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How To Interview With Confidence

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Nov 8, 2022

How To Interview With Confidence

Dave Fano

You receive an email wanting to set up an interview, which is super exciting, but then fear kicks in. Don't let nerves keep you from landing your next opportunity.

Interview with Confidence 

Introduction

Interviewing is probably the most important part of the whole job search process. Your resume's job is to get you in the door, but once you're there, you really need to prove yourself through the interview process. Not only do you need to do it once, you’re probably going to need to do it multiple times with multiple people. 

We are going to talk about the tips and tricks that you could use to really get the best out of the interview process as we go through each interview stage. We will use the following agenda:

Approach

Let’s talk about Teal’s approach to interviewing. A key thing to recognize is that the resume gets you in the door. The interview gets you the offer. 

Throughout the whole process, you need to remember that you are a salesperson, and your product is you. You want to interview with confidence and be able to sell yourself without tipping the scale and being arrogant.

You’ve sent in your customized resume and submitted your applications. Then what you want to get is an email wanting to schedule an interview. It might be with an initial screener, or it might be directly with a hiring manager, but you’re going to get that email to launch you into the interviewing phase of the job search process. 

When you’re interviewing, remember that the company has a problem. They have a gap, and you need to be the solution to that problem. That is what you’re doing in the interview. Interviewing is where they are vetting you, screening out people that are not the right fit, and you need to prove you are the solution to their problem. 

Interview Stages

You just received that email to set up an interview. Yay! You are the salesperson, and the product is you, but what is happening on the customer’s side of the table?

Your goal during the interview process is to build trust. At each of these stages, you need the people to believe and trust that you would be a meaningful contributor to the team. You have to remember that there's a lot of identity wrapped in this. It is much riskier for them to say yes than no, so you have to be thinking about that the whole time.

How are you getting these people to trust you and trust that you are going to be a big part of the company? Let's think about the times that you have to build that trust, and it's in every step of the process. You have to build that trust because you’re being judged at every single step of the way. 

Let's talk about the process. 

Scheduling 

The first stage in the interview process is scheduling. You get that email saying they want to schedule an interview, and right there is your chance to make the first impression. 

How do you reply? Are you terse? Are you amicable? Are you flexible in the scheduling of the time? 

This is also your chance to vet them. One of our team members here at teal will say that the hiring process is oftentimes a preview for the movie. So if their hiring process is scattered and all over the place, there's a high likelihood that the company's gonna be that way.

This goes both ways. When you're selling, you don't sell to everybody. That said, I will say, delay the decision to either cut them off until the end, because you want to get that offer. Then you can decide. These first impressions are mutual at this stage.

They're looking to see how quick you respond, how you respond, and then you to them as well.

Screening

Then comes the screening. This is where they are qualifying you for the job.

The larger the organization, the higher likelihood this is a recruiter or a sourcer or a screener where they're going to do a 30 minute call. They're going to check that you're real, check that you have the credentials that you say you do, a little bit of a culture fit, and make sure that you're right. They have criteria from the hiring manager, and then they will move you forward in the process. 

Vetting

After that comes the vetting. This is probably the more intense part of the interview where you meet multiple people. Let's say one to five people. It might be the hiring manager. It might be different folks that are part of the hiring committee that you'd be working with - colleagues, direct reports. This is going to be the meatier part of the process.

People internally will then be asked to fill out surveys to see what they thought of you. They'll come together to see if they agree. Some companies will ask you for an assessment. Not always, this isn't always part of the case, but it's a growing trend in hiring and it might be paid or unpaid, but they will ask you to do some form of assignment.

If it's marketing, they might ask you to do a brief. If it's a product manager, they might ask you to do a white boarding session. Other disciplines might have different assessments, but that will usually happen there. Then internally they will all agree and say, okay, we want to make this person an offer.

That'll then get translated to HR, or whoever's going to craft the offer letter, and they will send it to you. 

Assessing

The assessment is when you demonstrate you have the ability to do the work. This is when you get tested. 

Signing Off

Then the sign off. That's that internal, lock in the final sign off, and then they will send you that offer letter. 

That's how the hiring process usually works. Again, every company is different. There is no standard for this, but these are what we would say are the major phases. Sometimes they might get rearranged. Some companies might do an assessment at the beginning. Some companies might do it at the end. Some might do it in the middle, but these are the major milestones that are going to happen internally at a company to ultimately send you that offer letter. 

