How to nail your next job interview

Two months ago I started a new job at Uber as a product designer. In the months prior I had several interviews at agencies, tech companies, startups and remote companies.

Applying for a new job can be a full-time job. My evenings were spent searching open positions, preparing my portfolio, applying, interviewing and (in my case) doing design challenges.

Perfecting your application is a juggle when you’re already working a full-time job.

I was privileged enough to be called in for several job interviews for different companies, and want to share my learnings on interviewing from an interviewee perspective.

Whether you’re currently preparing to apply for a new job or looking to hire, here’s some pointers to help prepare you for your next interview:

 

During the interview

1. Just as I researched you, the least you could do is the same
If you’ve been asked to interview a candidate, a quick scan of their application or google search goes a long way. It’s not a nice feeling to be two or three steps into an interview process and be interviewed by someone who has no idea who you are. Just like I put effort into preparing for this interview by researching you and your company, the least I expect is for you to do the same.

2. It’s obvious when you’re distracted
A few of my interviews were for remote positions, so the interview was via a video call. When on video it’s super easy to tell when the other person is preoccupied with something else on screen. While I understand that perhaps you’ve already made your mind up about me, the least you can do is continue to provide me with your attention.

3. I want to ask questions too
‘Do you have any last questions for me?’ is such a powerful question. In one interview the employer asked me a ton of questions before ending the interview once he’d gone through his list. I had no opportunity to ask a question of my own. Remember, I’m interviewing you too.

4. Ask to meet the team
Your teammates are who you’re going to be working with day in, day out. So it’s important you gel well. If it’s not offered, ask for the opportunity to meet a couple of your team members. This is a great way to not only get to know them and how the team works, but also to ask questions about management. Often the people you’re interviewing with are senior or management level, so it’s always good to hear others perspectives.

Let’s talk bout Salary

1. Decline sharing your salary
Never, ever tell your current salary — it’s not relevant. Most of the time when applying for a new job you’re applying for a new challenge. Perhaps you’re applying for a role that is a different level of seniority, specialisation or field all together. It’s never going to be the same job requiring the same responsibilities, therefore your current salary is irrelevant. Almost every time I declined to share my current salary the recruiter said it was ‘no problem’ and we proceeded without it being brought up again.

2. Don’t ask for my salary expectation early on
Almost every first phone screening included the question ‘what’s your salary expectation?’. I found this is an impossible question to answer so early on as I didn’t yet know enough about the company or role to reasonably assume a fair salary. Your salary expectation should be based on not just what you need in order to live, your current skillset and experience. It should also consider the specific responsibilities of the role. Ask to discuss the role first before providing a salary expectation.

3. Be honest with me
If I’ve said early on my salary expectation is $200 a month and you can only offer $100 a month, please don’t wait until the end of the interview process to tell me.

How to communicate

1. Meet in person, early (if possible)
If you’ve been asked to do a design challenge, make sure you’ve at least met your manager or the team first. Design challenges are a lot of work (each of mine took between 8 and 12 hours). Before agreeing to put effort and time into a design challenge, it’s worth knowing first whether you want to even work at the company. Often employers forget that an application means ‘I’m interested’ and not ‘I want to work there’. Simply because I’ve shown interest with an application doesn’t mean I’m willing to invest 12 hours in a design challenge too.

2. Keep communication in one language
Living in The Netherlands means the language used to communicate is a gamble of either Dutch or English. Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks English so I didn’t feel uncomfortable applying or communicating in English. However, even though all my communications were in English I’d occasionally get replies in Dutch. Awkward.

It goes without saying that employers will judge you based on your application — so make sure it’s a good one. Tidy up your portfolio, get someone to proof read your application and write a strong cover letter. If you’re called in for interview — congratulations! — always do your research on the company and prepare some questions.

Good luck!

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