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Prepare to Win
Step. By. Step.
GENERAL QUESTIONS AND PREPARATION ITEMS
1. The job of the first interview is to build value in
yourself and build rapport. Provide examples of your
current and past experience, your expertise, knowledge
of the industry and connect with on a personal level.
2. Why do you want this job? Prepare this answer
ahead of time. Focus on the positives that x company
and this role has to offer as opposed to saying anything
negative about your current employer. Examples might
be the growth opportunities, company culture, etc.
3. Relocation (if applicable): x company is aware that
the opportunity, compensation and logistics have to
be right for you to make a move. If it comes up, stay
focused on the positive. Stay away from saying things
that would lead them to believe you truly would not
relocate if all the elements aligned. They are unlikely to
take you seriously as a candidate. You don’t want to cut
yourself short in the process.
4. Compensation: I doubt that compensation will be
discussed on a first interview. However, if asked what
you are looking for in compensation here is the proper
way to answer.
“I’m currently earning x$ base + x$ bonus. Total comp=
approximately x$. I’m very interested in this opportunity
and I’m sure x company would make me a fair offer.”
THAT’S IT! No need to say another word, first person
that speaks in negotiation loses. It’s understood that
candidates expect an increase in pay to make a move
and relocation. The interview process is all about
building value in yourself, not negotiate. Your job is
build value in yourself, build rapport and my job is
bridge any gaps at the time of offer.
5. Top 2-3 strengths AND weaknesses. Think about
these ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard.
6. Take a look at the company website to familiarize
yourself with the product, aesthetic and consumer.
7. Highlight your accomplishments: Prepare at least
3-5 accomplishments you are most proud of.
BEHAVIORAL BASED INTERVIEWS
The most popular style of interviewing used by HR and
hiring managers is Behavioral Based Interviews. This is
based on the premise that the best predictor of future
behavior is past behavior. For this reason, it’s critical to
provide current and past examples of your experience
as opposed to your opinion. Giving examples provides
proof that you can not only do the job but you’ve done
it or you’ve had the experience. Hence, you can hit the
Examples to prepare for: This is where I insert the
key requirements or skill set the hiring manger is
looking for. It’s typically something that’s not on the job
description. This provides the candidate with specific
examples to prepare for.
Special Instructions: Here’s where I include tailored
tips based on the candidate’s strengths or weaknesses
as well as the hiring manager’s personality.
Attached: I always attach the hiring manager’s
LinkedIn profile. This provides the candidate with some
background on the interviewer. You’d be surprised how
often there are mutual connections. This is a great way
to warm up the call quickly and establish rapport.
Verbal Preparation: Finally, I always offer the
candidate the opportunity to connect by phone prior to
the interview. Typically there are questions about how
to answer a specific question if it comes up.
Sound like a lot of work? It can be. But remember, you
never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Step. By. Step.
I’ve had a lot of requests to publish my interview
preparation guides. I send a rather lengthy (sometimes
overwhelming) interview preps via email to each
candidate prior to an interview. I try to warn them ahead
of time but the response is always the same, “that’s,
What can I say, I like to be thorough. Why not provide
candidates with the opportunity to put their best foot
So without further disclaimers here’s my interview
preparation guide. Sorry, this isn’t funny.
What Should I Wear?
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO MY INTERVIEW?
A question I am so frequently asked I’ve considered adding a section to our
website. What you wear can set the tone for the interview. It can also have
a major impact on your confidence. In an industry that thrives on aesthetics,
branding and lifestyle your interview attire should be carefully planned.
There are several variations to this answer all depending on the hiring
company, position level and geography.
HERE ARE A FEW SIMPLE RULES TO FOLLOW.
Never abandon your personal style. Ever. Don’t try to be someone you’re
not. The more comfortable you are in your own skin the more relaxed and
confident you will feel. A strong sense of personal style often indicates the
wearer has firm sense of self.
When is it okay? A lot of sites will tell you to never wear jeans to an interview. I’m going
to challenge this assertion. If you are interviewing with a premium denim company, you
should wear jeans. Just make sure it’s their brand. Obviously.
If you’re interviewing for a President or CEO position wear a suite. For executive level
roles like SVP, VP, EVP, etc. it depends on the company and the position. If you’re
interviewing for the SVP of Design, I’m guessing you won’t wear a suit. CFOs however, a
suit is probably expected. If you’re interviewing for a director level and below, don’t wear
a suit. Ever.
Slacks and a collared shirt is an easy solution. No tie. No polos. I personally prefer a little
more flare. Flat front slacks, with a fitted top (no collar) and a blazer. Cool but not too
polished. Alternatively you can opt for slacks and a sweater. Choose your sweater wisely.
