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The Job Interview Guide | Part 2 | How To Prepare for an Interview

Dana Leizarovits, HR Business Partner at Jolt.io
|
October 1, 2021

In the Job Interview Guide, you will find recommendations that will help you prepare for a job interview in general, and in the tech field in particular. In the previous guide, we talked about the types of job interviews and now, we will explain how to prepare a pitch and get ready for the interview itself. This guide focuses on preparing yourself for an interview.

Preliminary Research Before the Job Interview

Assuming that you have briefly read about the company to which you submitted your resume, it is important to do a more profound research before you attend the first interview. This will let you feel that you know where you are going and that you are well-acquainted with the company’s products and areas of activity. While reading and researching, you will probably have a few questions that you would like to ask – whether about the job itself or the company in general.

Researching is very important. The recruiter may become suspicious if you come unprepared and don’t do your “homework” before the interview. No one expects you to be familiar with the company’s website or its employees, however, you should definitely know about its products and markets in which it operates, as well as about the company’s founders.

Useful research sources

  1. Company’s website – take a look at the company’s website and featured videos, as well as the site’s “About” section. Check if there’s any information about the company’s employees and their roles. In addition, you can learn a lot by checking the company’s open positions, which will give you a clue about the company’s goals for the coming year and its further development plans. The site can teach you a lot about the company’s objectives, methods of operation and target audience.
  2. LinkedIn – this is a great opportunity to try to find out about your potential new colleagues. Search for keywords: for example, if you are seeking a position in the sales department – look for words such as sales/admissions/account/business development and read about the people who carry out these jobs. Look at their profiles, check their past experience and their titles. This information will allow you to understand what your place would be within the company’s hierarchy.
  3. YouTube – if the company has an active YouTube channel, you should take advantage of it! Watch the different contents, notice the way in which the messages are conveyed and keywords that characterize the company. If some videos feature the company founders, you have a chance to “feel their personality” before you talk to them face-to-face during a job interview. In addition, senior recruiting managers may appear in the videos as well, therefore it is recommended to watch the videos and learn from them about the products, markets in which the company operates and its executives.
  4. Online Articles – articles that you can read on various websites may provide additional information that will allow you to learn about the company and its endeavors. Pay attention to the articles’ publication dates! Old articles may be irrelevant, and even though there’s nothing wrong with learning about the company’s history – it may be unrelated to current events and cause an embarrassment should you decide to mention it in the job interview. In such case, the recruiter may get an impression that even though you have done a research, you didn’t pay attention to small details and failed to become acquainted with the company’s current products.
  5. Podcasts – search in various podcast libraries and look for the names of the founders, as well as executives of relevant department. You can also simply look for the company name. Listen to podcasts featuring the company’s staff members and pay attention to the words and phrases they use repetitively, how they market the company and the tips they give (enterprise founders are often asked for tips on how to pass their interviews, which is a great way to prepare yourself).

Preparing for the interview requires a profound research. Once you’re done researching, you should feel that you know everything you need about the founders and the department in which you’re going to work, as well as about the company’s products, markets in which it operates and its target audience. It is important to show the interviewers that you came prepared – apply the knowledge you have gained about the company in the interview itself, either directly or indirectly, and show what you have learned. However, do not recite the material just for the sake of showing that you’ve done your homework. Instead, demonstrate your knowledge as part of questions or anecdotes.

Also, it would be wise to use the words that the interviewers like to use themselves. This tip is more relevant for interviews with senior executives or founders who were featured in various podcast episodes, mentioned in articles online or appeared in the company’s YouTube videos. Incorporating words that your interviewer tends to use a lot will create a sense of closeness – not necessarily consciously, but rather automatically. In addition, learn about the values that the recruiter finds important, as well as about the norms built into the job for which you are applying. It would be helpful to know in advance about things, regarding which the recruiter would not be willing to compromise when a new employee joins the team. Use all of the above wisely and coherently during the interview – avoid sounding fake or unnatural.

