the need to develop existing talent?”
This question was so interesting because it showed the interviewee did their research and asked a question that hit at a topic that is important––a question that I think about every day: how do we acquire and retain talent?
More importantly, the interviewee asked the question to the right audience. If they had asked me, for example, what the day-to-day of a technical recruiter looks like, I wouldn’t have been able to give them an answer that is more insightful than the right audience for the question – the technical recruiter themselves.
4. Be honest to your interviewer when answering questions
Most times, interviewees feel the need to appear bulletproof. In other words, they pretend or assume they know the answers to all questions and act like they can take any curveball you throw at them. This approach can, at times, be detrimental to the interview.
In my past experience, I saw this play out when I ask questions that interviewees may not know the answer to and, as a result, pretend or assume they know the answer and start on a tangent. The biggest pitfall is to pretend or assume you know everything – that’s not real life. And by being honest with yourself and your interviewer, you will demonstrate that you are not only candid, but self-aware and open to learning new ideas as well.
5. Learn how you fit within the role, but don’t over-prepare and rehearse answers
Many interviewees are told to study all typical questions, prepare tailored responses, and then rehearse them over and over again. Don’t do it!
This is why there’s a delicate balance between preparing (i.e. researching the company, the role, responsibilities, etc.) and reflecting on your own experiences, versus preparing answers for every possible question you can get and then memorizing it. If you want to have a successful interview, aim towards leaning on the former.
Avoid writing specific scripts or answers to questions and memorizing them. Instead, try internalizing some of the stories that give insight into your background and make sure you are able to relate them to the role you are applying for.
Ultimately, we should all just accept the fact that interviews are constructed environments that don’t really reflect true professional performance. Since we will all have to interview throughout our careers, we have to make the most of it and learn to put our best foot forward.
Armed with these tips, you should be able to not only nail your next interview, but feel confident about the overall experience.
Show us your interview skills! Check out our open roles on our Careers site.