On-site Interviews: Keys for Success
For many candidates, interviewing on-site can be intimidating and overwhelming, while others can effortlessly handle them with ease. Regardless of which camp you fall in, there are a few basic things to consider when showing up for an on-site interview.
It’s no surprise that you should always come prepared to any interview. For a preliminary phone screen, you may have done some quick research on the company’s website and glanced at the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile. However once you’re invited on-site, it’s important to take the time to prepare so you’re well-versed in the requirements for the role and how you can deliver. Make sure you:
Ask the recruiter beforehand to provide a list of everyone you will be meeting with.
Refresh your memory and review your notes from your first phone interview.
Review the job description again so you have a thorough understanding of the role and can proactively speak to your skillset that aligns with their needs.
Have a list of questions about the company, team, and/or role that you’d like answered. Each interviewer will undoubtedly leave time at the end for Q&A, so be prepared with 3-5 questions of your own.
Bring several copies of your resume as well as a notepad to take notes with. It’s difficult to remember each conversation, especially if you’re meeting with 5+ people.
Do your research
Doing a bit of research beforehand will help you feel and sound more confident in conversation and will demonstrate your level of interest in the opportunity. While no one expects you to know everything about the company or products, it’s important to have a general understanding so you can explain how you can help the company succeed. Here are a few things I ask my candidates to dig into prior to interviewing onsite:
Understand the products and/or services the company offers (review the company website)
Learn about the history of the company (check out their About Us page on their website, read their press releases, do a quick Google search)
Understand their mission, vision, and values (these are typically found on a company’s About Us page)
Look into previous company leadership, particularly their C-staff and VPs as well as any notable directors or managers (many companies list their executives on their website; LinkedIn can also be helpful)
Understand their work culture and how you will fit in (Glassdoor can be a great resource here)
Have a baseline understanding of their main competitors and how they are differentiated (Google their products/services and competitors should pop up)
Do some quick research on each person you’ll be meeting with and prepare a list of questions/talking points to cover (LinkedIn)
Understand where you fall salary-wise and come prepared with a realistic desired salary (Glassdoor)
Talk positively and confidently about yourself
Many people have trouble talking themselves up, but remember, this is your time to shine! Consider what impression you want to leave upon each person, and make sure you talk about yourself in that way. Are they looking for a team player? An independent thinker? Someone who is highly creative or analytical? Make sure you give specific examples to demonstrate how you align with their needs and why they’d want to work with you.
I’m also amazed at how one of the most basic questions can stump so many people: Tell me about yourself?
Please remember this is not the time to go deep into your personal history—this question is related to your career. It’s always a great idea to have a three minute elevator pitch to showcase your career path—something you prepare in advance that can be used for almost any interview you go on. You can even tailor it based on where you are interviewing or a particular requirement for the position. Make sure you remain clear and confident, as stumbling here can give an unhealthy impression of who you are to the employer.
Here are a few points you want to ensure you hit on:
How you entered the career path you are on now
How your expertise and knowledge in this area has grown
If you’ve changed career paths or have a gap, acknowledge it and briefly explain when and why
Why this specific opportunity aligns with your skillset, including the growth you see for yourself in the role
Dress the part
Before you show up on-site, do some research on the company culture (Glassdoor can be helpful here). On interview day, be sure to dress one step up from the rest of the company. So for example, if you know the company dresses fairly casually in jeans and t-shirts, you’ll feel like a fish out of water wearing a suit—consider nice pants (not jeans) and a collared shirt instead. The goal is to look polished and professional, and that you understand the value in making a good first impression. And remember, chewing gum and clothing with holes are never appropriate.
The next pitfall for many candidates relates to their previous employer(s). I can’t stress enough how important it is to remain positive. Even if your last employer was a nightmare, make sure you put a positive spin on the situation, emphasizing what you learned that you can apply toward future growth. You can keep it short and simple and then move on.
Remember, you are being noticed from the moment you enter the building. Smile! Be pleasant with everyone you pass by. You are being evaluated by your level of professionalism, your body language, and your attitude, so make sure you remain approachable and positive throughout the process. And at the end of the day, remind yourself that you are selling yourself on the role as much as they are selling you on the company.