We are constantly looking for the next Rock Star. Who is a brand-new powerhouse nobody else has seen? We are always interviewing incredible new talent; the next great software architect, growth hacker or experience designer. Some of the individuals are straight out of college and looking for their first professional job, others are more seasoned and have only worked for one or two other organizations.
Since we may be their first interview (or the first one in quite a while), we are pretty sure they might have some questions. ‘What do I say?’ ‘What do I do?’ ‘How should I act or dress?’
Last week, my CQL colleagues joined me for an evening of mock interviews at my senior professional portfolio class. I teach at Kendall College of Art and Design in downtown Grand Rapids.
The insights shared by the team were observations we have gained over many years and hundreds upon hundreds of interviews with job seekers.
If you are seeking your first or next professional job, here are our thoughts for your consideration. Take them to heart. We believe they just might help launch your way straight into your true Rock Star potential. (Sounds scientific, doesn’t it friends?) OK, we may not be experts, but experience is helpful to gain insights.
Get your resume right.
- Check for spelling errors. Obvious? Maybe. Frequently missed? Absolutely. Four out of five resumes we receive have typos. Be the ‘one’ for us… see what I did there?
- Don’t overload us. Pick the best of your resume and consolidate. Trust that we will get the idea that you’re fabulous.
- Demonstrate accomplishments rather than reciting responsibilities. Did you manage a team? Great. Were you a leader? Tell us about it. We know that management is a title; and leadership is a capability.
- Have a small section of your personal interests at the end of the resume. They could be things like topics you enjoy talking about or interesting accomplishments that set you apart. We will want to chat about them, so be prepared. Learn how to weave a personal story that engages others.
- Know that we will ask you to defend everything listed on your resume. Avoid classifications such as “expert” unless you can truly demonstrate expert knowledge about the topic. (And remember, that 40-something person you are interviewing might be a real expert.)
- Google the 'Top 30 Interview Questions'. Work through the list, write your answers down using positive language. Practice the answers out loud. (OUT LOUD)
- Review the company and position for which you are being interviewed. Look up faces on LinkedIn so you know who people are ahead of time. Read recent blogs or press releases produced by the company – it shows things the company cares about.
- Prepare 3-5 ‘real and rooted’ questions; no blanket questions and nothing that could be answered by a quick look on the website. Ask about things you're actually interested in knowing; refer to previous projects, or inquire about the interviewer’s work-process.
- Create "your story" (a personal pitch). “Story” has become a bit of a corporate buzzword in the last few years, so let’s break this down….
- Share about more than what you do on the weekends - we want to learn about you. The people you are meeting with will potentially be spending 30% of their lives with you; so give them the tools to tell if you’re a culture fit. When drafting your personal pitch, think about the elements of a good novel or screenplay: A killer beginning, an engaging plot and a great ending. Leave out a wandering backstory and don’t indulge in unnecessary detail. A great storyteller gets you to see what they see, feel what they feel, and want what they want. (In this case “My hopes, dreams, and hard work led me on this incredible path that has culminated in this interview. I hope the next chapter begins here. What do you think, ‘Company-X’?”)
Today is interview day.
- Wear something you feel good in - err on the side of overdressed. It is better to look super-keen in a suit than disrespectful in ripped jeans and your A&E hoodie.
- Bring a moleskin or something to write in, and take notes when needed. Chances are the interviewer might say something important in the time you have with them. It’s also a sign of respect.
- Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re a qualified fine artist, don’t just say you ‘like to draw.’ Selling yourself means a well-crafted story delivered with calculated confidence.
- Show us you work well with others - today’s world operates on a currency of collaboration. ProTip: Interviewers pay attention to your use of ‘I’s’ and ‘We’s.’ When you speak about work you have done, strike a balance between humility, responsibility, and achievement. Frequent use of “We did this” or “We did that” might lead the interviewer to wonder about your involvement in the success of the project.
- Be the catalyst for authentic communication - it's the most important thing you can do in an interview. Make eye contact and have a firm handshake. Be respectful, be kind, be invested and really engage the interviewer; have a real discussion. ProTip: Nobody wants to be ‘networked’; seek to build real and sustainable relationships. Find people whose work and ethics you value and wish to emulate. Be genuine and your true network will reveal itself.
YOU GOT THROUGH IT! …Now what?
Basic post-interview conduct:
- Write a thank you note. A handwritten note is always appreciated.
- Trust that if they’re interested, they’ll be in touch. When following up, think and act from the perspective of a busy company; would you want 8 interviewers blowing up your phone asking about the status of their interview? No.
- Know that it is OK to ask what the decision making process is and what the expected timeline is for getting back to you.
- Know that it’s OK to ask for feedback on how you did. Politely. All while knowing that you might not get a response.
Hate to have to say it, but it’s important – a note about interview safety:
- Be mindful about the interviews you agree to attend. Only attend meetings during business hours and at the company office or a public venue. Most professional interviewers will meet you in a conference room with lots of glass or a semi-private open area. If there is any concern on the part of the interviewee, a request for an open door is always appropriate and will not be considered a ‘mark down’ on the part of any reputable interviewer. If any of these reasonable requests are refused, politely decline to participate and respectfully leave.
Real world, 101.
- Nobody owes you the job you want. You have worked to get to this point, and you love what you do (hopefully). For the recent graduate, this is a funny time. Your entire life up to this point has been linear and structured. You have been given tasks and been asked to complete them in accordance with measurable standards. Life is not like that, and your 'launch period' is most definitely not going to be this way, so be patient.
- You are not a finished product, and you are also extraordinarily talented and qualified. Be willing to admit both of these things. Get your hands dirty, and keep learning and seeking growth.
- Find ways to move yourself forward while you build your career. Invest in being a whole, 3D person. Set short and long term goals that you can keep coming back to between jobs and/or interviews. You don't want to stagnate.
And remember why you fell in love with ‘it’ - whatever ‘it’ is - in the first place. Hold that close to your heart and don't lose sight of it for a second. It will become the 'why' when things get hard and the 'hell yes' when you are soaring.
And if you think you are the next Rock Star – by all means, please get in touch.