How to really nail that job interview

There’s all the usual stuff that goes into a good resume and good first-impression, but this week after interviewing a few candidates, I discovered something that really sets the best apart.

If you really want to make an impact during an interview, here’s a few tips:

1. Show me you understand my challenges

As a small business owner, our challenges are normally that we’re time-poor and have to wear a lot of hats — so many different responsibilities. Perhaps speak to other business owners and managers to get a sense of the different demands we all face. Then demonstrate that you understand those (often competing) pressures and the difficult decisions we face about when to hire a new person, and who to hire.

Think through the reasons I might be looking to hire someone. It could be:

  • The current team is at maximum capacity and we need another person to share the load — if it’s a brand new role that often means the team is growing, and it may be more specialized because we want it to get greater attention rather than just being one of four responsibilities the previous dude had.
  • We’re looking to expand and need unique/superior skills that the current team does not have
  • We’re looking for someone to teach us some new approaches and strategies based on their wealth of previous experience
  • We’re looking to replace someone who wasn’t performing well

Try to gain a sense of which of those reasons apply to the current situation, and then you’ll be better prepared to…

2. Show me how you help solve (at least one of) those challenges

Explain how if you were on the team you would help make my life better:

  • You will save me time
  • You’ll give that aspect of the business the attention it really deserves
  • You will relieve me of one (or more) of my many responsibilities that I’ll no longer need to worry about
  • You might be better than they are at a specific task or role — doing it more efficiently or brilliantly
  • You’ll bring added value in other ways through your experience and ideas, and can take the department or company to the next level
  • You’ll help make me look good to my superiors and/or clients

And while you’re at it, ease me of my fears:

  • You’re a fast learner and won’t need a lot of training
  • You’re resourceful and can find answers yourself
  • You’re driven and self-motivated and won’t need to be heavily supervised, chased or micro-managed

Be super specific. Everyone can make general, sweeping statements, but the best can pull out specific examples of when they done each of those things. If you can’t provide an example, we probably won’t believe you.

3. Give me a reason to take notes

Share some free advice, idea or a unique strategy that might give me the edge in my role. Offer something of value. Then you’ll be remembered as a valuable wealth of information — and a huge asset to the team, reaching deeper than your job description.

I may not ask you about all of those above points. It’s your job to share them — volunteer them. You should be doing 80–90% of the talking during the interview (though not 100%!) so share as many relevant examples as you can think of.

If asked to think through a scenario, just talk through your mental process in as much detail as you can, ensuring you look at the scenario from all the various angles, weighing up all the pressures both internal and external — time/budget/resource constraints.

Lastly — be confident. You are what we’ve been looking for.

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