Preparing Yourself for Interviews at Startups and Tech Companies

Besides the general preparation for job interviews, when you submit your candidacy for a tech-oriented position (especially if it’s your first job in this field), you must research the company in the context of the industry to which it belongs, meaning the world of startups and the tech industry. This part of the guide contains a few important points regarding the tech context of the interview. For example:

  1. Think of a question that will challenge your interviewer – a question that would demonstrate a profound understanding and show that you have researched and read about the company. For example, if you are interviewed by the company’s founder, you can ask how he/she came up with the idea about the company or show your interest in the vision for the next five years.
  2. Learn about the company’s products and use them. For example, if the company has developed an app – download it, explore its features and think what you would like to improve/change/optimize. If the company has a telemarketing department, try to talk to sales representatives, ask questions that will allow you to understand things better and learn about the product as it is presented from the company’s side.
  3. Think of solutions to the company’s problems. Once you have used the product and thought about what should be added/removed/improved/changed, write down these issues and think of creative solutions. You will probably not be asked about it directly, but the interviewers will want to see how you think, get an impression regarding the creativity and innovation you would be able to bring into the organization, so there is a chance you will be able to share your experience with the company’s products from your own perspective.
  4. Check who the company’s competitors are. Nowadays, almost every company has competitors. Check who they are online, think if you know some competitors off the top of your head, and look for articles that compare between the products. If a quick search online doesn’t give any results, learn about the industry to which the company belongs – getting to know it may help you understand who competes with the company in which you are interested to work.
  5. Look for tools and software that are commonly used in startups/tech industry. Try to use them or at least watch webinars that provide some information about the software/tool and its purpose. For example: Slack, HubSpot, Salesforce, Google Sheets, monday.com, Trello, AirTable, Zoom, Calendly.
  6. Review the company’s organizational structure, from founders to C-level. For example: CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CPO (Chief Product Officer), COO (Chief Operations Officer) and CFO (Chief Financial Officer). In addition, check who holds the Director/Department Head positions, as well as Manager and Associate/Specialist positions.
  7. Read about commonly used methodologies and terminology. For example, learn about SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), as well as MVP (Minimum Viable Product), read about the meaning of such terms as pivot and iteration, and get acquainted with the Lean Startup method.
  8. Read the description of the job for which you are applying and make sure you understand the meaning of every word. The description will most probably feature words commonly used in the field in which you’re about to engage and it is important for you to know them well. If you don’t understand a certain word – learn its meaning.
  9. Do a follow-up after the interview. It would show how serious you are about getting the job. Even though this has nothing to do with the pre-interview preparation, but refers to the post-interview stage, it would be smart to remember this in advance. Write to your interviewers that it was nice to talk to them, that you would be happy to answer should they have any further questions and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.

Referrals - Why should I expand my network, and how can it help me prepare for a job interview?

Use your network of contacts starting from the early stage of applying for a job and submitting your resume. Check who works in the company you’re interested in and see if you have a mutual acquaintance. Even if that person is not your best friend, but can recommend you – write to him/her.

According to a study conducted by Lever in 2016, one of every 16 candidates referred by company staff members gets the job, compared to one of every 152 candidates accepted after applying in any other way. That’s a huge difference!

There is a correlation between the way of applying (via referrals or in any other way) and the chance of landing a job (8% chance with a referral, compared to 1.2% chance when applying in a conventional way). It should be noted that the way of applying is not necessarily related to the chance of getting an offer from the employer, but overall, applying through a person who works for the company has its advantages, which you should definitely use.

Besides the recommendations, if you know any employees in the company, they may help you prepare for the interview and provide you with useful information about the interviewers. Try to get their help as much as possible – it will allow you to be more prepared.

In conclusion

It is necessary to prepare for the interview in advance. In the first part of the guide, we talked about the types of interviews and interviewers. Now is the time to deal with them properly. You have put effort into searching, and after submitting your resume, the company showed interest in you – take the opportunity to show who you are and what you can do. In the third and final part of the guide, we will talk about preparing a pitch, which is the best way to present yourself during the interview. Good luck!

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?
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I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.

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"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Taken by over 18,500 people; Calibrated by 100s of tech employees

By taking this 10-min test I can set myself up for success

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