The world as we know it — before March 2020 and after March 2020. Working from home has brought about a new slew of opportunities. People can work remotely, interview without having to fly down to the company’s headquarters and also get to know their team through video calls — all in the comfort of their home office and living rooms.
Although the medium of working and interviewing has changed, human nature stays constant and many of the tips that I will share are timeless tips that help build relationships and make a good first impression.
- Be early — there is a saying “on time is late, early is on time”. For my zoom interviews, I make sure to be ready 30 minutes before the interview and try to join the call 10 minutes before then jump off the call so that I know that I have the correct link and that my equipment is working.
- Take the time and effort to pronounce the interviewer’s name correctly — one of my interviewers commented that most people butcher his name and I am one of the few who got it right. How did I do that? I googled how to pronounce his name. That’s how I got it right. I could see that he really appreciated that extra effort.
- Provide more value than what you are expected to deliver — for one of my interviews, there was a homework assignment that I would have to present to a panel. After submitting the homework assignment, I spent 2 additional days working till the wee hours to make the story cohesive and share useful information that the team would need to understand why the project is so important. I also came up with fresh ideas that could help them overcome some of the current technical limitations. The panel was very impressed and they thoroughly enjoyed my presentation.
- Have your odyssey (elevator pitch) ready and be prepared to shorten it — many of the people I mentor are amazed when I whip out my odyssey at will and rattle it off like it’s part of my DNA. I think I must have done this at least 100 times already to reach this level of comfort and ease. Looking back at the earlier drafts of my odyssey makes me cringe. We all get there. It takes time and practice and refining.
- Leverage post-its — I wrote down the names of all my interviewers, their titles/areas and the time slots on a post it and stuck it to my laptop so that I would remember their names. I also wrote down on another post-it the mission, philosophies and key statistics of the company so that I could refer to them during the interview.
- Prepare a set of questions for them beforehand and print them out — I leveraged “ Cracking the PM career” by Jackie Bavaro (she has a section on what to ask execs) and a few standard questions that I had accumulated over time.
- Watch keynotes by the CEO or C-level executives before the interview — this gives you a good overview of the strategy and where the company is headed. If you could read about the history/early days of the company, it also gives you great insight into the culture and the leaders.
- Partner closely with Recruiters to get the inside scoop on the interviews and interviewers — prepare good questions to ask them about what to expect during the interview; get the names of the interviewers and look them up on LinkedIn before the interview. This helps a ton to minimize uncertainty during the interview :) Most of the recruiters were super helpful and even provided me with advice on how to handle each of the interviewers + their questions.
Overall, I’d say interviewing is a journey. I’ve had my fair share of missteps and rejections — the most important thing is what did you learn about yourself and the company from that? Use that feedback to understand areas/gaps that need to be addressed and keep iterating with a trusted friend or mentor to get to the level that you want to be at. You will definitely get better with practice and once you develop that “swagger” or “X-factor” that comes with finetuning your interviewing strategy, you will be so glad that you took the first step and ventured out of your comfort zone! The world is your oyster — happy virtual interviewing and have fun!