Strategies for Job Interviews

Strategies for Job Interviews

Practical tips for job seekers and fresh graduates.

January 30, 2021

Job hunting is never easy. You send your resume to many companies and hope that at least one of them invite you for an interview. But once you land an interview, how do you make sure you don't blow your chance?

Based on my experience in hiring, interviewing, searching for a job, and getting a job in Singapore and Indonesia, I hope this article would help you ace your next interview.

First, Shift Your Mindset

Keep in mind that most of the time, you will fail your first few interviews. So learn from your mistakes and learn the patterns. Fix your shortcomings and see if it works in the next interview. There is no silver bullet, interviewing is about trial and error.

Take note of everything

One of the biggest mistakes people do when interviewing is by not learning anything after the interview. Whether you pass or fail the interview, there are things that you should take note of:

- the interview questions

- questions you can't answer

- questions you can answer with doubt

- questions you can answer confidently

- the follow-up questions

Try to remember all the things that you were able and not able to answer. This is the key to ace your next interview. Learn from your mistakes.

Job Interviews in General

When you got invited for an interview, the preparation will differ depending on who you will be talking to. Generally, you will speak with the HR, the user, and the management.

What's the difference between the three? The context of the interview.

HR interview:

most likely, it will be a background check - your experiences, salary, expectations, and culture fit. Some companies might have a technical HR which would ask basic technical questions to filter out candidates upfront.

User/Technical interview:

Expect a more technical interview process with people you will work with directly. It varies for each role, but in general, you'll talk about your experience — the projects you've done and how you work with other people.

They also want to understand whether they'd enjoy working with you or not, so expect questions that will challenge your answers.

Management interview:

Less technical, but more about culture, trying to understand how you think, and how you fit into their team.

Now you have an idea of what to talk about when you are invited for an interview. Always ask: "Who will be in the interview, what are we going to discuss, and what should I prepare for the interview?". Just be honest and say that you want to be well prepared for the conversation.

Interview Patterns

When you are searching for a specific role, there is a pattern that you can find in each interview. For example, in every interview, I guarantee that you will need to introduce yourself.

As I stated before, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The key here is to truly understand yourself and what the interviewer wants to know about you. Below are a couple of questions that you will most likely receive in an interview.

Q: Please tell me about yourself

Every interview starts with this question. The interviewers want to know about you — they don't want to hear you reading your resume. They want hear a story from a human being. So keep it short and concise, add a little spice of who you are.

💡 Tips: Just enough introduction

A job interview is about trying to match you and the role you wish to fill. So don't talk about irrelevant things. Keep it short and concise — if they want to learn more about you, they will ask. No, they don't care about how many siblings you have.

Hi, my name is Brian. I've been a designer for around 5 years, and currently working as a designer at X.

💡 Tips: Your experience

When you talk about your experience, add a little info about your company, but not too much. Don't expect everyone to know about your employer, give them a little context about your company and what you do there.

X is a [short description of your company and what you do there]. I've been here for 2 years, and previously worked at Y [short description] and Z [short description].

💡 Tips: What are you passionate about?

Add a pinch of personality in your introduction. This is what would distinguish you from other candidates. But try to keep it relevant to the role that you are applying for, if possible.

Apart from design, I also run a blog about creativity and productivity. I love to write, as it helps me organize my thoughts and by doing so I am able to share my ideas with other people.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. What the interviewers want to know is whether you truly understand yourself or not. If you have any strengths, how does it help you in doing your work? If you have weaknesses, what do you do to overcome them?

💡 Tips: Everyone have strengths and weaknesses

The red-flag answer to this question is to tell them that you don't have a strength or a weakness. Or you don't know what your weaknesses are. Nobody is perfect. Just be honest about it, and if you still don't know what yours are, take some time to reflect — don't rush it.

Q: Why do you want to work here? Why do you want to leave your company?

An interviewer wants to understand you both personally and professionally. So it is essential for the interviewer to understand your goals. They don't want to hire people who work just for the money.

Find a goal that you want to achieve, things you want to learn, and areas you want to improve on. These things are essential as it shows that you are someone who wants to learn and improve.

