So you’re looking for work and you’ve landed one (or hopefully more!) interviews. What’s next? How do you prepare for that initial phone call, or face-to-face meeting with the interviewer? Here are a few things that we think are essential to do before you dive into that process.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. What the heck is a ‘fit interview’ anyway? Well, while the term “fit interview” itself can be a loaded term, it’s generally referring to an early stage interview with a job candidate. In this interview, the interviewer will ask questions to assess the candidate’s experience, but not really focus on their technical skills. The questions in this interview will likely explore the candidate’s ability to work effectively on a team, or with customers. They might also encompass particular challenges, weaknesses or strengths and how they may relate to the position. Overall, these questions are loosely designed to allow the interviewer to evaluate how you will contribute to the company and ‘fit’ in with current employees.
So now that we know what a fit interview is, how do we prepare for it? There are a few steps you should take as part of any fit interview preparation process.
STEP ONE: DO YOUR RESEARCH
So you probably already know you should do some sort of research on the company to prepare for the interview. But knowing exactly what you should be researching can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions on where to look, what to look for, and why you might need it.
THE COMPANY’S WEBSITE
Yeah, this one does seem like a bit of a freebie, but you’d be surprised how much information you can find out about a company from the company’s website. Here’s what we suggest looking for on different parts of the page:
On the main website:
Get a feel for the way the company presents itself, the clients they might be interested in and other generalities
Look specifically for more information about the products the company provides and think about how those products might impact the role you’re applying for
Does the website have a page on company culture, values, or other things that might be relevant to applicants? If so, read it!
On a marketing blog:
Review the blog for the most up to date information about new products
Get more context on the direction the company is taking and relevant industry trends
On a technical blog:
Eureka! For anyone applying for an role in engineering (or closely associated roles like product management) make sure to review this goldmine
Look for the specific technologies the company works with including programming languages, frameworks, and infrastructure providers
The challenges the engineering team is currently facing
The needs the engineering team might have
Getting this information allows you to understand the needs of the business and how your role can fit into that picture. Not only does it allow you more opportunities to impress the interviewer with your knowledge of the company, it also gives you more ways to think about specific things you can contribute to the organization.
In addition to what the company itself puts out into the world, you can also take advantage of information and opinions from current and former employees. Glassdoor allows you to review things like:
What interview questions have been asked before
What people really think about the company
What the role pays (or what other roles pay)
Now all this information is limited by what current employees have themselves decided to include. But it is still a great resource for anyone wanting another perspective and more information before an interview.
SPEAKING TO PEOPLE AT THE COMPANY
One thing that’s not a simple Google search away is actually connecting with current employees at the company you’re applying for. While we typically suggest you reach out to current employees before you even apply, if you haven’t spoken to anyone yet and you have an interview coming up it’s not too late to reach out and get more information about the role.
STEP TWO: PREPARE FOR QUESTIONS
Now that you’ve completed your research, you’re in a much better place to prepare for interview questions. There are a few types of questions that you might want to prepare for.
TYPICAL FIT QUESTIONS
In most fit interviews, you might expect to hear someone ask you to “Tell me about a time when…” or you might encounter some version of a question about your greatest weaknesses or strengths. For this stereotypical subset of questions, consider preparing some adaptive stories. These will give you a few stories related to your experience that can hopefully help you answer (almost) any of these questions.
If, from your research, you discovered that it’s likely you’ll be asked a particular question, make sure to prepare for it! But, try not to prepare for it by memorizing a specific rehearsed answer. Instead, try to think of a few key points you’d like to incorporate in a response or create a loose structure that you can follow. Unless you’re also a professional actress, if you give yourself too rigid of an outline you can come across as sterile or unengaging.
“TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF”: YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
A very common interview question is for an interviewer to say something along the lines “Tell me about yourself.” A few common misconceptions are that this question is an opportunity to rehash your resume or to chat about trivial hobbies. It’s not.
Possibly the best way you can respond to this question is to clarify two points:
What do you bring to the table?
Why are you specifically interested in this role with this organization?
One of the easiest ways to structure an answer to this question that hits these two points is to focus on where you are now, what experience you bring with you, and your goals for the future (and how they relate to this role). When you’re doing this you can write out a few bullet points that help you form your comprehensive introduction, but don’t just stick to your resume! For example, Ruby Rust might have a pitch like this:
So Ruby, tell me about yourself, why are you interested in the Software Engineering role with Joyfly?
Well, right now I’m a Frontend Engineer at Cyclonica where I craft modern web interfaces for enterprise users with tools like React and Redux. Before that I worked for a large clothing retailer where I developed features of an ecommerce site that served millions of monthly users. Right now I’m interested in more opportunities to apply the range of development skills I’ve gained through these experiences. Specifically, I’m hoping to leverage my already strong knowledge of frontend development with the backend skills I’ve gained and build full-fledged products and features for Joyfly.
Wow! You’re hired!
Ok, so maybe it doesn’t normally go that well right away. But this sort of answer gives some highlights to Ruby’s experiences without just rehashing resume bullets. It also explains Ruby’s interest in this specific role because it shows she wants to continue to pursue new challenges and grow at the company by building off her existing skills.
STEP THREE: FOLLOW UP
We’ve mostly been talking about the juicy middle part of the interview. But there’s also important steps to take after the interview is over. The moment you walk out of the doors, take a second to jot down 1-2 things that you and the interviewer discussed that make sense in the context of a follow up email. Anything from a specific project that the company or team is working on, to any feedback or insight you got out of the conversation.
After you write those down, give yourself a pat on the back! Interviews are stressful!
Later that day (or the following morning), take a few minutes and send a short message to either your interviewer or your contact at the organization to thank them for the opportunity. In that email, include a short reference to the part of your conversation that really stood out to you.
While it might seem like a small thing, it’s always a good idea to maintain a positive relationship with the organization through things like this. Even if you don’t get the job, there’s a chance that down the line there will be another opening that you’re a great fit for.
So best of luck in your next interview! We’ll keep our fingers crossed for you.
Do you do something else to help you prepare for your interviews? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.