Before The Interview

If you’ve got an interview coming up, preparing well is the key to success. Here are Career Coach Bill Souders’ 5 must-do steps before you walk into the interview room.

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This article on interview prep is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School. 

Your interview’s success depends on the quality of your preparation. Here are five steps to follow as you prepare for your interview:

Step 1:  Do Your Homework

Here are things you need to know:

  • Size of the company
  • Company mission/culture/priorities
  • Core product / what the company does
  • Corporate priorities
  • Current company news/press releases (set up a google alert)

Knowing the above information will provide you an edge against the other candidates that don’t do this kind of digging. This preparation will also allow you to stay calm during the interview and better allow you to seamlessly integrate this information into the responses you provide to show that you are informed about the company and know your stuff.

Sources to find this type of information include the above:

  • Google the company
  • Visit the company’s website
  • Visit the company’s LinkedIn page
  • Glassdoor reviews
  • Ask your network

Research The Role

Before the interview, try and find out the following: 

  • Why the position is open (Is this a new position? How long was the last person in the role? Where they promoted?)
  • How long has the position been open? (Has it been hard to fill? Or have they just started looking?)

Find out this information by doing the following:

  • If there is a recruiter or HR person assigned to the role, then ask these questions of them
  • Ask these questions of the hiring manager, prior to the interview
  • Connect with someone in the department serving in a similar role

Research The Culture

A company is more than facts, products, and statistics. You want to know what it’s really like to work there. 

Spend time on Glassdoor company reviews, salary reports, and interview reviews and questions.  Go to LinkedIn and identify people that used to work at the organization. Reach out to them to see what their experience working at the company was like.  

This should provide you with the information you need to see if your values and work/life balance priorities are aligned with the organizations. 

Use social media, especially LinkedIn and your network, to research the company and the interviewer. Spend a little bit of time on Twitter, too. Search the company and see what employees, customers, and clients are saying about them. You can also find out key information from the recruitment agency or Human Resources.

Step 2: Prepare

Your number one job in the interview is to convince your interviewer that you have the right combination of skills and experience to do the job at a high level. You accomplish this by connecting your skills with the key requirements in the job description.   

Prepare a worksheet that lists the job criteria (requirements) expressed as tasks, responsibilities, competencies, skills or traits that appear on the job posting. Reflect on your background and experience to select accomplishments that give the best evidence of your capabilities as they relate to these requirements, such as the below example:

Job Criteria: Creative Problem Solver

Accomplishment Statement: While working at XYZ company, I came up with a consolidated template that streamlined the process by eliminating the need for several clicks when inputting data.

Step 3: Prepare Questions For Your Interviewer

Preparing questions is part of participating in a successful interview process, and getting a job offer. But don’t ask questions for the sake of it. 

Think about asking a question whose answer will provide insights that provide for meaningful discussion, reflect the level of research that you have completed on the role and company, and that drive a conversation forward. Below are examples of what to think about:

  • Goals the company has for its employees and the organization
  • Problems the company is solving
  • Future plans the company has for growth or new products
  • The company’s mission/values and how they align with your own

Some sample questions you may wish to ask:

  • What is the work environment like here?
  • What kind of person does well here?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • How are decisions made?
  • What is the greatest challenge a new person may face getting started?

Related Reading: 10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask

Step 4: Prepare for Behavioral-Based Questions

In addition to the typical interview questions, you can expect to be asked how you acted in specific employee-related situations. The logic behind these questions is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future.

These questions are typically open-ended, which means you can respond with as much or little detail as you deem appropriate. Consider using the SOAR framework to provide the best response whenever possible.

Behavioral interview questions usually begin with phrases like:

  • Describe a time when you?
  • Give an example of …?
  • How did you handle …?

General answers are not what the interviewer wants. You must describe in detail a particular event, project, or experience, how you dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was. While you cannot prepare specific answers to behavioral or hypothetical questions, review your accomplishments so that you can demonstrate that you possess the skills in question.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Digital Footprint

While you’re doing homework for your interview, the interviewer is also doing homework on you. Make sure you’re sending the right (and most current) message.

Update your LinkedIn profile with a current photo, job responsibilities, and achievements. Ask for recommendations from colleagues if you haven’t already. Make sure your resume is up to date.

Check your profile settings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Turn on privacy settings so that only friends can view your profile, and limit past posts if they were ever made public. Disable the option for people to tag you in pictures and videos.

Google yourself. Once you’ve made the updates, see what’s out there when you Google your own name. Modify anything that comes up that you’d rather not be seen by the public.

About Bill Souders 

Bill Souders is a career coach with Flatiron School. Bill spent 30 years working for the Coca-Cola Company in various sales leadership roles before transitioning into coaching. His expertise is in the career coaching, transition, and placement of college grads, high potential entry-level and emerging leaders, and c-suite executives.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of October 8, 2022. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Bill Souders

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