Topics to Make Sure You Cover in Your Initial Interview
Overcoming the hurdle of resume scanning software to land an initial interview is cause for celebration—but don’t rest on your laurels too long. You’ll want to be fully prepared for your first interview, whether it’s on the phone, Zoom, or in person. Here are six topics you’ll want to cover to make a strong first impression, whether the hiring manager asks the questions, or you simply find a way to answer them.
1. Why you want this specific position—and why it’s a good fit
Many candidates play a numbers game with their job searches. It’s easy to hit the “Apply” button without a lot of discrimination. That means it’s possible to distinguish yourself simply by knowing the details of the job position and explaining why it’s a good match for your skill set and career goals. Go back to the original posting, and match keywords from the listed responsibilities with keywords from your resume. (This shouldn’t be too hard; that’s likely how you landed the interview in the first place.) Be prepared to explain how your prior experience will let you hit the ground running—and why the position will give you plenty of room to grow.
2. Your interest in the company and its culture
You not only want to convey interest in the position but also in the position at this company. You don’t need to memorize the company’s website, but spend some time reviewing the organization’s history, any information about its strategic plan and mission, and recent press releases and mentions. Scroll the company’s social media accounts. See what you can glean about the company’s culture: Is it fast paced? Casual? Traditional? Be prepared to explain why it’s a good match for you.
3. Your industry knowledge
It’s also a good idea to brush up on the company’s industry in general so you can speak comfortably about recent trends and current challenges. If you’re already immersed in the industry, cite examples of your professional development and contributions, such as professional association memberships or conferences attended. If you’re trying to switch industries, be prepared to share your game plan for getting up to speed once hired.
4. Your professional strengths and weaknesses
“What are your greatest strengths?” “What are your greatest weaknesses?” These are two of most cliché interview questions, and a savvy job candidate will have answers at the ready that draw from stories of overcoming challenge and resolving conflict. The best way to answer either question is to explain how you were equipped to solve a problem—in other words, you overcame a weakness using one of your strengths! Tada!
5. The type of work environment you like
You’re likely to be asked about your preferred work environment. Be prepared to answer honestly. This is a good measure of cultural fit. If you need your space, working in an open-concept, bullpen-style office will not make you happy. On the flip side, if you’re an extrovert, full-time remote may not be a good match. Best to clear this up early in the process.
6. Your enthusiasm and professionalism
Do you remember your English teacher advising you to “show, don’t tell”? You want to cover your enthusiasm and professionalism in the initial interview, but of course, that doesn’t mean saying “I’m so enthusiastic” or “I’m very professional.” That would be awkward. Instead, you need to convey your demeanor through your interactions. Arrive on time, and dress appropriately. Greet the interviewer warmly and maintain eye contact during the interview. Answer questions positively with a focus on the future. You’d be surprised how many candidates overlook these fundamentals.
Throughout the process, keep in mind that interviewing is about finding a good mutual fit. Don’t forget that you are fact-finding just as much as the hiring manager.