A former VICE and Ritual recruiter spills the beans.
When I was younger, I would physically shake from the nerves I got in anticipation of a job interview.
To make myself feel more in control of my situation, I’d spend hours researching a company, memorizing its mission statement and values, stalking its employees on LinkedIn, and wondering if what I’d prepped was enough.
Still, these questions swirled around my mind: what is my competition doing that I don’t know about? Am I prepared enough?
That’s why talking to Sarah Cavan—who has previously been on the recruitment side of companies like VICE and Ritual—was so relieving.
Listen to Sarah give Interview DOs and DON’Ts in this podcast.
She’s not only seen what tricks tons of young people pull out of their pockets in interviews, she knows exactly what an interviewer likes to see.
Cavan now helps a handful of companies with HR work (hiring included) for a living, and coaches students and new grads through their job search process.
Who better to lay out for us exactly how to go about prepping for a job interview than this pro?
Stalk—Yes, Stalk—Every Relevant Person On LinkedIn.
Cavan says, “Typically, if you’ve been emailed for an interview [and you don’t know who you’ll be meeting with], you can reply and say, ‘Can you let me know who I’ll be meeting with, and what their titles are?’”
“It’s completely normal to stalk and look at everyone on LinkedIn. It’s you doing your homework before an interview, so you can come with questions that show you’ve done your homework.”
The point is to get to know your potential boss’ and interviewers’ backgrounds. And then to use that knowledge in your interview, where it’s appropriate, to show you’ve come prepared.
P.S. According to LinkedIn’s Canadian Head of Customer Success, Perry Monaco, it’s even totally fine for someone to get that notification that you’ve “viewed their profile.”
Get Your Personal Brand On Point.
“Especially in more creative roles, that’s going to make you stand out,” says Cavan.
“They’ll think, ‘This person cares about design/marketing/whatever they’re applying for because they actually follow it in their real life, not just at work.”
At the very least, make sure your Twitter, LinkedIn, and website all have the same colour schemes to them. If you don’t know what else to do past that, read this guide to personal branding.
Gauge The Pace Of Your Interview.
“By looking at your interviewer’s notepad, you can tell if the interview is going to be very structured,” Cavan let us know.
“If the interviewer has lined up questions in front of them, they’re probably going to want to follow that. If it’s more like a blank piece of paper, and they’re taking notes, your interview is likely to be more conversational. You’ll know you can pitch in, that way.”
Be Ready To Offer Something.
If you’re applying for a marketing role, for example, and you notice a company wasn’t on Instagram or some other platform (which you should, because you’ve done your thorough research), Cavan suggests to say, “I would love to be part of spearheading getting you on Instagram, and here’s how I would do it.”
“It shows them you’re thinking, and haven’t just regurgitated the job description for them in the interview,” she adds.
Drink Water Before Answering A Question.
(Yes, that’s totally acceptable. You’re human, after all.)
“It buys you that extra couple seconds to be able to articulate properly, rather than word-vomiting in response to a question,” explains Cavan.
“And if you feel like you forgot to say something, you can always say, ‘Oh, and I had something else to add to that…’”
Forget The Sales Tactics.
“An interview is more to make sure the information on your resume is true, and then to see fit and personality and see how you can think,” says Cavan.
So, don’t even bother preparing too much “look at my experience, I have so much of it” lines for your interview. (Chris D’Alessandro from our office tried doing that once and it didn’t work).
“Be prepared for problem-solving questions, or role playing questions, depending on the role. You can’t exactly prepare for that, but you can prepare how to handle it,” Cavan advises instead.
Ask About What Matters.
“Ask if your boss is going to be a micromanager,” suggests Cavan.
“Obviously you’re not going to ask in that exact way, but you can ask whether they leave their employees ‘room for autonomy.’ If the answer is along the lines of ‘yes, but you have to follow a strict schedule’ then they’re probably a micromanager,” Cavan says.
“If they say something like ‘I want to leave you to try and fail and come up with an answer,’ that’s a manager who’s open to autonomy.”
Cavan also suggests to ask who your interviewer’s ideal candidate is (to figure out exactly what they’re looking for, and how you can deliver on it), and whether there’s room for growth (a.k.a. future at the company with promotions for you) in the role. There are tons of ways to find out what the details you care about in a job interview.
Let Them Bring Up The Perks.
Through research we conducted, we learned one of the top-five questions you SLNers have about a new job is compensation. (Shocker.)
But Cavan advises holding off on asking about that (or vacations, or benefits) in the first interview.
“You are a business transaction at that moment, and you want to be proving that you’re adding value to the company, and that that value is worth paying you for.”
“Yeah, those are things you wanna know but you don’t ask up front.”
There you have it, friends. Some of these things you might already do, and some you might not. Adjust your interview prep checklist accordingly.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.