Research

A great saying I really like is, “Choosing not to plan is planning to fail”. That’s what research is. It's your opportunity to really understand the company and understand, more importantly, the people. It might feel like a lot of work, but I promise you it is worth every second of doing it. 

Let's talk about how you would go about conducting this research prior to an interview. So, what are the key components to research and interview prep?

One key component is to understand the resume that you tailored to this company. Don’t just understand your generic success metrics. You are going to want to reread the job posting so understand all the things the company is calling out. 

You can probably even start to discern who in the interview process cares about what parts.  If it's a product management position, the hiring manager may care about certain things. Then HR might care about other things. Maybe engineering threw in one requirement. This is oftentimes the case that a position might be collaborated on to bring the JD together.

You really want to be clear on the requirements and the employer. You want to understand the company and their people. What does the company care about? What do those individuals care about? Once you understand those three components, you will be able to prepare for all interviews. 

How can you start to anticipate the questions you're going to get? Thinking about what they are going to ask you so you can prepare your answers is a big part of what you can do. You can go back to the JD that you dissected and used to make your resume. 

Your interviewer might phrase questions based on the wording of your achievements that you formed from the information on the JD. If you have experience with management, you might be asked to tell about your experience and/or provide examples. These may not be asked, but you want to have answers prepared just in case. 

Where do you do research on the company itself? 

We'd highly recommend that you go to the company website, go to their blog, and read about them. Spend time on their website, look at their language, look at their mission, their values, look at when they were founded, look at their org chart, then go to their social media sites. Look at their LinkedIn, look at their Twitter, look at their YouTube channels and go on beyond that. Are they using TikTok?

Are they leveraging the brand of their executives? Are there executives out there speaking on behalf of the company? Go and try to understand that. Go to Google news, Google the company and go to the news section. See if there's anything that's happened recently at the company. Then of course you can also go to places that are a little more expected, like Glassdoor and Crunch Base.

One of the mindsets that we recommend you use is that you are an investor and you're trying to vet this company and look at all the things an investor would look at if they were trying to invest in the company. Remember, you are investing your time into this company that you want to go work at.

It is going to either propel or hold back your career. As much as you're a salesperson and your product as you, and you want to be selling, you also want to be vetting. Look for those indicators, and that's going to really enable you to have a good discussion and for you to bring your questions.

Then also look at current and past employees. Go to your LinkedIn and see if you have a lot of connections that have worked there. Go look and see on their company page who works there. What are the roles? What are the profiles of the people? That's the kind of way that you can start to research the company and the people that work there.

Now you need to understand the company. Don't just look at the stuff on the surface. Understand their history, their mission, their values, and understand their product. 

See if you could get information on their financials and funding. Did they recently raise money? Are they venture backed? Are they a publicly traded company?

Look at their employees. Where did they go to school? What is their employee base made up of? If you can, try to find out who their clients and customers are. Who are their competitors? What technologies are they using? Most importantly of all,  what is the culture of the company like? 

These are all things that the more you know, the more you'll be able to come informed into the interview and ultimately ask really good questions. 

Once you get down to researching individuals, here's some things that you want to look for:

  • Similar backgrounds (education, hometown/state, previous employers)
  • Mutual connections - (ask for intel!)
  • Role, career path
  • What do you want to know about them? - start to build a list of questions

Think about those questions that are going to expedite connection and some of those questions that will show that you've done your research and impress these people.  

Within Teal’s Job Tracker is a super helpful “Notes” tool to track and update your research and interview questions and answers for each saved job. It pulls up next to the job description, making it easy to pull all the necessary keywords. Make any edits and additions you need, and your changes will be saved automatically.

(Teal’s Job Tracker saves notes for every job you are interested in to help you stay organized)
(Teal’s Job Tracker saves notes for every job you are interested in to help you stay organized)

Use this interview cheat sheet to keep track of your research. 

Interviewing

Let’s talk about actually sitting down for that interview and how the conversation might go. We’ve broken up the phases of the interview into five parts:

  1. Introduction - “Tell me about yourself”
  2. Small Talk - Get to know each other
  3. They Ask - Behavioral & credential questions
  4. You Ask - Learn and show your research
  5. Wrap Up - Assess status and next steps

One of the most common questions in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself”. This is your chance to make your first impression, and as cliche as it is, you only get one chance to make a first impression. 

