The Ultimate Guide to Crushing Your Job Interview


Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with him and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

All your hard work and perseverance has finally paid off. The hours spent scrolling through job boards, the numerous takes on your video resume and the nights you stayed home to take part in an industry Twitter chat have all been leading up to this moment: You have a job interview with your dream company. Congratulations!

Take a moment to savor in your victory, but make sure it's just a moment. After all, there are still plenty of ways you can screw up this huge opportunity and lose out on the job of your dreams. Now is not the time for complacency. With an average of 118 applications for every open position being posted, it's a good bet you're not the only superstar candidate who made it to the next level.

Your resume, credentials, and networking powers have gotten you this far. But now it's time for the interview, which means a different sort of preparation. If you want to really kill it in the interview, whether that interview is in-person or through online video, here are some things you need to think about.

The Obvious: Dress to Impress

This might seem like old news, but just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not important. You need to dress to impress when it comes to your interview. If your interview is through online video, you might think you can dress down a bit and worry a little less, but this certainly isn't true! Dress just as nicely as you would for an in-person meeting.

You'll also want to pay attention to the colors you choose before heading out the door or turning on your webcam. This isn't a fashion show, and some colors won't be right for an important job interview. You'll want to stick to conservative and neutral colors like browns and blacks. If you want to throw a little color in there, think about green, which is the color of money and can send a subconscious message that you'll be able to bring real dollar value to the company. Stay away from bright primary colors like red and yellow because you want your interviewer focused on your words, not your outfit.

However, if everyone is running around the company in t-shirts and jeans, it might be tempting to wear your best sneakers to the interview. But, keep in mind that you want to make a professional first impression, and always dress for a position several notches above the one for which you're interviewing. If you're interviewing at a creative, casual agency, make sure the attire you settle on is professional and conservative (although perhaps don't show up looking like a Wall Street power broker). Wait until you're hired to show off your more fashionable and fun side.

The Extra Mile

Now that you've decided on your interview attire, it's time to dig deeper into the organization. Read the company's stated values and objectives on its website. Search on the web and in trade publications to see if the company has achieved anything noteworthy recently, whether an industry award or opening a new branch. Look at the larger issues in the overall industry and compare your company of choice to see how they stack up. All of this research can give you great ideas for tailored questions to ask about the organization when the interviewer turns the floor over to you at the end of the meeting.

Perhaps another employee's experience can help you avoid a huge misstep or prepare you better for tricky questions. Ask questions on social sharing sites like Quora and LinkedIn Answers to see what experiences others have had at the company. You might also want to see what users have posted about the company on Glassdoor, where employees and candidates alike go to share information about companies from interview tips to salary ranges.

You can also use social media to connect with current and former employees to get the inside scoop. Send a polite message asking the contact if they have time to discuss the company and then pick their brains about the organization. This will help you get a better view of what the day-to-day life would be like at your dream job. Make sure you ask good questions, but always be tactful. You don't want to phrase your questions too negatively for fear you'll get evasive answers.

You might also want to consider asking those current and former employees you connected with about their working relationship with the boss. The leadership style of the boss can really impact the company culture, whether negatively or positively, so this is important information to know before heading into your interview. You want to enjoy your job, after all, which might be hard if you're managed by The Office's Michael Scott.

Finally, it's also important to do some research into your interviewer. Look them up on the web, read their company bio and find them on social media. Their social media presence might even help you gain insight into their interview style. Will they be more conversational or stay by-the-book and stick to their questions? Looking at an interviewer's social media profile can help you gauge how to interact with them in the interview setting. Plus, social media can help you connect with your interviewer before ever stepping foot in the office. You can share an interesting article or even discuss a recent trend to make a connection before the job interview begins.

The Curve Balls

Companies from Google to Amazon like to use tough questions to get candidates turned around during the interview process. This is because companies want to see how well you think on your feet under pressure. If you get a question about filling a bus with golf balls or what kind of animal you would be, don't panic.

Make sure your answer has some form of real-world value and show the employer how you think through a problem. For the animal example, you might say you'd love to be a cat because you like to work independently and set your own goals. You've now answered the question and brought it back to your own skills and qualifications, instead of just providing a wacky answer.

The most important thing to remember with tough questions is to always remain calm and collected. If you seem like you're going to pieces, the interviewer will think you can't handle the stresses of the office.

The Questions You Absolutely Must Ask

It's just as important for you to use the interview to find out about the company as it is for the employer to test you. Here are five questions you should make sure you ask to discover a little bit about the company culture before mentally decorating your office.

What do you like best about working for the company?

The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the company culture and the interviewer in general, which is important if your interviewer is also destined to become your boss. If the things they name off sound completely unappealing to you, this is probably not an organization you'll enjoy spending your 9-to-5.

How would you describe your company culture in five words?

This question might seem a bit obvious, but it's also helpful in learning just what the company values. The five words your interviewer chooses will most likely be the most important and prevalent aspects of the company culture.

What is the growth opportunity like for this position?

You want to have room to grow, learn and achieve in your new position. Asking about growth opportunity is both a good way to find out how much you can achieve and also brand yourself as a forward-thinking candidate. If the interviewer is a little light on details for how you can grow in the position or acquire additional education and training, perhaps career growth isn't in the cards at this company.

What are the qualities of your most successful employees?

This question will tell you the most important qualities you should possess in order to succeed in the company environment. For instance, maybe the ability to multi-task and thrive in a chaotic environment is essential. Or perhaps the ability to work as a team and communicate clearly is key. Listen carefully to these ideal qualities and consider what they reveal about the overall organization to see if you'd fit in.

What's a common misconception about the company you would like to clear up?

Almost every company is the victim of common misconceptions, whether it's about the company itself, the larger industry, or a specific department. For instance, a startup company might seem like all fun and games from the outside, but this just covers up the long hours and high stress levels of employees. Don't let perks like free lunch or an office gym stop you from finding out what life is really like at the organization. Your interviewer's answer will tell you both how the outside world views the organization and also how the company views itself.

There's plenty to remember before heading in for your important interview. If you follow this guide, you'll dramatically increase your chance of killing it in your interview and finally landing your dream job.