No matter what type of employment you are seeking, there’s always a moment in any new job application cycle when you receive that very first interview invitation. Close your eyes and briefly imagine that moment. You were just submitting your 63rd application online when your email inbox dings. “Congratulations!” says the interview invitation, “please select a time and day to speak with us.” You have feelings.
Now concentrate on singling out the most intense emotion that floods your system when you imagine yourself in this scenario. Is it relief? It can certainly be a relief to know you aren’t a complete outcast; someone is willing to talk to you. Is it happiness? Being wanted is a good feeling, who knows how many applicants you beat out for this interview slot. Or is the emotion more closely related to fear or anxiety?
Sometimes it’s hard to think beyond step one–applying to jobs, but step two—the interview, is a critical step to be prepared for. Don’t make the common mistake of assuming you will practice and prepare between the time you schedule your interview and when you go through it, as sometimes those two events are mere hours apart! The best strategy is to prepare early and often for interviews, even if you aren’t actively job searching. Let’s talk about how.
1. Have a Clear Understanding of Yourself
People hire people. Beyond prior experience with the basic job requirements, the two main things being evaluated in your non-technical interviews are your emotional intelligence (EQ) and your personality fit with the team. EQ informs the way we speak to ourselves and others, how patient and conscientious we are (understanding not everyone thinks the way we do), and whether we have the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective and regard that knowledge as valuable. In fact, the words EQ and maturity are often used synonymously, which makes intuitive sense.
Personality fit is going to be more subjective, as it depends on the unique team or department who would be receiving you. If the team happens to be very introverted overall and you dive into the interview as the max-output extrovert you are…a clash is possible. Many of those mismatches are not avoidable (after all, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone you aren’t), but learning to mirror the behavior of your interviewers (imitating how loudly and quickly to speak, for example) is a good way to get a sense of whether you’d be a fit. Don’t let your anxiety about getting a job make you forget that interviewing is a two-way street. You’ll likely have to start the process all over again pretty quickly if you accept an offer that’s a bad fit for you.
Things you can do to know yourself better:
- Well known personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) & the Enneagram can provide excellent insights into your strengths and weaknesses through their profile summaries. Introspection is a tough task for many people, so having a framework to begin with can be a huge help. Bonus points for going over your results with the people who know and love you most for a second opinion on what holds true for you and what doesn’t.
- Most people simply never practice the art of narrating their life story to strangers, so actually practicing is low hanging fruit. Try talking through the story of your life while folding laundry or in the shower, as if you’re on a late-night show being interviewed. This will help you get your thoughts in order, and allow you to practice your jokes and transitions.
2. Deep Dive and Research the Company
Job hunting is a lot like dating. You are both trying to make a good first impression at the same time you’re both sizing each other up on visible and invisible factors. So, if job hunting is like dating, what is the first thing you should do? That’s right, you Google them! You read everything you can find about the company, what it is up to, and its employees. The less your interviews have to spend time getting you up to speed about company basics the more time you have to wow them with why you’re such a good fit for the position.
Things you can do to know the company better:
- Investigate their website thoroughly and take notes. Read the mission statement, any employee bios, the about/history section, anything you can. Then plan how you might be able to work your newfound knowledge into the interview. Example: “I was so excited to see your recent Killer Whale outreach in the Pacific, would the team I would be working with if hired have a hand in that effort?”
- Find employees on LinkedIn and get familiar with their road to employment. Bonus points if you find employees who went to the same school you did or worked in a similar industry. These facts can also come up during the interview but be careful about name-dropping. It’s usually safest to stick to comments like “when I was doing my research on the company, I saw that Jordan in marketing and I went to the same school! That made me feel right at home already…”
- Set a Google alert on the company or CEO to keep track of current news you may be able to use in an interview or in LinkedIn comments visible to the company.
3. Know the Industry
A few years before I started working in career services for devCodeCamp I was accepted to medical school. Becoming a medical doctor was the only thing I had ever imagined doing for work–until I realized my passion for helping medical students succeed in school transcended my desire to become a physician myself. If you’ve ever had a singular goal for an extended period of time and then pivoted away from it overnight, you know what comes next. Major disorientation, unclear next steps, and general overwhelm. It took me several months of solid time investment and discomfort, but I got through that initial outside-looking-in phase and started feeling like I had something to add to the conversation in my new field.
Here are some of the things I did to quickly educate myself about my new industry in order to have meaningful conversations and eventually, successful interviews.
Things you can do to know your industry better:
- The first thing I did was Google who the regulating bodies and organizations were in my new industry and join a few of them. I paid the yearly membership dues, read the weekly email newsletters, voted on cabinet members, and picked the brains of numerous members within each organization. One of the organizations even had an internal job board for members, which proved immensely helpful.
- The next thing I did was overhaul my LinkedIn feed. I spent a chunk of time unfollowing accounts that were relevant to my previous industry and following people, pages, and companies who were relevant to my new field. I did keyword searches, as well as used the membership lists from my new organization memberships to find people to follow and connect with who could help me or educate me.
- Most libraries have free audiobook options through contracted services, like Hoopla, so I also downloaded and listened to several books about how medical education has evolved over the years that I listened to while driving and folding laundry.
When you are comfortable and confident in your knowledge of these three areas: yourself, the company, and the industry…you can walk into any behavioral interview with confidence and enthusiasm, knowing you have something to say. You are no longer subject to an uneven power dynamic (hoping they will give you a job because you need one), you are now an activate participant in the interview process, assessing them for how they can meet your needs just as they are assessing you. As much as possible, good companies want to hire people who think critically and show they are motivated to learn and achieve.
If you’re ready to take your first step towards launching a brand-new career in a thriving industry, reach out! From day one of meeting your instructor to after graduation and speaking with my team at Career Services, your success is our highest priority.