There is research out there that shows that people make the decision in the first 90 seconds, so you really want to get this right. You don't want to ramble and talk on and on because that right there shows that you're not a concise and clear thinker and that you can't communicate clearly.

Next you want to be confident. Try to be careful with self deprecation or too much joking. If there's sarcasm, be confident, clear, and make sense. What you're going to do is leverage your blurb. A lot of that work that you did to tightly package your pitch is what you're going to pull here and be really good at it and rehearsed. Don't come off as rehearsed, but knowing the talking points is going to really help you come off as confident.

Next is to be relevant. Don't just have your cookie cutter bio. Make sure that your bio and your tell me about yourself speaks to the role, right?

Lastly, tell a story. Don't just come in and list a bunch of bullets. Talk about what you've done, where you are, and where you're going. Get it nice and tight. 

That sounds like a lot to cover in a minute to two minutes, but you can absolutely do it. It's probably the most important part of the interview because if you knock it out of the park, then you're going to keep your momentum.

Another thing we recommend that you do before you go into the interview is to do a little bit of introspection and self-awareness work on your work style by taking Teal’s Work Style Assessment

 (Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment)
(Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment)

Once you know your primary style, you can interview with more confidence. You can identify your strengths and weaknesses, what comes easy for you, and what might take more effort. Your style will be represented with numbers 1-4, but each number has its own meaning. 

Ones and twos tend to be fast paced. Threes and fours tend to be a little bit better at listening. The ones and fours tend to be a little more result oriented and might not make as much of that small talk. Then the twos and threes have high people orientation and want to get to know the person. So we'll go through them quickly. 

Primary One

Primary Two

Primary Three

Primary Four

That was a little bit of a wrap up on the work styles. Again, use the work style tool. Go to it, read it, read the job searching section, and read about interviewing. Hopefully that will give you some tips to better understand your style as you go into the interview. 

(Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment)
(Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment)

Now you need to anticipate behavioral questions, and behavioral questions are the ones that help the company understand how you would behave in a certain situation. Oftentimes they'll start with, “Tell me about a time when you…”. They're trying to craft the scenario and see how you behaved in that situation. 

Oftentimes there are two major categories:

  • Tell me about a time that you were awesome
  • Tell me about a time that you messed up 

They can be framed in different ways, but those are categorically the two big buckets about behavioral situations, and they want to see that. Do you have the wherewithal to talk about those things? More importantly, can you talk about what you learned? 

There are two main strategies for how to answer a behavioral question. The first method, the one that we like, is called the CAR method. It keeps it simple.

Here is an example of the CAR method: 

The next method is the STAR method, and a lot of companies explicitly prescribe this method. It's very similar to the CAR method. The main difference is that the C is broken out into two, the situation and the task, and then the action and the result are pretty much the same. 

Here is an example of the STAR method:

Here is a tool, the Interview Questions Database, that we developed here at Teal that has a list of questions you can practice. You can also add your own questions here. We recommend that you update this after every interview so you have a record of typical questions in your field and industry. 

The last thing we're going to cover in this section is questions that you ask. This is your opportunity to show that you did research. You've come informed, you're excited about the company, and you really want to be there. 

The categories of questions you may want to ask about are: 

  • Day to day job responsibilities
  • Onboarding, training, professional development, and career path
  • Success metrics, performance, management style, and priorities
  • Company
  • Team (and individuals)
  • Culture
  • Next steps

Prepare a list of 5-10 questions but know that you may only have time to ask a few. 

So with that, we've covered the interviewing process. Again, these are like one-on-one interviews and not necessarily a panel interview or the different types of interviews that might happen for very specific roles. For the one-on-one interview process, be it the screener, a hiring manager or someone who's on the hiring committee, these tactics and tips should really help you get through the process with way more success.

Video Interviews

Let’s talk about video interviews. Video interviews before the pandemic were common, but now they are incredibly common. I would say they're here to stay, especially for the first few phases of the process, because they're so much more efficient, and this gives you the advantage as a job seeker.

You want to make sure you familiarize yourself with the different platforms that can be used for video interviews. Some of the most common platforms are:

  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • Google Meet
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Cisco WebEx

You want to make sure that you download and test them prior to your interview. If it's not in the calendar invite, I would ask which platform they plan on using so you make sure that it works. You don't want any technical glitches with the platform, and you want to be comfortable with it.

You want to know that it works with your webcam, works with your microphone. So test the platform, install it, make sure it. 

