The thought of going through the interview process can be exciting and daunting at the same time. It is now your task to sell your skills, experience, attitude and drive to a bunch of new people whom you never met. You will have to sound great on the phone, express yourself well on a video interview and present your best side, all while selling yourself for this great opportunity.
This is a challenging task, and we want to make sure that you are armed with the best advice to land at your next career destination.
This how-to-guide is a compilation of the best practices developed by the team at the InSource group who place hundreds of great IT and engineering professionals like you every year. In this article, you will find how to prepare for all types of interviews, what type of materials you will need to soar above your competition, how to dress, and what is the appropriate follow-up after your interview process.
Do Your Homework Before Your Interview
Step 1: Research the Company and its People
Yes, you probably know a bit about the company or division where you are interviewing. But trust us, there is more to know. Start with the following steps:
- Search them on Wikipedia and review their history. Find out how they started, and what were their initial goals. If it is a publicly traded company, look up their latest financial information on sites like Yahoo! Finance or MarketWatch. Most of these sites will have their stock price history, an overview of the company, details about revenue sources, and latest news. Make sure you know who is the CEO, CTO or CIO, and any other relevant officer in the company that may be a stakeholder.
- Leverage LinkedIn and other professional Social Media sites to find out more about the person you will be meeting. LinkedIn also has great information on the companies, and most often, a list of other available opportunities.
- Reach out to your friends and acquaintances that are currently or have worked with this company. Ask them about their past experience and ask them to be honest and candid about the obstacles they have faced. Don’t forget to get their insight on the good things too.
Step 2: Read (and re-read) the job description
Let’s be honest, you probably have looked at dozens of job descriptions by now. To avoid any issues, read and re-read the job description before each of your interviews. This will help you keep your conversation relevant to the job requirements. As you re-read the description, tie in your skills and experience to every requirement and qualification outlined. This exercise will help you expedite the development of your talking points.
Also, know that someone whom you will be speaking to during the interview process wrote this document, take the time to understand and communicate his or her team’s requirements.
Step 3: Find out about the interviewer
Just like you did on Step 1, research your interviewer. Look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs. You may find that you have some things in common with the person on the other side of the interview, including schools attended, employment and hobbies. Since most of us like to keep our personal lives separate from work, concentrate on the professional information and content they share. You do not want to seem like you are stalking your interviewer – you want to find out key nuggets that will help you relate better. For example, if you both attended the same college, bring that up during your conversation. Don’t bring up personal details or things that may be misinterpreted.
Step 4: Update Your Portfolio
Make sure that you have current examples and short descriptions of recent work. Share live apps, sites you helped develop, and/or working prototypes that you may have created.
If you do not have a portfolio to update, create one. Pick your top 3 or 4 projects and outline the following:
- The problem to solve
- What was the approach
- Your role
- Success Metrics
Here is an example:
UX Improvements to Drive Revenue
XYZ Company’s ecommerce results were below industry standards, and cart abandonment was extremely high. Mobile use had increased from 30% to 65% in 18 months, and page load speeds were more than 10 seconds on cell phones. Sales had dropped more than 25% year over year, but our industry vertical had seen a 10% gain in the same time period.
Since our customers were moving from desktop to mobile browsers, we had to first adapt the site to work well on portable devices. We redesigned our product listings with insight from our research department and leveraged best practices from other sites that had transform themselves from desktop to mobile.
To ensure that page speed was adequate, we reduced file sizes and changed the way the page was built. We implemented AMP pages to support Google’s new standard and leveraged Akamai’s web/mobile acceleration platform to speed the page delivery across the globe.
I worked closely with our research department to analyze user actions on the site and conducted an audit of all of our ecommerce elements. My team also conducted user surveys and interviews to gain understand what they valued. We combined the quantitative and qualitative data from the analytics and user feedback to develop a mobile-first design. It was tested, implemented and monitored by the group I supervised.
Working closely with the infrastructure team, I directed the implementation of Akamai’s solution in record time.
In the first three months after implementation, sales climbed more than 35% compared to similar numbers, page speed was lowered to less than 2 seconds on mobile browsers and cart abandonment was cut by 50%.
Include pictures, graphics and any other visual that may help you tell the story. Organize each case study into one Power Point slide. Remember, keep it simple and concise. Aim to have 3 or 4 relevant cases, but if you only have a couple, make those count.
Step 5: Organize your talking points
Now that you have done your homework, understood the job description, researched your interviewer and updated your portfolio, it is time to organize your thoughts and make yourself a list of key points you want to reinforce during your interview. The key to the talking points is simplicity. Keep each to two sentences, and make sure that each bullet hits a major area in the job description.
