Acing The Interview: Tips From An Interview Coach

Staff, Rocket Interview

This post is from our Founder’s blog on Medium, and is re-posted here.

We live in an age where people switch jobs and even entire career paths more rapidly than ever before. Yet, the preparation that goes into the most critical component of landing the job — The Interview — has hardly evolved at all. As the founder and master interview coach at Rocket Interview, I work with talented candidates who are very qualified for the job, but could use a bit of coaching in demonstrating the best aspects of their candidacy in an interview setting.

Having placed candidates at Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, and other competitive companies, I am often asked by friends — “What are your best tips” for my upcoming interview?

I believe that interviewing is a skill that can be learnt, and would like to use this forum to share some of the tips my job-seeker friends have found helpful with the broader career community.

1.  Tell Your Story (instead of reciting your resume)

The most common, and often most daunting question is “So, Tell Me About Yourself.” When faced with this question, most candidates summarize their resume, leaving the interviewer with no new information and without a deeper understanding of you, as a person and a professional.

So, instead try to weave the following into your story:

  • What drives and motivates you?
  • How does your experience directly relate to this role?
  • What specifically about the company and role excite you the most?
  • Why is now a good time to pursue this opportunity?
  • What areas of the job do you particularly excel in?

2.  Write down your best stories in outline form.

While you cannot predict the exact questions, there are common themes you can expect, particularly for behavioral interviews. The 5 most common themes are:

Given this, rather than memorizing answers for specific questions, it is better to outline three to four meaningful stories you have in your career that map to those themes, with each story ideally mapping to more than one theme. For example, if you negotiated an important partnership, that story may exemplify attributes of both leadership and conflict resolution.

This approach allows you to think through your best stories, which can become compelling answers to a wide variety of questions, in each interview round.

3.  Conduct research with a purpose.

The research you do should facilitate a meaningful dialogue, rather than serving as a way to simply show the interviewer you did some fact gathering. Some areas to dig deeper on include:

  • Their customers: Understand who their core customer segments are, how they differ, and how the company can serve them better
  • Their competition: What distinguishes them from their competitors, and what will it take to win in this industry going forward?
  • Their product: A common mistake candidates make is not immersing themselves with the company’s product — whether an app or physical good. Get to know and use their product as best as possible (e.g., sign up for a trial).

“Understand who their core customer segments are, how they differ, and how the company can serve them better”

4.  Show interest in the interviewer, not just the company and role

Towards the end of the interview, most candidates have an opportunity to ask the interviewer some questions. This is an opportunity to demonstrate interest in the interviewer’s career journey, or something else about them, which gives the interviewer an opportunity to talk about their interests, and build rapport with you. Moreover, you might learn about a similar interest you share, which can lend itself to a more meaningful conversation.

5.  Treat phone interviews like in-person interviews

Increasingly, companies are screening candidates over the phone and the most common mistake job-seekers make is not taking the call in the same manner they would if it were in person. With that in mind, here are some pointers:

  • Use the same body language: An interviewer can hear you smile over the phone, so remember to smile just as you would if it were in person.
  • Dress the part: Take the time to dress professionally, even if you are taking the call from home, as it will put you in the right frame of mind, and you are more likely to have a more professional and polished dialogue. Moreover, avoid lying down on a couch as your voice projects better if you are sitting or standing.
  • Avoid reciting from paper: Interviewers can hear when a candidate is shuffling papers and can sense when you are reciting from your screen. It is ok to have something to glance at, but avoid reciting at all costs as you will lose your authenticity.

I hope these tips are helpful in your career journey. Keep soaring!