The next thing you want to do is prepare and eliminate all distractions. Things to consider:

  • Banish the pets and kids
  • Get in the right mindset
  • Join session 5-10 minutes early in case there are issues
  • Silence all notifications (sounds) and your cell phone during interview

Something we can’t stress enough is to test your technology. 

  • Check your internet connection (and hotspot)
  • Download their virtual meeting software
  • Set up your camera angle
  • Test your sound (speaker, microphone, or headphones)

Try as much as you can to present your best self and have it look as natural as you can.

Think about your body language during the virtual interview because it really matters. 

  • Don’t sit with your arms crossed
  • Prep for optimal eye contact with camera
  • Use good posture to show engagement
  • Smile when appropriate
  • Nod to show understanding
  • Be aware of hand gestures (don’t overuse but don’t be a statue)

Really try not to look at your phone during any point of the interview. The only exception would be if you have any notes on your phone for a quick reference. 

If someone barges in the room, stay calm and collected because they are going to get an opportunity to see how you handle pressure. 

If something unrepairable happens in the moment, ask if you can reschedule and follow up, but remember to stay calm and don’t let them see you freak out. 

The main thing you really want to be thoughtful of during a video interview is how you frame the picture. Think about the lighting, the camera angle, and that the technology really works. It's not something to be too overwhelmed about, but get good at it. You might need it for meetings in a future role anyway. 

Styling Your Interviewer

We touched on your work styles, but how can you style your interviewer? It’s one of my favorite things because I think of it like cheat codes for interviewing, and it really expedites your ability to connect with people. 

What you want is empathy, right? You want to be able to understand what matters to this person, and you want to be able to connect with them as quickly as possible. You want to show that you understand them and what matters to them. The faster you’re able to do this, the more you’ll be able to get out of the relationship, and it will translate into negotiation. 

We really want you to try to understand the work style. This should really help you to build a rapport with each interviewer. This isn't just one thing you do across the board. You do it with each interviewer. Let's jump in and talk about how you might do that. 

Is the interview going fast? If you think about the times you've had interviews in the past, was the interviewer asking you a lot of questions? Were they moving quickly? Were they talking a lot, or was it a bit slower when they asked you questions? You’re going to want to be looking for and thinking about pacing in your interview. 

What does that mean in relation to style?

If they are fast paced, they are probably a primary one or two. If it’s a little bit slower, a little more operational and they’re better at listening, they are probably a three or four. 

One thing I want to call out is that you’re styling the interaction and not the person. There is a high correlation with the interaction and the person, but there are some companies that teach interviewing methodology that then may wash away the person’s style. 

Some companies may have a very three, four style of interviewing. Some companies may have a very one, two style of interviewing, but again, I think it's highly likely that the person will reveal their style in the process. 

The next thing you want to think about is interviews you’ve had in the past. Did the person try to get to know you on a personal or professional level? Neither is better or worse, but it’s going to tell you what the person has a higher concern with. Once you have that, you're able to discern if they're a primary one, four or two, three. 

If they're focused on results and they're trying to focus on understanding your accomplishments, credentials, and the kind of work you did, it’s a high likelihood that's a one, four exchange. If they're trying to connect on the details of who you are as a person, then it’s probably a two, three exchange. Once you have those two, what we call 50/50’s, you can start to get a better understanding of what that person's primary style might be. 

Another thing you can do is research this in advance. If you go to a person's LinkedIn page and see that they're posting a lot of personal information, pictures with their kids, that would tell you they're probably on more of the two, three side. If they're posting a lot of credentials, all company related details, not revealing where they're from in their bio, it's probably on that one, four side.  

You can come into an interview with an assumption of their style, but then you wouldn't want to vet it in real time in the meeting. 

One of the things I like to do when I do my “tell me a bit about yourself” is I'll leave in one little bit of personal information because that's a way for me to direct the conversation and give them some bait to latch onto.

I'll end with, “Yeah, and I grew up in Miami”. If they connect with that then and provide direct commentary back about Miami, then this person is a people’s person, or on a two, three side. If they acknowledge but then want to jump into credentials, they are probably on that one, four side. 

I can usually start to get a sense of their primary style, which would then tell me the things that I need to do to gain that person's trust. 

If they are a primary one, I know that they care about what I’ve done. The interviewer will be direct and want you to get to the point quickly. They are trying to understand if you are good or not and they want to be efficient and not waste time. 

