How to be a Great Candidate

From Studying Up to Following Up

Interviewing has long been a mystery of the professional world. It can be challenging, unnerving, exciting, and fun, all rolled into a single experience. As a recruiting professional who has seen it all over the last ten years, I want to share a few ideas to help make your next job interview a positive experience and to make the process seem a little bit less intimidating.


It all starts with research

Getting to know the industry, products, trends, leaders, and challenges will help determine if the company is the right fit for you. Typically, interviewers are looking for a genuine interest in their position and company. If you choose to apply and interview, most hiring managers will have LinkedIn profiles. Focus on relevant information like tenure, accomplishments, or anything interesting that you want to talk about. Know the company history and products in case you need to give a high-level pitch about the company. Make Google your best friend in this process — Google search the company, its competitors, the job itself, and even the interviewers. Anything additional that you learn is a bonus that you can use later in the process.

Clean up your social media

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and too many other social media platforms, you have a presence and identity. This could be pictures or comments shared yesterday or ten years ago. Privacy settings can help to privatize your accounts or if you like being searchable and accessible, you may want to review your social media accounts to ensure there aren’t any status updates or photos that might be frowned upon. Your LinkedIn profile should be updated to match your resume, and should include any extracurricular activities like volunteer work or other items that didn’t make your resume.

Resume guidance

Think of your resumes as a virtual first impression. It should be clean, simple, easy to read, and entice the reader to want to know more. If you have fewer than ten years of experience, limit yourself to one page. Have more information related to the last few years. For positions earlier in your career, one or two bullet points should suffice.

Interview prep makes all the difference

Whether you have a phone or in-person interview, practice can be the difference between getting a call back or getting the job. Look up the top 20 interview questions to get an idea of different types of questions you might be asked. Write out your answers to get your thoughts on paper. List out your current and past responsibilities, accomplishments, team projects, and individual projects. Start with a high-level overview and have your answers become increasingly granular — conciseness is the goal here.

Practice makes perfect

After everything is written down, it’s time to rehearse, clean up responses, and make sure your answers have the right flow. Have a friend or roommate ask you the interview questions, so that you can practice reciting your answers out loud. The key is to hear yourself responding to these questions, so that you can get into the interviewing frame of mind.


Control what you can control

Part of the challenge — and maybe even the fun of interviews — is that there are so many uncontrollable variables. In preparing, focus on what you can control. For phone interviews, having a quiet space with good cell reception is a great start. If you can, be in front of your computer with the company website up, along with your resume and job description. For in-person interviews, map out the office location, transportation, and give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Ask your recruiter about transportation tips and dress code recommendations. Anticipate potential concerns from the hiring manager. For example, if the job requires intermediate Excel skills and you are a beginner, discuss how you have made improvements over the past year.

Say what?

Of course interviewers will be focusing on your answers, but they will also notice your body language. Subtle things like good posture, firm handshakes, and eye contact will also be taken into account.

Wrapping up interviews

Interviewers will leave about five to ten minutes for questions. A good rule of thumb is that you’ll have time to ask two to three questions. Try to incorporate what you have learned in earlier interviews into your questions in later rounds. Finally, close the interview with why you are interested and why you are a good fit.


Thank you notes

Within 24 hours after the meeting, remember to send an email to everyone you met with to thank them for the time. If it is between you and another candidate, a small gesture like this can make all the difference and keep your name top of mind. These notes are also an opportunity to recap your interest or clarify anything during the interview, but be sure to double check for typos and grammar.

Have fun!

Interviewing is unlike any other experience. You have the chance to meet professionals and talk about your profession and your domain. Learn something new, pick their brain, and make it a fun.

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