ask for the sale.

Theory: Go to every interview with the intention of getting the offer. This is how you stay in control of your career. You can always turn an offer down, or negotiate, but it's better to have the choice than no choice at all.

Practical: Tell them you're genuinely interested in the job, and why.  Ask about next steps, so you can get a sense of their interest as well.  Ask if they have any concerns, so you can address them on the spot.   Be honest with your feedback.  If you are a low key person, try to pump up the energy a bit, just like a salesperson would (a little extra energy goes a long way).


tell 2-minute stories.

Theory: People tend to describe themselves with subjective opinions or very general statements: “I’m a quick learner” “I'm good under pressure” “I’m a great manager”. If you can tell compelling stories, facts are far more valuable and memorable than mere opinions. 

Practical:  Tell two-minute stories, not overly long stories that ramble.  Practice makes perfect! Tell the punchline, THEN the joke.  In other words, start with the point of your story "I'm a quick learner" and then go into the details supporting your point.  That way your interviewer understands where your story is headed and feels confident you're answering the question properly.  If your story goes on to long, at least you've already made your point. If your interviewer asks a vague question like "What's your biggest strength" then you can pull out a two-minute story and more easily satisfy this question (even if it's a somewhat lame way of interviewing, it's a very common question).


be prepared.

 

Theory: Better prepared candidates get better offers.You might be used to "winging it" and getting good offers through charm & basic skills, but the further along you go in your career, the stronger your competition.  

Practical:  Confirm the location and parking! Startups often move as they grow, or publish an address that's different from the physical location. Thoroughly review the company website & other relevant sites so you can demonstrate your preparation by asking intelligent questions.  If you are not truly prepared or if you don't feel well, it's always better to reschedule.

ALSO! don't waste time with code exercises if you know you have specific weak spots that may result in failure.  Dedicate the time to hone your skills through the wide variety of online resources, mentors and friends, local tech meetups, etc.  We've seen a tremendous difference for job-seekers who slowed down their search and started interviewing again once truly ready.  


ask good questions.

Theory: Interactive interviews are more fun and productive than a formal Q&A style. Just like dating! You can better assess culture fit, and it shows you're really interested.

Practical: Ask the interviewer about their background – especially if you have things in common. Most people like to talk about themselves, and they'll associate positive feelings with you as a result.  Ask for feedback during and/or at the end of the interview.  If you're not clear on a question, ask the interviewer for clarification. Don't just dive in and possibly give the wrong answer.  Ask intelligent questions about the company or the job.  Be an active listener, nodding and agreeing at the appropriate times (just don't interrupt!).


say thank you.

 

Theory: Gratitude doesn't compensate for a lack of skill, but it can still get you an offer if culture fit and attitude outshine your other deficiencies.  Saying 'thank you' is so easy!

Practical: Be nice to the administrative staff.  They have influence! Occasionally that might even be a founder greeting you at the door.  Be respectful of people's time.  If you have more questions, but it's clear they want to wrap it up, then say Thank You and let them go on with their day.  Send a thank you note (typically email) after the interview so long as it's brief, and not too pushy.  That's not old school - it's just polite.   If you are being represented by a recruiter, send the thank you note through your recruiter or ask permission first.


watch body language.

Theory: Body language and eye contact are powerful tools if you learn how to use them.

Practical:  Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. Are you sitting up straight? Do your clothes fit ok when sitting and standing?  If you tend to fidget (everyone does), try holding your hands firmly together in your lap.  If you have nervous feet, try crossing them at the ankles. Do you have a hard time with eye contact? It's not uncommon. Instead of looking down at the floor or out the window, find a point just beyond the person's face or stare at their forehead. Not their chest!  :)  

Pay attention to your interviewer’s body language as well. Mirroring their body language can be very effective, assuming they appear relaxed and confident. If they look bored or distracted, ask them a question and see if you can engage them better. Body language is often your best indicator of success or failure in an interview.  It's complicated but worth the effort.


stay positive.

Theory: Positive people are more likely to get hired and succeed. Pretending to be positive is almost as good as the real thing (and can actually turn it into reality).

Practical: Listen carefully to the way you tell your stories, and how you generally interpret situations.  Ask trusted friends and coworkers for feedback if you might not be self-aware about your communication style. Does it look like you're in control of your life decisions, or do you simply let things happen to you? Do you take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them, or is there usually someone else to blame? Can you look at a "bad" situation such as poor management, layoffs, lack of funding... and find the good things that came out of it? Planning your career takes a certain amount of soul searching. If you are not naturally a positive person, this is a fine opportunity to work on it.   It really does make a difference.  


Theory: If you treat every experience as a growth opportunity, you'll gain a lot more from interviewing than merely "pass/fail".

Practical: Before you go into any interview, decide what else you want besides a job offer. Maybe you want to learn more about a particular industry or product. Maybe it's something technical. Maybe it's personal, like improving your ability to speak in front of others or just generally gaining confidence. If you are intentional about these goals, even if you don't get the offer, you'll feel better about your interviews.

always be learning.