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Winning Before You Start: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

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Your email has a gift in it: After days of waiting, there’s a reply about the job you really want. You take a deep breath, cross your fingers and open it… it’s an interview invitation. You made the cut – congrats! Now it’s time to prepare for the job interview process. A job interview is so much more than just one meeting, and smart applicants put a lot of thought into how they’re going to handle it.
 

Make sure you read the Betts Recruiting Interview Handbook. In it is our combined hundreds of years of experience as sales and marketing hiring managers, as well as what some of our team members have learned from their own interview missteps earlier in their careers!

Mastering the phone screen

Preparing for a job interview starts with getting ready for your phone screen. As the phone screen approaches, make sure you’ve done your research and know enough about the company, the interviewer, and the role that you’re set to impress.

 

Here’s how to ace a phone screen interview:

 

  1. Manage your surroundings. Find a quiet space, make sure you have plenty of water, turn off all your notifications, and give yourself a minute to psych yourself up. Make sure you have all the materials you need at your fingertips – your resume, cover letter, the role description, your research, and the questions you have. Consider your answers to questions you know they’ll ask – what your salary expectations are, notice period, and why you want to work there, for starters.
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  3. Be prepared. Know what questions they’re likely to ask you and consider your responses. Remember: They can’t see you! Worried about fudging your answers in the moment? Write yourself a script. Seriously. Jot down your answers to the questions you expect them to ask. If you’re nervous, just read from your pre-prepared answers.
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  5. Boost the energy in your voice. A trick for getting someone’s attention on the phone is to stand up – the timbre of your voice changes and you sound more commanding and enthusiastic. Having affirming post-it notes about how great you are stuck all over your office wall is not out of the question. Whatever works for you!

How to ace a job interview in person

Either on the phone screen or by doing research, try to get a sense of the company culture so you know what to wear and what to expect. You don’t want to underdress or overdress. Remember, a job interview is a sales pitch, and you’re the product.

 

Come early, with multiple copies of your resume, a pen, a notepad, and mentally prepared to impress. Have specific examples at the ready for you to reference or to share with the interview panel.
 

Here are some interview questions you should be wary of, including the dreaded three-word self-description.

What’s different about sales and marketing interviews?

They may ask for a demo

They’re looking for evidence you can articulate the product offer, ask qualifying questions that narrow customer pain points, and adapt your presentation to their circumstances. They want to see your ability to close the deal, as well as your willingness to receive feedback and coaching.

Your questions must be smart

Sales and marketing employers can tell a lot about a candidate by the questions they ask. Asking a sales hiring manager what sets their most successful rep apart from the rest is a great way to demonstrate you’re interested in excellence and self-improvement. Asking what separates their company from its competitors shows you’re a team player, you understand the landscape, and you’re invested in the company’s success.

Final call with the CEO

So you’ve made it through the phone screen, at least one in-person interview, and reference checks. The final step is a call with the CEO. It’s great that you’ve made it this far – but the job is not yours yet. This conversation is more than a formality and you can’t just phone it in (thank you, we’ll be here all week). Our CEO and founder Carolyn Betts has done hundreds of these calls. Here’s a sample of her advice:

 

  • Keep your answers short and concise
  • Try to be positive, especially about previous job experiences
  • Take an interest in the top-level view of the company – after all, that’s what the CEO sees!

General tips

For some people, job interviews are nightmare fuel. The classic dream scenario of showing up naked to class seems preferable by comparison. But while all the people you interview with are strangers for now, they will soon become colleagues, allies, and friends. Focus on the amazing work you can do in the role and be enthusiastic and optimistic about your chances. You wouldn’t have made it this far if you weren’t qualified, so try to put Imposter Syndrome on the shelf and let your talents shine.

 

Come up with a list of likely questions and practice what you will say. Think about how it could come across to different audiences, and tweak your wording to make sure you sound like you want to.

 

Your research time is valuable – don’t waste it reading the company’s Facebook posts from six months ago. The information you gather should help you understand: 

 

  • What sets their offer apart 
  • Who’s in charge 
  • The stage of the company’s development (especially relevant if it’s a startup, funding rounds will govern a lot of your work)
  • Large-scale trends impacting the industry

In case it doesn’t go without saying (it should), don’t lie about or try to hide your background. It’s very easy for a hiring manager to check your claims.

Be excited – enthusiasm is contagious

And that, more or less, is how to prepare for a job interview! While the process can be nerve-wracking, it’s really important for you to stay positive and continually show how excited you are about working for the company. Not only does it show your interest and personality but, let’s face it, everyone wants to work with a winner. If you’re excited about the job, others will start to get excited imagining you in it.

 

Finally, job interviews can take a lot out of you, so make sure you’re setting aside time to prepare and time to decompress before each stage. 

 

Break a leg!