💡 Tips: Why here? Why leave?

When asked about why you want to leave your current company, think about what you can't achieve in your current company, what you have tried, and why you think moving on would be the best option.

Then, state what do you think would help you achieve your goal. This way, you can connect the two question: why you are leaving, and why you want to join their company.

Tell a story and connect the dots.

💡 Tips: Don't badmouth your current employer

When it comes to hiring, people who say bad things about their current employer will be given a huge red flag. Nobody wants to work with someone like who blame others. Focus on yourself, don't do this.

Ps. Been there — done that. Both as someone who was hiring and an interviewee. Don't do this!

💡 Tips: Don't kiss their ass

I once interviewed someone who tried very hard to kiss my ass. She told us that she had never tried our products, but at the same time, she also said our product is the best in the market. During the interview, she kept trying to win good points by saying good things about my company.

The conversation did not last longer than 30 minutes because it was simply not enjoyable. Don't embarrass yourself like this.

Q: What do you want to be in 3-5 years?

It is good to have a long-term goal, so the interviewer can see that you have put some thoughts about what you want to be in the future. This question helps the interviewer understand whether they can help you achieve your goals or not. 

It's okay if you are not sure about the next 3-5 years. But at the very least, tell them something that you want to learn or achieve in the near future. Make it relevant to the current role that you are applying to.

💡 Tips: You can design your life

If you want to give a great answer, do it by actually planning your life for the next 3-5 years. Think about your ideal life in the next 5 years. Then, plan backwards.

For example, if in 5 years I want to be a manager, what do I have to accomplish in the next 3 years? Repeat until you have it all planned.

Q: Tell us about a mistake you've made, and how did you handle it?

Just be honest and share your stories. Don't beat yourself up too much, as it will show that you are not capable. Instead, tell them what you've learned from that experience and how you've been improving yourself since then.

The interviewer wants to know how you handle mistakes. More importantly, they want to understand your attitude when you are faced with a distressing situation. 

Tell a Story

This is the most crucial part of it all. Tell a story. Don't just say things in bullet points — tell a story of how you got here. Bring the listeners to your world. Help them understand your situation, your point of view, and why you decided to do what you did.

When talking about your strengths, tell a story of how it has helped you in the past. Give them examples so they can see how your skills would benefit their company. The same goes for weaknesses, tell them why something is a weakness and what you do to overcome your weaknesses.

Beginning, Middle, Ending

That's the cue of your story. Begin with the context of the situation. What was the task, and what were you supposed to do. Get the audience to understand the problem.

In the middle, talk about what happened. What was the process, what did you do, and what's the result. Talk about your choices and the reason behind your decisions.

Lastly, end it with the things you learn from that experience. What would you change if you had a chance to fix it? How does that experience change you? What would be your approach if you were to face a similar situation?

Be Honest

Sounds easy to do but not that easy to apply. What if you actually don't know how to answer a question? My advice is to just be honest. Say that you don't know. Move on to the next question. That's it.

Don't try to answer with random answers, or assume that you know the answer. If you want to give it a try, be honest:

I'm not sure I know the answer, but I might have an idea.

Or, you can also ask the interviewer to clarify the question:

I'm not sure I understand your question, can you please clarify?

Honesty is one of the best qualities you can find in a candidate. I am always happy to talk with people who admit that they don't know.

Don't Lie

Do you really not know why? Lying is one of the worst things that you can do in an interview. Once you lie, you need to cover it up with other lies. And if the interviewer does not buy your words, your chance is gone.

Don't lie.

Interview is a Process

Most people won't pass an interview on the first try. So take every interview as an opportunity to learn. Interviews have its patterns — study the questions, note them down, and practice beforehand. Don't give up on your first few tries. Your life is not over if you fail, get your shit together, accept it, learn from it, and move on.

The best way to present yourself in an interview is by being yourself. Be honest, and don't make stuff up. People want to understand whether you could fit in their company or not. So tell a story. 

Interviewing is just a skill. To pass, you just need to practice. To practice, you need to fail for a while.

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