The Art of The Interview
“If there’s a mile long track, and the first lap you travel 30 mph, how fast do you have to travel on the second lap to average 60 mph for both laps?” asks the stuffy man in the corner office.
I bumbled and stumbled around until I responded, “Hmmmm, obviously it’s not 90mph, but…… let’s walk…. it through!” My instincts told me it wasn’t a straightforward answer, but I really had no idea how to solve the problem. Instead, I got the first part right by addressing the trick question, and proceeded to stall long enough so that he couldn’t help but tell me.
FIGURE IT OUT YET? NO CHEATING!
After about 20 seconds of thinking out loud, he blurted out, “Infinity Speed! Imposible!” “You see Sam, since it takes 2 minutes to average 60mph for both laps, you just can’t do it because at 30mph on the first lap, that already took you 2 minutes!”
I quickly chimed in, “Ahh, of course! You beat me to it!” Whew. Of course he beat me to it because if we continued talking for eight hours I still wouldn’t know the answer!
The interview process is absolutely the most vital portion of your job application process. I don’t care whether you went to Harvard, have a 4.0, and dance like MJ. If you come across as a pompous fool, or you don’t show that you really care about the position, you will never get the job.
Putting it another way, think about all the people you aren’t particularly impressed with at work. How did they get through security? They simply interviewed well. Once you’re in, it takes a long time to get you out!
Below are some helpful tips I’ve compiled after interviewing over 250 candidates in my career so far.
FINANCIAL SAMURAI’S TOP 10 INTERVIEW TIPS
1) Don’t be late or too early! Nothing drives an interviewer crazier than a late candidate, or a super early candidate. Half the time, the interviewer is there because it’s part of his job requirement, or it’s a favor to one of his colleagues. You won’t believe how many times I’ve heard an interviewer write-off a candidate just because he’s even 1 minute late. On the flip side, a super early candidate is annoying, because it puts pressure on the interviewer to alter his or her schedule. Arrive 10 minutes early and ask your greeter to announce your arrival 3 minutes before the scheduled interview.
2) No limp handshakes or sweaty palms. Studies show that a first impression is impossible to shake. If you come out with a limp and sweaty palm, your interviewer is going to remember this because this will be your only physical contact. Keep a small hand towel, perhaps with some talcum powder to keep your hands dry. Shake firmly!
3) Dress appropriately. I’ve had many guys and girls come in dressed like they were about to go clubbing with their mini-skirts, and corduroy jackets. This isn’t Tryst in Vegas. Dressing inappropriately conjures up images of immaturity and trouble. Always dress equal to one half step better. See “You Aren’t Going Clubbing, Interview Attire 101”
4) Maintain eye contact, but don’t stare. If you’re constantly looking at the floor or wandering, you will give your interviewer the impression that you have no confidence, and/or that you don’t care. FBI studies show that during the shake down process, liars have a difficult time looking their interrogator in the eye. At the same time, you don’t want to have crazy eyes and pretend it’s a staring contest. You will make your interviewer uncomfortable, and wonder if there’s spinach in his teeth. Maintain eye contact and practice looking away briefly during times of thought or transition.
5) Research the heck out of the company. If the company recently reported fantastic first quarter results, read all about it and figure out what drove earnings. Understand the company’s strategic vision, which will hopefully jive well with your own. No company has grown in a straight line, so pinpoint the stumbles as well, but understand how they learned from their errors and improved.
6) Research the heck out of your interviewer. More often than not, the HR person will give you a heads up on who you will be speaking to. It’s important to research the person to the point where you are like a CIA operative. Know everything you can about the person and their accomplishments. If they studied Polish in college and like corgi dogs know it. The idea is to not reveal to them everything you know, for that would be stalkishly freaky. Instead, it’s important to be able to weave related interests with your potential colleague at choice times.
7) Interview them as much as they interview you. After a certain number of interviews, you should have a sense of whether they want you or not. At this point really start using the opportunity to ask them about their experiences, likes, and dislikes about the company. It’s unacceptable to not have any questions at the end of each interview. You may be speaking with someone who actually hates his/her job, but have no idea because you aren’t asking about him/her. Ask and investigate without being too nosy. “How many years do you think the average person has been with the firm?” is a good question to always ask.
8) Always bring enough copies of your resume. The idea is to make the interview as easy for the interviewer as possible. Unless you’re speaking to HR, the interviewer is not a professional interviewer. They could be speaking to you in between meetings on a hectic day. Bringing your resume and other information for them to look over shows you are thoughtful and prepared. The average time spent looking at a resume is 10 seconds, which also equates to the average amount of time an interviewer prepares to interview you! Please read, “Examples of Good Resumes That Get Jobs“.
9) Be self-effacing while showing signs of brilliance. The arrogant interviewee will get booted faster than a rat on your favorite lemon meringue pie. Talk about your failures and how you’ve overcome them to succeed in new ways. Provide concrete examples of success, backed by results i.e. sales grew in my department by 25% after introducing a new method of selling. Stay humble but show them your confidence.
10) Always follow up within 24 hours with a thank you e-mail or card. In each e-mail or card, do not write a generic message saying. Instead, pick out a critical moment in the interview where you think brings out the best in you, or gives you the opportunity to show your skills further. Perhaps the interviewer asked you about your most difficult moment, and you didn’t answer it well. Use the thank you note to address the question further.
The number of qualified resumes are seriously piling up on my desk, making competition that much more difficult. Focus on these initial tips to help yourself get ahead. As a potential colleague, we just want to work with someone who shows promise and is a good person. Don’t forget that when you do get accepted, to treat your job as if you won the lottery and not take your good fortune for granted!
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Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”