How to Secure Your Dream Job. Master the Interview Process.

You’ve found the dream job, carefully formatted your CV, written an incredible cover letter and have been invited for an interview. Don’t throw away this chance. An interview can be a very exciting but also very nerve wracking experience. This article will help you prepare, maximising your chance of getting an offer.

I’m also going to illustrate my points with dog pictures because dogs.

I’ve previously written about top tips for preparing for a technical JavaScript interview but this article is more about the holistic approach to the interview. You can apply this article to any kind of interview, not just technical ones.

Know your CV

When an interviewer asks a question about you, you need to be able to answer confidently and in a timely fashion. They will often have your CV sat in front of them so make sure you know it well. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your CV.

  • Know the list of previous jobs, what company it was for and what your main responsibilities were in that job.
  • Know what skills you have listed and have examples of when you used these skills.
  • Print off your CV and start writing notes on it. Elaborate on everything. If an interviewer asks about any point on there, you want to be able to use that discussion to show your skills in the best light.

War Stories

Dogs of War

Have a collection of ‘war stories’, examples from your career when you overcame an obstacle or challenge or when you went above and beyond to provide amazing value to your employer or a customer.

These can be from previous roles or personal projects, but the aim of these stories is to demonstrate to the interviewer your skills. These stories usually aim to demonstrate your soft skills: the way that you deal with complex challenges, your ability to lead or your ability to work to a tight deadline.

These stories should highlight your strengths but also demonstrate how you deal with working in a situation that doesn’t play to your strengths.

Know the Role and company

The whole point of the interview is to see whether you are a suitable fit for the role and the company. Demonstrating to the interviewer your skills is one thing, but showing how they meet, or exceed, the requirements of the role is even better.

This requires that you know exactly what the job requires. Print off the job spec and write notes on it. Write examples (possibly a war story) of when you demonstrated this skill and how you can use that experience to help the company.

Extract as much information from the spec as you can, not just from the list of applicant requirements. The description may imply that you will be mentoring less experienced coworkers or working with people from departments across the company. You should aim to demonstrate your experience with everything they could want in an employee.

As well as demonstrating how well you suit the role. You should write down any questions that you have about the role or the company. I’ve written an article listing some great questions to ask at an interview. You should definitely be trying to find some questions specific to the role and company you’re applying to.

Having a small notebook (paper kind) is great for keeping all of these questions written down.

Know their Company and their Website

You’ll often get asked what you know about the company. Here is a great place to utilise your preparation. Have a look through their website. Find out what the company does and what its values are. If you can, find previous projects they’ve worked on or products they’ve launched.

If you know the name of your interviewer, find out who they are in the company and what their role is. The more you know about the interviewer, the less intimidating they usually become.

Interview Day

Be enthusiastic and be early.

Make sure to get to the interview in good time, 15 mins before is a good rule of thumb. If you’re travelling from further away, leave plenty of time for bad traffic. The worst that could happen is that you arrive an hour early and have to go to a coffee shop where you can relax and prepare yourself.

Bringing your notebook and your CV is a good idea so you can refresh the questions and notes on the company.

Give a solid handshake, make eye contact and smile.

Relax and be confident

Opinions are formed in the first 10 seconds of meeting a person. Make sure to give a solid hand shake, make eye contact and smile.

One of the increasingly common complaints that interviewers are having is that candidates are being too formal. Yes this is a job interview but try to treat it like a chat between two future colleagues. Try to sit up straight and head up, maintaining an open posture. This site has a good breakdown of body language, posture and proximity.

Competency based questions

Interviewer often ask questions such as “Tell me about a time when …”. These questions are designed to extract your personality traits and soft skills. This is where preparing your ‘war stories’ will reap it’s reward.

Use these stories to concisely answer the questions whilst showing your skills off. Try to keep the answer short and to the point, an interviewer can always ask you to elaborate.

When answering any of these questions, talk mainly about what you did not what we did. Try to answer with examples of the skills that they required on the job spec. These questions are your opportunity to show off how well your skills suit the job, not how great your last team were.

Ask Questions

Questioning the interviewer is a great way to find out more about the role and company as well as reaffirming your abilities. I’ve written an article about vital questions to ask at an interview.

In general you should ask any questions you still have about the company and the job. If you have any unanswered questions from the job spec, now is the time to ask.

Don’t ask about money. This is probably the only topic that you shouldn’t ask about at the interview stage. Asking about money implies that money is a main decision factor in the process of selecting an offer. Companies normally don’t want people who are mainly driven by money. Those people often lack job satisfaction (less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels ) and would happily leave for a higher paying position.

Take Notes

Interviews are stressful, and stress doesn’t help with your memory. Using that notebook from earlier, write notes throughout the process. It could be any information that you think is going to be useful to remember over the next few days.

These notes should be short, not documenting everything but recording important information.

Salary

Although you shouldn’t ask about pay, the interviewer may. This is an opportunity to loose a lot of negotiating power.

There is a brilliant pair of articles by Haseeb Qureshi called Ten Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer. Number 3 is to protect information. This means trying not to let them know what you’ll sign for.

Negotiating Ninja Dog

Haseeb suggests that if they ask you how much you are looking to earn, try not to say a number. Become a negotiating ninja (see above). Say something like:

“I really like this role at this company, I feel like I’m a great fit and I hope that you agree. Right now I’m talking with a few other companies so I can’t speak to the specific details of the offer until I’m done with the process and get closer to making a decision. But I’m sure we’ll be able to find a package that we’re both happy with, because I really would love to be a part of the team.”

Know what the next step is

Before you leave, you need to now what is going to happen next. If they don’t tell you, you need to ask. When will they finish conducting interviews? Are they going to call or email you when they’ve made a decision?

However they are going to contact you, you need to get a deadline from them. This allows you to plan when to make your final decision and chase them up if they forget to contact.

Post interview

Well Done! You can relax now. Take some time to do something you enjoy, treat yourself.

When you’ve treated yourself, here are a few things you should do after any interview:

  • Assess how you thought you did, what you did well and what you think you could improve on. This is how you get better at interviewing.
  • If you found the job through a recruiter, call or email them to let them know how it went. If you have decided that the company isn’t right for you, now is the time to say.
  • Send the interviewers an email thanking them for their time and say that you look forward to hearing from them. If you have decided that the company isn’t right for you, let them know now that you don’t think the role and company is right for you but thank them again for their time.
Passed the deadline? Give them a call!

Now you just have to wait to hear back from the interview. If they haven’t contacted you by the deadline, give them a call or drop them an email. Be polite but let them know that you won’t wait around for ever.

Getting the Offer

When you receive the offer, hopefully its amazing but don’t accept it straight away. Have a read of the Ten Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer. You can use this offer to speed up the application process for other jobs and negotiate a better salary and/or conditions. This all results in you having the choice between the best possible options.