Advice On How To Ace a Job Interview

Posted On: June 24

shutterstock_727943I just received this email from a good friend asking for my best advice on how one of his friends should prepare so that she could nail her interview for her dream job. Here is what I sent back to him…


I wanted to reach out to you to see if you could provide any insight and/or advice for me in regards to a very good friend of mine and her current professional situation. My friend was referred by a well-respected colleague for a coveted role at the local office of a Fortune 500 company. The role is a Sr. VP and she is awaiting her 3rd interview; the 1st was a phone interview w/ Corp HR, 2nd was in person w/ hiring manager and the 3rd will be a panel interview w/ hiring manager/Local Market Manager and 1 other. We are currently doing research in hopes of giving her the best possible chance of landing her dream job. Do you have any recommendations, insights and/or resources you can pass along that might help us with this process?

It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right. Here are just a few ideas for your friend…

1. Create a very thoughtful list of key questions to ask the interviewers. These should focus on job duties, culture, career path, opportunity for learning and professional growth, opportunity to contribute to the company in a meaningful way. Ask questions that demonstrate drive, proactivity, an “ownership mentality,” professional focus, desire to make a positive contribution, desire to collaborate and work with others.

2. You are already doing this… but be extremely well-prepared and researched for the meeting – know everything you possibly can about the company – think of it as a final exam where your entire grade is at stake and study appropriately. You should strive to know as much or more about the company as the people interviewing you!

3. Write a proposal.  After you do all of your research, write a proposal or outline of places where your you feel like you could add value. What ideas can you offer already, what key questions would you ask once you got the job – give them an example of your expertise, experience and thought process. Add in data, charts, examples, benchmarking ideas – anything to show that you have given the position and the company a lot of thought.

4. Be 100% yourself – do not hold back or act differently than you would if you worked there. Act exactly the way that makes you comfortable – because, if you act differently than you really are in the interview and they hire you for how you are in the interview – you may not fit in once you act completely yourself at work.

5. When I used to interview people for senior positions I would ask them only ONE major question: “Please take the next 30 minutes and tell me everything you know about our company, our top three competitors and where you see our industry in five years.” If they could not talk intelligently for at least 20 minutes, the interview was over. So, how would you answer this question about the company you are about to interview with?

That is all I can think of for now, hope you found this helpful.

*** I welcome and encourage my blog readers to add your best advice and share this blog widely so others can offer even more ideas!  Thanks — John

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  1. Good advice, John. I agree on all points. The best advice someone gave me is to demonstrate you are already doing the job in your head and in your heart (even if they haven’t offered the job to you, yet). Don’t just know all about the company, provide solutions regarding what you would do to grow the business (and it’s people if the job is a leadership role). Very similar to your advice on creating a proposal. As someone who has interviewed many people at all levels, this is rarely done.

  2. John,

    I would add one additional comment to yours. Not only do your homework on the company and their competitors, do you homework on the folks interviewing you. What has their career path been? Are they lifers or did they come from another organization? If they came from outside, what attracted them? If they recently changed divisions, try to find out if they were moving away from something or someone, or were they moving to an opportunity. Just as the candidate is being interviewed, this is an opportunity for the candidate to interview as well. The key is to be certain that this is a perfect fit, a “win-win”.

  3. Great advice. I was recently runner-up for a position that I would have been terrific at. I always prepare relentlessly and ask probing questions.

    I’d be careful about No. 4, because I lost the job BECAUSE they felt that they should hire a woman for the position because two-thirds of their staff was female. I was never asked about it, but I’ll be honest — my extensive preparation did not turn over that fact so I didn’t raise it in the interview or in a detailed proposal I provided the search committee about what my first 30-90 days would look like in terms of asking questions and prioritizing challenges.

    The other “very careful” suggestion I’d make is to do some research on the HR department. I can’t tell you how many people I run into who tell me horror stories about never hearing about their status, about the lack of feedback as to where you fell short. That’s institutional (and often people you know within the company will be the most forthcoming about the problem). In those cases, it’s particularly important that you have an advocate or two within the company who will passionately speak in your favor around the conference room table.

    When it comes down to it, I truly believe that the hiring process is NOT about finding the best person for the job; it’s about eliminating candidates because (1) they lack something or (2) they might not totally fit in. I know it’s a slippery slope, but if your “solutions” don’t align perfectly that can be a reason for not making the cut (which may be OK if it wasn’t going to be the right place for you in the first place).

    The challenge is that the more homogeneous workplaces we create the less likely we are to optimize performance. It’s kind of like the prevent defense in football — all it does is prevent you from winning.

    Thanks for a great post, John.


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