How to ace a job interview

No matter how many job interviews you’ve been through, it can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

You’re scheduled to interview for a new job. Congrats! Worried? Of course you are. No matter how many job interviews you’ve been through, it can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. If both candidate and company prepare, it’s an exercise in learning, not judgment. So how can you, as a candidate, get ready? You’re about to find out—and then blow the hiring team away with your brilliance.

Nail “why this role”

On any job interview, you’ll need to have the basics locked down. Every hiring team will want to know why you’re interested in the position and what excites you about the company. Hiring managers want you to be excited to work on their team, just like you.

So a little research and self-reflection are in order. Start by reviewing the company website and focus on what the company does, how the company does it, and what values the company holds in high regard. The best companies will clearly outline these on their websites and often in their job descriptions. From there, spend time reviewing the job description of the role you’re interviewing for, particularly the responsibilities and objectives. Then it’s time to get introspective. Think about all of these facets of the company and position. What excites you the most? How will this role, team, or company help you get closer to achieving your longer-term goals?

Showcase your skills and experiences

Tons of articles will advise you to prepare for generic interview prompts like, “What is your greatest weakness?” Go ahead and think about your answer, because it’s certainly a common, although not a very useful, interview question. Usually sweeping interview questions like those don’t actually evaluate the skills required for the job.

Good hiring teams will ask questions that relate directly to the role and assess the skills and knowledge that’s expected of the hiree. So when you’re preparing for your interviews, study the job description. Consider the skills, experience, and traits the hiring manager is looking for. Then review the company’s values on their website. What are the personal (also known as people or “soft”) skills and functional (job or practical) skills that you see across these resources? Once you recognize them, think about examples of ways you’ve demonstrated these skills or accomplished the same responsibilities in the past. For the most part, interview questions will be behavioral, prompting you to share an example of a time in which you demonstrated a given skill or handled a particular situation. As you make note of these experiences (yes, you should probably actually write them down), keep in mind that interviewers are typically listening for the STAR response. In short you’ll want to cover:

  1. The context: What is the situation?
  2. What you did: How did you address the situation?
  3. The result: What was the impact of your actions?

While they can help you stay on track, try to avoid reading directly from your notes. After all, if your responses are something you’re recalling from the past, you just need to tell the story.

Prepare your own questions

Typically, you will know who you’re meeting with before you’re in the room (whether it’s virtual or IRL). We recommend reviewing the interviewers’ backgrounds to prepare questions they would be most suited to answer. For example, if you’re speaking to someone who will be a peer on a different team, questions about the company and team dynamics are great. However, it likely wouldn’t make sense to ask role-specific questions since that person likely won’t have an answer.  

When preparing questions for interviewers, consider what you’re looking for from a company, team, or role. If you are looking to join a very collaborative culture, ask questions about the team dynamics and how other departments work together.

Here are some great questions to ask or spark your own ideas.

  • What is your favorite part about working here?
  • What are three common traits of top performers here?
  • What is the company and team culture like?
  • How would you describe the style of the leadership here?
  • What are the company’s highest priority goals this year? How will this role contribute to those objectives?
  • How is performance measured in this role?
  • What would I be expected to accomplish within the first 90 days?
  • What is the performance review process like?
  • How does the company think about career growth?

Interviewing with a company via WhoCo?

If you’ve been invited to interview with a company that utilizes WhoCo’s hiring platform, you’re in luck! The hiring team has already put a lot of thought into your interview process. When writing the job description, they carefully considered the skills that they’re looking for from candidates. They then crafted a fair interview process with specific questions that get to the heart of those skills. They’re even going to share the questions they plan to ask ahead of time, if they haven’t already. More on why WhoCo does this here.

So what does that mean for you? For starters, you can rest assured that the hiring team is taking an objective approach to their hiring decision by reducing bias and focusing on the skills and traits you bring to the table. On top of that, you’ll get a level of transparency in the hiring process that you likely haven’t seen from most other interviews. Before you even applied, you could see a high-level view of the stages of the interview process. Now that you’ve been invited to an interview, you have received (or will very soon) an interview guide. In that guide, the hiring team will also include the attendees, the agenda, and any specific questions that the interviewer(s) plan to ask. Armed with this kind of transparency, you can spend time considering your responses and preparing notes on the topics that will be covered in the meeting, rather than worrying about every potential question to expect.

Hey, good luck out there. You got this!