My friend Dawn reached out on Twitter the other day to ask about some of my corporate job interview tips. While I’ve been on maternity leave for a few months, the tried and true tips on acing job interviews don’t really change. As someone who has both been hired in a corporate environment (yay! I’ve had a job!) as well as hired people in a corporate environment (yay! I’ve been a boss!) I thought I would share with Dawn – and you – some of my best advice for acing a job interview, starting with the phone interview.
The whole point of a phone interview is for the hiring manager – or often, in corporate settings, corporate recruiters – to decide if they want to bring you in to meet face to face. Your task as an interviewee is to come across as competent, likeable and engaged about the opportunity.
Before the Interview
- Research the company. Trust me, hiring managers – and recruiters – love it when a candidate has shown that they are interested in not only the position they are applying for but the company that they are seeking to work for. Knowing that a candidate has researched the company, their values, strategy proves that you as an interviewee is not just looking to show up and clock in 9 to 5 and go home – you would be looking to become a part of the company’s culture, looking to join something larger and be engaged in not only your role but your future career with the company. One of my favourite questions to ask at the start of an interview as an interviewer is “Why do you want to work for Company X?”. I’ve had thoughtful, engaging responses which made me instantly warm to the person and start to see them as a larger part of my team and the company – something you definitely WANT. I’ve also had people respond with things like “I don’t know. It was on the job boards.” While this may be true, to a hiring manager, this is just someone looking to get a pay check and would likely not be part of the bigger team.
- Know your strengths. It goes without saying that you’ll need to know the things that you do better than most people and how to articulate them to a prospective employer in a way that portrays confidence and not cockiness. If you are prone to rambling, write down a few key points you want to speak to and stick to them. These should be some of the easiest things to share in an interview – letting the company know why they’d be lucky to have you as a team member. Bonus points if you can tie in your strengths to the values and strategy of the company from your research, above.
- Know your weaknesses. Read the job description for the role, and read it again. Figure out where you are the weakest (perhaps you’ve not been in a similar role for 5 years, or you can’t type 180 words per minute) Knowing where you as a candidate are weakest is something that hiring managers also know from your resume. A hiring manager will know that you don’t have 10 years of experience in such-and-such a field and will be looking for you to not only articulate your strengths, but also address your weaknesses in a professional manner. Now, I’m not advocating that you come out saying “I’ve never worked in an office before, Jim, and have no idea what I’d be doing”, but phrasing things in a way that inspires confidence in your ability to learn those things quickly will go a long way in addressing their fears. “I worked for six years in a dental practice, learning not only how to deal with customers and staff in a professional manner, but also learning how to handle all areas of office management and responsibilities” will go a long way in reassuring a hiring manager that you are ready to take on a new challenge and will succeed at it.
- Figure out the details. I often held interviews via teleconference bridge – and I’d say that 50% of the time the interviewee had not read the details about the interview and were frantically calling my desk line trying to reach me. If there is a teleconference bridge being used for the interview, do a test dial-in before the interview. Does the line work? Do you have the codes needed to navigate to the right line? While I often did answer my desk line, it was never a good start when an interviewee could not read my instructions – not a great sign of a potential employee. If it’s a direct call to you that you’re expecting, prepare yourself by being in a quiet place without echo. (This means NOT A BATHROOM).
During the Interview
- Make notes. You are going to rock this interview and will likely need another interview. During the initial interview, recruiters will often divulge information about the role which was not in the job posting. They’ll tell you key points that will come in handy if you can reference key points from the initial interview in subsequent interviews. For example, I often share what the key goals of the role are in my initial conversations, and I was unequivocally impressed when in subsequent interviews the candidate had translated the skills I said I needed to match their strengths and experience.
- Don’t interrupt. Common sense, but worth repeating.
- Speak clearly & slowly. If you are like me and tend to speaksoquicklynoonecanunderstandyou, slow down. Slow way down. Speak clearly but with passion. Someone once told me that mimicking the speech patterns of the hiring manager would be beneficial, but I’ve never found this to work. I find being yourself and authentic is the best thing you can do.
- Ask questions. Have a list of prepared questions beforehand to ask the interviewer. This again helps it look like you are truly committed to the opportunity. Ask questions about things like the goals for the role, the qualities that the successful candidate would have, the company’s values in case they are unclear in the role description – and my personal favourite trick? Ask why the interviewer joined the company. This will have the interviewer tell you about something everyone likes to talk about – themselves… And you’ll gain a glimpse into their personality and see if they are someone you want to work with.
- Ask next steps. What is the next step in the interview process? When are they wanting to have someone in the role? Key questions for you to know and so you can be prepared with timelines and understanding the process fully. I think this also demonstrates confidence that you will be considered in the next steps.
After the Interview
- Send a Thank You e-mail. Send a quick note after the interview to the interviewee with any materials that were discussed in the interview (perhaps you referenced your amazing templates for reports which they wanted to see, for example). Thank them for their time and be sure to reiterate why you think you are a perfect candidate for the job.
I hope this is helpful – and when Dawn moves on to the next step of her interview in person, I’ll follow up with more tips then!