Congratulations! You’ve made it past the first round of the interview process. You know…the part where the HR Recruiter asks you a bunch of basic questions about your background to make sure that you at least seem the part. Getting to the point of meeting the hiring manager can be tough and you should be proud of yourself! Job postings can be inundated with hundreds of applicants depending on the company and position you are going for so the fact that you’ve made it into the small percentage of folks who get to meet the hiring manager says a lot about what you have to offer towards the role. However, you can’t let up on your efforts just yet. To remain a truly competitive candidate, you must approach the situation with more strategy than you may have realized. There are a few key things that cannot be overlooked when it comes to preparing for your next interview.

1. Do Your Homework

I know that you thought homework was just for back when you were a student and spent lots of time after-hours laboring to earn your diploma or degree but NO! The best candidates always do their homework. This means that prior to your interview you should be learning everything you can about the position, the company, and the people you will be interviewing with. Sure, a quick google search and brief visit to the website may give you a good overview as to what you’re getting yourself into but I recommend taking it one step further.

Following a company’s social media accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Youtube etc.) gives you great insight as to the culture of the company. You’ll be able to see what kind of things the company highlights, what events they provide to their employees, and what accolades they are most proud of. I also recommend searching for the company on YouTube. There typically is “a day in the life” video available where employees talk about how their time with that company has been.

I’d also recommend making sure you know the names of whom you will be meeting with prior to your interview. Cross referencing those names on Linkedin will give you a great idea as to their backgrounds and work history. You may also find out that you have common connections with that person whom you can leverage for more information and perspective on your potential new manager.

The goal of this homework is to be audible ready about the company and why you think the position is right for you. Being able to reference some of the evidence you’ve found showcases and highlights your ability to go the extra mile and your enthusiasm about the potential of joining their team.

2. Prepare Your Questions

“What questions do you have for me?” This is the one interview question that is a universal guarantee. If you don’t have questions prepared it can be a big mark against you. When you don’t have anything to ask this tells the interviewer a few different things, none of which are good. It shows that you may be a candidate who seems to know it all and can come off as arrogant. It can also show that you lack interest in the role and may just be complacent with the information you’ve been provided vs. highlighting your deeper thinking about the company/position. It can also show that you didn’t do your homework which as we learned before can be a major factor in your brand as a candidate.

If you’re thinking to yourself that you just don’t know what to ask or if you feel like you really do have all the information, there are always some default questions I keep in my back pocket:

  • How does one know they are successful in this role? (This could relate to any type of metrics someone may be held to in this position or the feedback loop between yourself and your manager around performance.)
  • What is the structure of the team? (This could refer to the team size and the different roles or special responsibilities people may hold within the team. It provides insight as to how the role you are interviewing for plays into the larger scope of the business.)
  • Would you be able to break down the day to day responsibilities by percentage?(This is a great question to ask because it gives you a realistic idea of the day to day responsibilities of this job and allows you to envision yourself doing those things.)
  • How would you say an average candidate differentiates themselves from an outstanding candidate in your opinion? (The reason why this is my favorite question to ask is two-fold. On one hand it shows the hiring manager that you strive to be outstanding and on the flip side it also provides you with insight as to what is going to impress your manager down the road if offered the position.)

While the above are great questions to bring along with you to any interview, there is a major topic to stray away from when the time comes for you to ask questions. Avoid questions that focus around the logistics of the position (i.e. what is the dress code, what are the hours, what is your absence policy, etc.) While these things are necessary to know, they add little value to whom you are as a candidate and do not impress hiring managers.

3. Follow Up

If you think that your interview is over when you’ve left the building, you are mistaken. Regardless of how you felt leaving the interview, whether you nailed it or left feeling ambivalent about it, follow up is critical.

Hand written thank you notes go a long way if you can get them to the hands of a manager. I once interviewed for a job in the morning and then during lunch went back by the office to drop off hand written thank you notes to the individuals I met with. I like to think of every interview as a competition that I have to win. Most candidates are sending e-mails to their interviewers these days to follow up which may be lost in a sea of hundreds of e-mails in a manager’s inbox. By writing a hand written note and dropping that by or mailing it, you are differentiating yourself from the norm and in the mind of your potential new manager, proving that you want the job more than the next person.

If this isn’t an option, for example if the position is in another city or they have strict security measures, sending an e-mail can suffice but just make sure you’re adding as much value to it as you can. In the body of your follow-up e-mail write specific things you enjoyed about the conversation. If you felt like there was anything that was still an area of concern for the interviewers around your candidacy be sure to address that as well, showing that you acknowledged what they said and are willing to work on closing that particular gap for them.

I recommend sending a thank you note within 24 hours of interviewing. This shows them your high urgency and interest in the role.

Using these 3 tips to prepare for interviews will help you approach the situation with confidence. By doing your homework, asking great questions, and following up in a timely manner you’ll be sure to feel like the job is yours. Remember to treat every interview as a competition that you’re on a mission to win!

Happy hunting!