This is the updated version of an article I wrote a few years ago, refreshed with additional tips.
I’ve interviewed over 500 candidates for open roles and have had my fair share of sitting in the interviewee’s seat over my 20+ year career.
At this point, I’ve been on both sides of the interview process so many times that I can usually tell within the first 5–10 minutes if a person is going to do well.
The best candidates:
- Nail the answer to the most important question.
- Know a few things about the interviewer. It’s easy to look the interviewer up online and only takes a few minutes of research. There is no excuse to know nothing about the person interviewing you unless they’ve deliberately hidden everything about themselves. Why is this important? It shows you’re curious, and will make the effort to connect with people that you interact with.
- Really want the job. It’s not easy to fake enthusiasm for a role that you aren’t all that jazzed for. Which is all the more reason to go after that role you really want, because during the interview, it shows.
- Can articulate clearly what they bring to the role. Far too many candidates think an interviewer only wants to hear about how hungry they are to learn, and how the role is great for them because they’re going to learn lots. This is good as a starting point. But don’t forget that as a candidate, you’re being assessed on how valuable you will be to your team mates and the organisation.
- Aren’t just in it for the money. I understand that we all need to earn a salary. We need to pay bills. But if “earning lots of money” is your primary driver, there’s only a certain kind of company that will hire you. And it probably won’t have the ideal culture that makes you want to show up to work everyday.
- Come to the interview with well thought-out ideas. It’s almost like they’ve already inhabited the role and are thinking through how they are going to strategise, execute, deliver, and be successful. To the interviewer, the discussion starts to feel like a meeting after they’ve already landed the role.
- Ask insightful questions. It’s almost impossible to ask great questions during an interview if you haven’t done the homework. The more research and thinking you do, the more you will realise that there are challenges you will need to solve. If you can make it clear to the interviewer that you are past the initial stage and are ready to address and solve the problem they may have already encountered, or even better, that they haven’t even thought about, you will gain an amount of respect that few other candidates will be able to match you on.
- Are humble. In today’s world where we’re all taught by influencers and “career coaches” to make sure our “personal brands” are strong, we need to remember that humility is what makes all that effusive self-promotion tolerable and believable. Without it, you simply sound like a really bad salesperson that no one wants to buy anything from.
- Are respectful and likeable. While merit matters, no one will ever hire someone they do not like. It’s pretty simple. Be nice. Be respectful. And act like the true professional you are while doing it.
- Understand that “no” doesn’t mean “never”. I can point to multiple times where someone who didn’t get a “yes” response the first time, did get a role in the end. If you don’t take the “no” personally and behave like you’re always interviewing for a future role, albeit one that’s a little later down the track than you anticipated, you could be the first person the hiring manager calls when another role opens up.
If you do these things, you’re almost always going to be one of the top candidates. If you don’t end up with the role, you will at least be satisfied that you did everything you could and were simply beaten by someone who was a better fit in the eyes of the organisation.
Ian Yip is the founder and CEO of Avertro, a venture-backed cybersecurity software company. Avertro CyberHQ® is leadership’s command centre for cybersecurity.