My best interview tips

Doesn’t it seem odd that all those years of studying and trying to ace your exams boils down to an interview that which dictate the majority of your future wake time?

Landing an interview can be really exciting for some but nerve wrecking for others (or both for me!) Let’s go over some tips to help get the best out of this opportunity.

Disclaimer: this isn’t a full list of interview do’s and dont’s (you can find plenty of resources online). I will share tips that I have always applied and found to work well for me in my nascent career.

Before:

  • Know the process (outline and timelines)

Most places have rounds of screening tests, interviews and assessment centers, especially for fresh graduate positions in finance. Make sure to check the company’s careers page which should give you an overview of their hiring process.

If you’re contacted by HR, ask them for steps in the process as well as the expected timeline. Also, always ask for names and designations of your interviewers (refer next point below)

  • Make LinkedIn your best friend 

Once you have their names, time to get your PI mode on!

Look at your interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles- get to know their educational background, career progression and interests. I feel like getting to know the person behind that Director or Partner title calms me down and somehow add a ‘human’ touch to your preparation (do you know what I mean?)

This can also help you identify common interests and prepare you to ask them relevant questions. In case you don’t know, people love talking about themselves- give your interviewers the chance to do that, show interest in their stories and you’ll both feel at ease.

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During:

  • Speak with confidence

Maintain eye contact, address the interviewer directly with their names as much as possible. (don’t over do it though!) Show genuine interest in the position and the company, don’t think you can fool your way into a worthy role.

  • Answering “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

One of the best tips I’ve received is on answering this tricky question. Tricky because you could speak at length at the risk of sounding incoherent. Also tricky because there’s a fine line between coming of as being confident and over confident in your abilities.

Basically, tell them your prospective role instead of naming one (as different entities have different responsibilities under the same role)- e.g. something like ‘I see myself working with clients in a range of industries/sectors, reporting directly to CFO/Partner/Manager, managing a team of xx people, responsible for reviewing key  client deliverables’

 

  • Always ask questions

If you’ve done your research on the role, company and the interviewers you should easily have a few questions in your mind already. For example, I once asked my interviewer how he progressed from a Manager position to Director in a fairly short period (based on his LinkedIn profile). He was so surprised by my question and spoke at length about his promotions! (It was for my first and current job- I got hired!)

Example 2: In my most recent interview, I asked the interviewer why she had moved from a big four audit firm to a small one, only to move back to the same firm a year later. She responded with some solid reasons for her move- giving me ample to include in my own answer when she asked “why do you want to join our firm?” I was able to link what she said and phrase in my own response. Win-win. (I got hired and will be starting my new job soon- insert: overly excited squeals!)

Even without prior research, you may be able to pick up somethings during the interview that you could phrase as a question- this shows that you listened actively and ensures engagement. A standard question to ask when you can’t think of anything is when you should expect to hear back and what the next steps in the process could be.

Just please don’t say I have no questions! Complete lack of interest and engagement!

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After:

  • Thank you email

Send an email to your interviewer(s) within one day to thank them for their time and to reiterate your interest in the position. This reminds them of the (hopefully) pleasant conversation you had and allows you to build rapport.

Just make sure not to pester them for a response!

Let me know if you have any fool proof tips that helped you ace your interviews, you never know how much your knowledge and experience could help somebody!

4 thoughts on “My best interview tips

Add yours

  1. Wonderful tips, Amna! I love the one about PI mode, lol. It has always yielded results for me. I’d like to point out a couple of cultural differences that I learned about after moving from the United States to the Netherlands.
    Here, it’s considered boring if you answer the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” by stating the responsibilities of a future role. It’s much more appreciated if you speak about specific skills you want to acquire, projects you want to pursue, departments you wish you collaborate with, and finally the position you think you’d have in five years.
    Second difference is regarding the thank you email. Here that email is considered unnecessary, and even rude apparently.
    I have always written thank you cards that I drop at the reception for my interviewees right after my interview finishes–that apparently is okay here. In fact, my current manager told me I was the first candidate he ever interviewed in his long career who dropped a thank you card and he was very impressed with that!
    Anyhow, just thought I’d add my two cents here. 🙂

    Like

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