For many people, the changes in work, priorities, and circumstance through the pandemic have inspired job changes. If that’s you, you’ll likely have some job interviews in your future. As executive recruiters, we have unique insight into our clients’ interview processes, and interview a lot of people ourselves. Based on our experience, here are a few suggestions to help you present your best self in your next interview.
Recommendation #1: Be Prepared
If you are taking the time to speak with a recruiter or have a virtual interview with a hiring manager, make the best use of that time by preparing in advance. Learn about the company. If it is a retailer, for example, visit the store and their website to learn more about their brand, products, and customer experience. If it is a brand, see how their products are merchandised by their retail partners and see how they present online. Also, look into the company’s history and mission statement. Read through the job description, think about your experience and have specific examples prepared to share. Even if you are just having an initial call with a recruiter to learn more about the role, spend a few minutes to review the position overview and prepare yourself for the discussion.
Recommendation #2: Ask Questions
Whether speaking with a recruiter or a hiring manager, asking questions tells us a lot about the level you operate at within an organization, how you might approach the role, and how engaged or interested you might be in the position.
You may only have time to ask one or two questions, so you need to make them count! Imagine your first month on the job, what are the things you would need to know starting out? Examples might include:
- What is the vision for the company?
- What goals do you have for the department?
- What would you want the person in this role to accomplish in year one?
- What challenges do you anticipate the person in this role might have?
- What kind of leadership and communication works best in your company?
Asking “when are they planning to make a decision” is perfectly acceptable, but never make this your first question, or your only question. It gives the impression that you are just looking for a paycheck.
Recommendation #3: Know Your Purpose
Companies want to hire people that will make a true difference in the business. Particularly in the case of B-Corporations and other mission-driven organizations, the fit with culture and purpose are just as important as the functional expertise. You may be on the market and actively looking for a new role, but it helps to be clear on what interests and inspires you about THIS particular position.
Having a clear vision of what you are looking for in your next role and how your values might align in a meaningful way can set you apart from the crowd. Being able to articulate how you can contribute and incorporate the company purpose and mission into your daily work is powerful.
Recommendation #4: Assess Your Environment
Presenting your best self includes non-verbal and environmental factors as well. If you are interviewing over the phone, make sure you have good mobile reception and are somewhere quiet where you can focus on the conversation. As recruiters, we understand that sometimes you have to step out to take a call but try to find as quiet a place as possible where you are able to sit down. At the same time, it can be hard for us to focus on what you are saying if there is too much background noise or distraction. If you have an in-person interview, take time to find out the appropriate attire. The days of suits for interviews are over in certain industries and being overdressed in a casual environment can send a signal to the interviewer that you might not be the right culture fit. Look here for tips on preparing your environment for a virtual interview.
Recommendation #5: Be Yourself
Yes, it’s trite, but authenticity is extremely important – even in an interview situation. You are trying to present your best self, but make sure that it’s still your true self. Companies are looking for genuine leaders that can drive culture and develop trust. Overselling yourself can come across as forced and high ego. Focus on active listening, having a learning mindset, and being honest about your developmental areas, as well as your strengths.