Since women look nice is nearly everything we have a wide range of options. Slacks,
Skirts, Dresses, blazers and a range of tops all work well. Just no pant suits and don’t pair
skirts with blazers or you might come off as Murphy Brown. The 90s are over. Heels or flats
are just fine depending on what compliments your outfit best. If you’re not comfortable in
heels but want a little lift try a kitten heel. Don’t be afraid to accessories. Make your look
your own. Jewelry, scarves and handbags are all part of defining your personal style and
showing your personality.
Whenever possible and appropriate wear the hiring company’s apparel. HR at a certain
athletic brand once told me that when candidates arrive without a stitch of branded
apparel on the first thing they do is take them to the employee store for a little last minute
shopping. This is especially true for active wear and lifestyle brands. They want to see
their logo or product.
MARKET SEGMENT APPROPRIATE
Chances are if you’re interviewing with a company you probably have at least some
connection to the brand. Hopefully. The clothes you wear to a Nordstrom interview will
likely be more fashion forward than to Eddie Bauer. Remember your audience.
East Coast tends to be more dressy and formal than their West Coast counterparts. Mid-
West and everywhere in between tends to take into consideration weather conditions and
culture. If you’re interviewing in Madison, WI you might want to dial it back a bit. Salt Lake
City, UT, think active. Colorado, casual and active.
Pretend you are the hiring company’s consumer and then incorporate the appropriate
level of interview dress-up. You want to look pulled together but you need to look like part
of the team.
Winning The Phone Interview
5 TIPS FOR WINNING THE PHONE INTERVIEW
Preparation. You cannot over prepare for the phone
interview. I provide my candidates with a lengthy
preparation guide tailored to the position, company and
their strengths. You should have answers to anticipated
questions well-rehearsed in detail.
Use a landline. Cell phones have a way of delivering
spotty reception during critical calls. To no fault of your
own it’s awkward at best when an interview mimics a
Location. If you have to take a call at work find an
isolated location like a meeting room or office with a
door that locks. Use your car as a last resort. Don’t go
outside. You might think it’s quiet but the background
noise is distracting.
Timing. Strategically select times when you are most
alert. If you’re a morning person, schedule something
before noon. Your mood and energy level affects your
tone of voice. Pick a time when you’re at your best.
Project. Candidates always laugh when I tell them to
stand up during the call. Why? When you’re hunched
over at your desk your voice has a tendency to come
across with less energy and personality. Movement
keeps your body engaged and in tune with the tone of
Phone interviews are like first dates. They’re sometimes
awkward at first but by the end you know whether or
not you want to go out again. Just like a first date, you
never get a second chance to make a first impression.
They seem so easy. Many assume the phone
interview has little impact on the overall hiring
decision. Wrong! The phone interview is by far the
most critical conversation you will have with a hiring
manager and the most difficult to execute well. This
is where the foundation of your personality and
value as a candidate is established. Fail the phone
interview, forget about moving forward.
Remember when your mother always reminded you to say thank you?
“What do you say?” she prompted. While most are quick to offer the verbal
gratitude for even the smallest gestures a proper thank you in professional
settings have become confusing. When do you send a thank you? Is email
appropriate or do I need to send a handwritten note? What should I say?
While there are hundreds of blogs that will offer up free advice on how to
navigate the thank you landscape I propose that you not only consider the
how but the equally important why. First the basics.
• An email thank you is appropriate. If you don’t have their email address
send it to the person who arranged the interview.
• Thank them for their time.
• Outline the top 2-3 reasons why you are interested in the job. You can
weave in how your qualifications are a strong match for the role but
make sure to highlight something about the company and include a
personal touch. It’s likely that the person with whom you interviewed
would be your manager. What did you like about them. Make it about
more about them and less about you.
• Keep it short and to the point. Do you like reading novels in email format?
The longer the note the less likely someone will actually read it.
Send a hand written note. I know, you’re probably already groaning. The
hand written thank you is actually easier than the email and the response
is tenfold. No more than 2-3 sentences including the obvious thanks for
spending their time with you. Here’s where you can get more creative and
personal. What kind of personal connection do you have to the brand or
product? What did you love about the culture? Note something memorable
from your visit. Avoid reiterating how perfect you are for the job. That part
ended when you left the building.
WHY GO TO ALL THIS TROUBLE?
Especially considering many companies do not properly disposition
candidates, engaging in the no-response trend. Thank you notes are
meaningful and always well received. I love when I open my mailbox and
find a hand written addressed envelope. It makes me feel appreciated and
I almost never forget the candidates and clients who send them. For these
people I would happily go the extra mile. Hiring managers are no different.
This industry is about relationships. You never know where someone might
end up. Wouldn’t you rather leave a lasting favorable impression? Even if
you don’t get the job, a thank you note will set you apart from the impersonal
hiring process that our culture has sunken into. Isn’t it the right thing to do?