The only exception to the two-sentence structure is your work experience point. Consider this one an elevator pitch; the overview of your entire career in less than 90 seconds. You may start with your last position and work your way back in time to your first job. If you have been in the industry for several years, you may want to summarize a couple of positions/companies into one subject. Here is an example:
“Before working at Southwest Airlines, managing user experience, I worked on several mobile app projects for Hotels.com and the City of Richardson.”
Step 6: Make a list of questions
You probably have been in more than one interview, so you know that there will be a lot of questions asked to you…and you should ask a lot of questions yourself.
Write down every single question that you can think would be relevant to the job description. If you need a little kick-starter, check out this article on the top 31 interview questions from The Muse.com
After you exhaust that list, jot down the questions you may have for your interviewer. Even if they answer all your questions during your conversation, ask at least two of these:
- What do you value more about this company?
- What work-related issues keep you up at night?
- Have you been able to grow professionally here?
- What do you value most in a co-worker?
Step 7: Practice
Practice, practice, practice. Get your list of questions and ask your spouse, roommate or friend to play the role of the interviewer. If it is going to be on the phone, have them call you. If on Skype or in person, follow the same method. If nobody is available to help, use the mirror and ask yourself all the questions. Even if you have some help, practice your elevator pitch in front of the mirror. Focus in on how you are delivering the message with your words and your mannerisms. And remember, smile. Even if you are on the phone, smile.
It Is Time to Put all this Prep Work to Work
For Phone Interviews
Fifteen minutes before your call
- Find a quiet place.
- If you are taking the call from home, make sure your kids, spouse, and/or roommates know you need quiet time.
- Organize your talking points and your questions.
- If you are using a cell phone, make sure it is charged or plug it in.
- For conference calls, make sure you have the right number and conference ID.
Once you are on your call
- Take a minute to thank the person on the other side of the line and make sure this is still a good time to chat.
- Get too comfortable. Stand or sit in front of a desk.
- Breath into the mouthpiece.
- Use your speaker phone.
- If you are using a headset, make sure you test it before you use it.
- Remember to smile when you talk. It sounds odd – and we have stressed it a couple of times on this how-to-guide – but when you speak with a smile you are more likely to sound happy and positive.
For Skype or Video Interviews
It is time to look and sound great. Turn on your computer, make sure you have the light on in the room that you are calling from, and give it your best. Follow these tips:
- Just like for a phone interview, find a quiet place and organize your notes. You may have to use a headset, so make sure it is working properly.
- Dress up as you would for an in-person interview. Check out our How to Dress for Your Interview page for examples and more tips.
- Test your webcam, and make sure there is plenty of light.
- Look into the camera when you are answering your questions.
- Make sure you are smiling. Nobody wants to see you frown.
For In-Person Interviews
Dress appropriately. Check out our tips on how to look great for your interview <link to page>
Just like the other interviews, here are a few key points to remember:
- Make sure you know how to get to the interview location, and get there 15 minutes earlier. This will help you relax and give you enough time to gather your thoughts.
- Review your talking points before your interview, and then put them away.
- Keep your list of questions handy, and take any notes as necessary.
- Make sure you have a way to show your portfolio, even if you do not have an internet connection. If you need to run code, or show a presentation, make sure you bring your laptop and a backup thumb drive with your files. Don’t forget your charger.
- When you meet anybody, make sure you introduce yourself accordingly. Shake hands, look at people in the eye and remember to smile.
A few more tips:
- Be ready to go over your resume. Make sure you have two or three copies of the resume you submitted to this company. Hit the highlights and start from your last, or current job, and work your way backwards in time.
- Remember to ask questions. Use the list of questions you developed earlier and find out details about the job, the team, company goals and success metrics. Also, ask the interviewer about his or her experience at the company. Ask them why they chose to work there, what motivates them and their best experience.
- Make sure you are an active listener. Listen to understand the questions and statements that your interviewer makes, not just to respond to a question.
- After the interview is finished, make sure you thank the interviewer and let them know that you would like to be part of their team. Also, ensure that you have their contact information.
- Send thank you notes to everyone who has interviewed you. You can send them an email, but if you want to stand out, mail them a thank you letter or card. Handwritten notes show that you have taken the time to share your thoughts, and are much more elegant than a templated copy-and-paste email. Write it and mail it as soon as you can. You want to make sure that they get it within two working days from your interview.
- If you do not hear back, follow up. Wait up to 5 business days and reach out to the company recruiter or the hiring manager to check the status. If you do not get the job, ask them for some constructive feedback. You may not get everyone to share details, but the ones who do will give you greater insight.
After your first interview, you may be asked for a follow-up interview or meeting. Once that happens, prepare yourself for it as you would for your first interview. You may not need your resume, but bring a copy or two just in case. If everything lines up, you may get an offer to review and finalize.
At the InSource Group, our recruiters work hard to find you the best opportunities to advance your career. We know that you bring great value to our clients, and we want to make sure that you are ready to help them meet their business goals