I get a lot of requests for interview tips via LinkedIn. It’s usually from early in career folks interested in technology. Either through mock interviews, or coffee chats — I notice the same issues. Everyone wants to work in tech, but no one wants to work in tech. Let me explain: many job seekers and career switchers like the idea of working at a unicorn pre-IPO startup or a megalithic tech giant, BUT few can actually break down how they intend to add value.
Before I dive into the actual pointers, let’s level on one thing. Tech companies, like any other company, exist to make money, not to serve green juice. Once you look beyond the perks and hip decor, and peel back the DISRUPTION, you will need to be clear on how you will assist with their financial goals. Just being an avid user of the product or having a fancy degree alone will not do it, because the other candidates will likely have this in common. So then, how do you demonstrate enthusiasm and value add? It comes down to two things. Once all the technical and behavioral aspects of the interview are complete, you need to be able to state what you intend to gain AND what you will bring to the firm. If asked why do you want to work here? what excites you about X company? why should we hire you? — these are all opportunities to share what you intend to bring/gain from your time in the role/company.
Think of it as ‘Giving your Take’. Imagine you are on a basketball team and you are passionate about winning a championship, but are late to practice, do not encourage your teammates, and never attend bonding activities. That is what candidates sound like when they say they want to grow as a leader or deepen their expertise without stating the steps they plan on taking. Whatever you hope to gain out of a career experience, you have to be willing to give all of it, with interest even.
DON’T harp on and on about how X company’s product/leadership are amazing and you want to work with them so bad.
DON’T flaunt your credentials as though they alone will let you in. There are people who are willing to do the same job for less and without hubris.
DON’T list generic company attributes (multi-national, publicly traded, innovative, largest, etc) that anyone can state as they are facts.
DON’T recite a list of demands for what you hope to gain without them being backed by how you will actually develop those areas.
DO research the company and reflect on how they add value. Hiring managers go bananas over candidates that have internalized their org’s goals as it signals they will not treat the role as just a job.
DO be specific and genuine on what attracts you to the role at the company and how you intend to take it to the next level
DO be prepared to be even MORE detailed for interviews with early stage startups, who can be less predictable and far more selective
DO take a structured approach by distilling your sentiments into 2–4 sentences that build off of one another. The worst thing is to contradict yourself within a response.
So, if I were interviewing for a position as a Marketing Manager, and was asked why I was interested in a real estate startup — I’d use the question as an opportunity to my “Give my Take”.
DON’T response: “Your company is a leader in real estate and growing daily. I actually found my apartment on your website. I hope to eventually lead a team, growing as a marketing leader across the entire industry. With my direction, we can do exciting things together”
DO response: “Research shows that home ownership can be a key determinant in household wealth. By leveraging your rigorous analytics and partnering with the sales team, I can plan thoughtful marketing activations that match home buyers with homes that meet their specific familial needs, guaranteeing that they remain at that address for the long run and generating more consistent returns for our lending partners. That way we can grow our service into the community builder we seek to be, while also adding another discipline to our marketing machine.”
Put yourself in the hiring team’s shoes — who would you rather have brainstorming session with, partner on a project with, or get feedback from? Most likely from the DO candidate.
Interviewing is a skill, the more you practice the more instinctive it should become. Also, the farther you advance in your career the more time you’ll spend thinking and strategizing about the same things you discuss during an interview. But like everything else, you have to start somewhere to get anywhere.