Interviews can be tough for both parties. Both sides want to find the right fit. As a candidate, you want to determine whether or not this is a place at which you can build your career and grow. Meanwhile, the employer wants to make sure you will not only be a great employee, but also bring something unique to the company. The question is: How do you figure out fit in an hour or less?
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At Impraise, we have grown from 9 to 31 employees within the past 10 months. Doing so, we spent a ton of hours interviewing people. As one of the founders of the company, I see Impraise as more than just a job. For this reason, I search for people who are also looking for more than just a job – people who are looking for a place where they can learn and add value.
What's interesting is that, regardless of position, field, skills, or experience level, the new team members we hired all had three simple things in common. These three qualities were major deciding factors in our hiring process. We emphasized them over experience level. I believe that, if you keep them in mind when going into your next interview, you can significantly increase your chances of getting the job you want.
When hiring, here are the kind of people we looked for:
1. Someone Who Is Mission-Driven
It's pretty easy to separate the people who are looking for a paycheck from the ones who want to have an impact. The big difference is that the latter type of person asks questions. A lot of questions. Throughout the whole interview process. This person doesn't wait until the end.
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Mission-driven people want to know the background of the company, why we are chasing this mission, our biggest challenges, why we follow our current strategy instead of another strategy, if we are A-players, why we think we have A-players on the team, how we differentiate ourselves from the competition, how much we care about our people, what the product looks like, what the culture is like, and how we will become successful as a company.
While that list may seem like overkill, not asking these questions indicates to me that you aren't really interested in joining us, and I'd bet other employers feel the same way. Additionally, it also suggest you aren't aiming to get the best for yourself. If you don't ask a lot of questions, how will you know if we're a fit for you? Finally, if you don't find out more about our company, it's truly hard to say you are passionate about what we do, which is one of the most important drivers for us.
Take it this way: You only have one life. You can spend each moment only once. You will never be able to get your time back, so why not spend it doing something that truly excites and motivates you?
For our parents, job safety and social expectations were major factors when considering a career. Today, things have changed. Younger generations are much more concerned with finding jobs with purpose, energized work cultures, and opportunities for growth and development.
If you don't ask about the company and role, how do you know it's not going to be a waste of your valuable time? How do you know you will be excited to get out of bed every morning in the long term? How do you know you'll be challenged and learn something new everyday?
2. Someone I Can Learn Something From
One very valuable lesson I learned from the partners at Y Combinator with regard to raising money is you should always make sure you teach the other person (investor) something new about a topic you both care about. This is one of the most effective ways to keep someone's attention and make sure they remember you.
The same applies during a job interview. When interviewing candidates back to back for hours, people will naturally lose energy and focus over time. When the majority of candidates are passive, the loss of energy is only worsened. But when a candidate teaches us something new – something we had never thought about or something we could do better – they immediately have our full attention.
We are looking for people who are smarter than us, people who will help us improve as a company. You might think that this sounds obvious, but there are so very few people doing this. If you feel you can't teach an interviewer something new, take a topic they know about and turn it on its head. Showing an interviewer you have the ability to think outside the box and can bring a fresh perspective to common challenges is extremely valuable.
Getting in the habit of asking questions will also give you insights into topics the interviewer might want to learn more about.
3. Someone That Stays in the Driver's Seat of the Process
This is a simple habit to teach yourself, but so few people do. That's why this is a great way to distinguish yourself from the other candidates in the running.
Often, when we've interviewed someone, we won't hear anything back from them in the days/weeks after the interview unless we reach out to them. This really indicates to us that someone is passive/reactive, does not care about the opportunity, or was not excited after the interview.
The people who differentiate themselves are the ones who follow up directly after the interview with a thank-you note in which they articulate how they can become successful in the role. They send additional, relevant information – like industry blog posts – and, if we don't reach out soon after the interview, they'll check back in a week to ask about the status of their application.
People who are proactive in asking us about the next steps tend to be perceived more positively and stay at the top of our minds throughout the hiring process. Recruiting is just one of the many things we have to focus on when expanding a company. Therefore, we actually very much appreciate it when a candidate keeps the pace and checks in on the status of the process. In our minds, this person is likely to show the same behavior when working for the company.
With only about a third of the U.S. workforce engaged, I think that hiring people who demonstrate the mindset laid out in this post is an important way to build long-term engagement at a company.
As a candidate, if you do proper research before the interview and are able to clearly express why you are passionate about the company and position, you are not only more likely to get the job, but also better able to determine whether it's the right fit for you.