How to ace an interview
So you’ve written the perfect resume, charmed the hiring manager with your cover letter, and now they want to meet face-to-face. Is your heart racing yet? I know mine is. But don’t worry, we’re about to give you a handful of interview tips that will allow you to conquer the three primary challenges that will inevitably come your way. This advice may be more abstract than what you’re used to, but since every interview is unique, we believe it’s best to prepare for the underlying principles rather than for any specific questions.
The test of value
Before anything else, the interviewer will want to know what kind of value you bring to the organization. This usually comes in the form of a generic question like: “Tell us about yourself…” or “Why do you think you’d be a good fit for the company?” Make no mistake, the interviewer is NOT asking for your life story. What they want to know is what practical benefits you can bring to the table. The best way to prepare for these types of questions is to have a clear idea of you primary strengths, weaknesses, and core value proposition.
Of all the skills at your disposal, which one has the potential to make the most significant impact in a professional context? Similarly, what are your weaknesses? Knowing what you can’t do is often a strong indicator of how well you understand what you can do.
The test of creativity
The next piece of information the interviewer will look for is how well you handle situations that require creativity or logic. Sometimes, this comes in the form of a rational question that challenges your problem solving abilities. For example, consider Google’s question (“Why are manhole covers round?” To keep them from falling through the hole!) This is just one example, but the general idea will be the same – here is a logic problem, what is your solution?
On the other end of the spectrum is the absurd hypothetical question. These don’t have any clear answers, but will challenge you to think creatively and step outside the box. Consider Urban Outfitters’ question: “You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?” The point of this question isn’t to confuse you, but to see how you respond when you’re faced with a problem that has no apparent solution.
If you find yourself faced with a question like this, it’s good to loosen up your tie (metaphorically) and let your intuition guide you. Remember, there is no right answer. The aim of the question is to observe how you react under pressure. Stay calm and composed and say what’s on your mind, even if it seems a bit odd. Demonstrating your willingness to try is more important here than attempting to use a hammer to solve a musical problem.
The test of engagement
The final piece of information an interviewer will be looking for is your level of engagement. How invested are you in the position you’re applying for? Usually, this is tested by giving you an opportunity to ask questions. Fundamentally, a request for questions is a subtle challenge to see if you’ve actually thought about the job you’re applying for.
An applicant who has no questions about the job probably hasn’t thought about it deeply enough and will come across as unprepared, aloof, and disengaged. So have a few questions ready ahead of time, even if you know the answers. In fact, this is an excellent opportunity to challenge the hiring manager and guide them towards your comfort zone. If you can inspire them to think, you’ll command far more respect than someone who awkwardly ends the interview after a long one-sided discussion.
Regardless of how comfortable you are with charisma and persuasive rhetoric, interview skills can be studied and practiced. With a bit of foresight, insight, and preparation, you can make a memorable impression that helps you land the job.