Interviewing with a primary two is going to be a great conversation. They are going to want to know about you. The interviewer will be conversational and may ask questions spontaneously. They will appreciate it if you try to get to know them and connect with them on a sincerity basis. 

When you're interviewed by primary three, they're going to focus a lot on the how and process. They are going to want to understand how you did things. Things you could look for in this interview are note keeping and tasks lists. Are they running a process and have their questions all documented? A primary three interviewer will want to build rapport and know if you are easy to work with. 

Then if you're being interviewed by a primary four, they're going to want to know “why”. Primary fours are very inquisitive and also pretty high on the skepticism. You’re going to need to prove more often than not with data and metrics that you have these credentials. Be mindful of this and come prepared. 

Here are some tips for interviewing with each style: 

Primary One

  • Greet quickly, give eye contact
  • Use direct language and stick to the point
  • If you’re unsure of the answer, be honest and don’t try and fake it
  • Avoid getting into right/wrong, win/lose, debates by saying “I see your point” or “I see the logic in your thinking”
  • Wrap up by asking what additional information or action they need from you 

Primary Two

  • Use an upbeat, high-energy, enthusiastic greeting
  • Demonstrate warm body language and eye contact
  • Be open to informal conversations and open-ended discussions
  • Allow time for them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings
  • Share what you personally find exciting about their company, position, etc. 

Primary Three

  • Greet them using a warm and low-key approach
  • Ask open-ended questions to learn more about them and the company
  • Proceed at a steady, measured pace, stopping periodically to let them ask questions easily
  • Assure that you will be following up to make sure they have everything they need to make their decision

Primary Four

  • Let them decide how formal or informal the conversation will be
  • Use logical, matter of fact statements rather than emotional expressions
  • Pay attention to their reasoning process - what is important to them and why it is important 
  • Be prepared to spend time answering questions thoroughly or providing additional information 

That is some information on how to think about work style in the interviewing process. Think a little bit about your work style, but more importantly, how to think about the style of your interviewer. Spend some time on this. 

What we are really trying to do here is use this toolkit to engage with this person and build trust. We want them to believe that we will be a meaningful contributor to the company. 

Following Up

The interview is done, so now what? We can’t stress enough how important this next step is. The next step is to follow up and send a thank you email. 

Something to be mindful of is don’t send just one email to each interviewer. Send a thank you email per person that you interviewed with. If you don’t have their email address, make sure to find it. Send a thank you to each person directly, and send it the same day of the interview. Not sending a thank you email shows a lack of professionalism. 

Located within Teal’s Job Tracker are communication templates for different stages of interviewing. Copy the template, tweak it to match the situation, and send it off to the appropriate contacts.

(Within the Job Tracker, the communication templates help keep you stand out during each stage of the interview process)
(Within the Job Tracker, the communication templates help keep you stand out during each stage of the interview process)

Leave a good impression in the email by:

  • Being specific and relevant
  • Writing a clear subject line
  • Triple checking for typos/grammar
  • Timing it right

We have another template you can use:

Use this as a guide, but add some specificity based on what you talked about in the interview. We again can’t stress enough that you send a thank you email to each person you speak to. 

If there was just a recruiting screener, send them a thank you as well. It can't hurt. Gratitude is great. If someone sent you a referral or someone helped you get an intro, send them a thank you as well. 

It's important that you also keep track of these interviews and that you send a follow up.

You had the interview, you sent your thank you, and you haven't heard back in a week. Now you want to send an email to either the recruiter or the hiring manager potentially. You want to do it once a week for three weeks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following up. It is good form, as long as you do it tactfully and respectfully. 

Keep track of your interview date and initial and all follow up dates in the Teal Job Tracker. It’s a great way to show your professionalism. 

We strongly encourage you to follow up until you get the email saying that they’ve declined or you get to move on to the next step.

Wrap Up

The interview is an involved process, and it’s probably the most important part of the whole job search process. This is when you really win over the company, so you really want to think about how you do that. 

You want to be very rigorous, and you want to do your research. You want to be prepared by understanding the company and the people. If you can really level up your game and understand their work style and prepare for how you'd engage with them and understand how your work style will interact with their work style even better, that'll really give you the leg up.

Then be mindful about how you follow up. You send that thank you and those pertinent points that you talked about in the interview. Show what it would be like to work with you and why you would be a great asset to the company. 

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Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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