Interview order and offers
Interviews are obligation-free with nothing to lose. Set up interviews at multiple places, not just the one place you want to get a job at. More interviews means more practice, and also some of the places might turn out to be way better than you initially thought.
Pro tip: if, say, you apply at 3 different places, interview at the place you like the least first and work through them from worst to best order, so that by the time you get to the interview for the place you like the most, you’re well practiced.
Setting a meeting time
Someone from the company will call to organize interview times.
Bad times to have the interview: just before lunch, or late afternoon just before home time or after work. At those times, both the interviewer and you are either hungry, tired or just wanting to get home, which arn’t optimal states of mind.
Mornings interviews are hard unless you’re a morning person, because you’re still waking up and not as sharp, and there’s almost no time to revise and prepare beforehand.
Early afternoon (1pm,2pm) seems to be the most ideal times to kindly request.
What to rehearse
There’s a few things worth rehearsing which will help in recalling later.
Reflect over your careers trials and triumphs, practice telling your career story.
Rehearse common interview questions with a spouse or friend.
Google “common interview questions”.
Here are a few non-industry specific examples:
- “why did you apply for this role?”
- “why do you think I should hire you?”
- “give me an example of a challenge you faced and how you overcame it?”
- “What are your weaknesses?”
Then search and rehearse a bunch of industry specific ones relating to the role you’re applying for. For example “common programming interview questions”.
This helps prevent feeling off-guard and panic’y, and helps better organize your thoughts and feel more confident on the day.
If they ask any of these, remember that they normally aren’t trying to “catch you out”, they most likely have no idea what to ask and simply Googled the same stuff as above.
Don’t worry about techniques/strategies
Don’t cram your brain with interview techniques and strategies. It is counter-productive because the more you’re trying to remember on the day, the more stress is created. And stress leads to memory blanks and awkwardness.
It makes more sense to depend on what you know best, which is being yourself who you’ve had experience being your whole life, rather than depending on techniques/strategies you’ve had experience with for a week or so.
The only thing you should actually worry about
Is getting a job that you’ll hate.
Imagine worrying so much about saying everything perfect that you miss a key piece of information from them that could indicate that the role isn’t a good match for you. Then being offered a job based on the personality you projected in the meeting which was different to who you actually are, and spending a year or more stuck in a worse job than your last.
The employer is trying to figure out if you’re a good match for them, but you should also be trying to figure out if they’re a good match for your personality, and identifying any red flags that would mean you’d hate working there.
You can do this through questions of your own, whether you get on well or not in the meeting, and how the actual meeting goes.
Be glad about the bad interviews, as it makes it obvious they arn’t a good match for you. Which is way better to learn BEFORE being hired by them.
Write a list of questions
Define for yourself what an ideal job looks like, as well as what a job you’d hate looks like. Then imagine yourself working in the role you’re applying for and all the different situations you might encounter and tasks you might do, and write down as many questions or concerns that you could ask about that would provide clues as to whether you’d love it or hate it.
Some examples are: asking them about their culture, what they think the biggest challenge for new employees would be, how they handle deadlines, how they learn from their mistakes, how they learn and improve from their mistakes, etc. Pay attention to the way they answer the questions as they can reveal red flags. Get creative with the questioning.
Order them so that the most important questions are at the top, so that if time is short then you can at least ask the most important questions that’ll affect your decision first.
Take the list of questions to the meeting. This shows organization, and also means you’ll never have the situation of getting home after it and thinking “oh shit I forgot to ask about X and Y”.
Having that list there with you also helps re-enforce to you that the meeting isn’t all about them, it’s a two-way street, which will relieve some pressure from you.
When to ask questions depends on how they want to structure the chat, most interviewers like to ask all their questions first, and they’ll let you ask yours after that if you have any. Other times it can be like a normal back-and-forth type of conversation where it doesn’t matter when you ask. Just roll with whatever style they seem to be going with.
Employer red flags
Some example red flags that likely indicate a bad employer during the interview:
- They don’t seem to want to be there
- They arn’t interested in what you do outside of work
- They don’t really care about your career goals
- They’re either annoyed or disinterested in your questions
- They give you the feeling like you’re not trustworthy, and they’re trying to catch you out
- They’re elitist, deminish your accomplishments
Other means of insight
To get more insight, you can try contacting current or past-employers, LinkedIn is great for finding these people. Try to talk to people in a similar role to the one you’re applying for. Low level employees that havn’t worked there for too long (maybe 1 year) are another option to talk to, as they won’t have drunk the cool-aid yet. You won’t get any useful information from someone who has worked there for a long time, because if the environment is terrible and they’ve stuck around for 10 years then they must think it’s normal.
Glassdoor and other employer reviewing websites can also help to shed some light into the company culture. Although beware that these sites tend to be represented mainly by disgruntled former employees, and may not reflect the company today.
Still anxious about the meeting?
It’s just a chat.
It can help to remind yourself what they actually are: two people getting to know each other, asking questions about each other’s work. Then both people going away to have a think, and then deciding whether they’d like to work together, and then seeing if the other agrees. That’s all it is.
There are zero risks or stakes: if either one of you decides to not continue, then you can happily continue on with your lives. If you say something dumb, then it doesn’t matter because you’ll probably never see them again. If you decide, after meeting, that you don’t like the sound of it, there’s no obligation to continue.
It’s not really that different from when you meet someone new at a party. You’re talking to them to see if you’ll get along and they’re doing the same. You might become friends or you might not, not everyone in the world matches every other.
I like to think of it like you’re dating this new company to see if you both want to commit to moving in with each other.
It’s easy to pick up on a lie in an interview.
If you don’t know something, be honest that you don’t know. But also say how you would go about learning it if the job requried. Bonus points if you can provide an example of when you didn’t know something in a past situation and how you came to learn and use it.
Still arn’t sure about them?
Talk about the interview to an experienced friend or mentor.
If you’re not sure, either you didn’t ask enough questions, do enough research, or you’re subconciously detecting something bad.
Try to get offers from more than one employer. Having a second offer to accept can really be a lifesaver if you resign from your current job and the first offer you accepted gets rescinded (this happened to me).
If you get turned down
Ask for feedback about your performance and why they turned you down, an interview is a good opportunity to find out what you need to work on. Take it as a humble learning opportunity. But also don’t be suprised if you don’t hear back again, it’s pretty common.