Whether you're pursuing an analyst internship, a contractor position, or a CPO role, interviews can be nerve racking! 

Goodness knows, I've gone in to my fair share of interviews both breaking a sweat trying to make sure I present myself as the perfect candidate, as well as on the other side of the table trying to make a little bit of small talk to calm the nerves of my interviewee. 

The whole process can feel like a test as opposed to a fluid conversation. 

"Tell me about this experience on your resume." 
"How would you describe your expertise in this area?" 
"What are you looking for compensation-wise?"

The pressure is on to provide the best possible answer. Unless you're an expert / frequent interviewer, it's understandable to go into the interview with a bit of anxiety - which is why whenever I'm asked, my biggest piece of advice is for candidates to shift their mindset towards the process. Rather than putting the pressure all on yourself, consider the interview a two-way conversation for you to gauge your potential employer. There's an inherit sense of confidence that comes with knowing what you want in any situation, the same is true when it comes to pursuing a new career opportunity.  

Rather than looking at the process as entirely a test of your experience and skills, enter the interview with the goal of determining if the role is also a fit for you and your goals. Absolutely be prepared to discuss the lessons learned and skills gained during school and in previous roles, but also leverage the time with your interviewer to learn more about the role and company. The interview is just as much of an opportunity for the employer to vet you as it is for you to vet them. This means doing some homework. Really reflect on what type of experience you're looking for whether you're seeking an internship for the first time or pursuing a promotional role and be prepared to articulate that during your discussions with the hiring manager. 

Accordingly, come to the interview equipped with questions that will help you decide if this is a company you want to work for, such as:

  1. What does the day-to-day look like in this role? 
    Aren't you curious about what you're daily routine or lack thereof will look like? Find out by asking your interviewer about how they envision you spending your time. Their answer will give you insight into the projects you'll be supporting, the breakdown of your day and who you'll be working with on a daily basis. 
  2. What is the company culture like? 
    Beyond your workload, ask about the company atmosphere. What does the company value or strive for with the people they hire? Aim to get an understanding if you'll be surrounded by other individuals who are as motivated and bright as yourself. Even further, ask about the story behind the company? The company's history and leadership will tell you a ton about the characteristics and mission. 
  3. What does success look like in this role?
    This should be a standard question for all interviewees. Find out what the hiring manager is ultimately looking for and understand if it aligns with your own goals. Is the hiring manager looking for a change agent and are you eager to take on a role that will challenge you to take initiative and charge of a project? The answer to this question will provide a ton of insight into whether this role aligns with the skills and results you're looking to achieve in your next position. 
  4. What are the opportunities for growth?
    Of course it's great to know what the existing role looks like, but what's beyond that? In some cases, a hiring manager might not be able to tell you explicitly how you'd progress up the company org structure. Depending on your own go-getting attitude, this might be a good thing. This could mean you get to forge your own career path as your continue to grow. It they can't tell you what the next role will be or how you'd move up the ladder, ask about the tenure of other employees. How were they able to grow and progress their career at the company? What made them successful? The answer to this question will give you insight into not only your future roles but also let you in on the company's position on career development and progression in general. 
  5. What do you enjoy most about your job?
    Every employee is motivated by something different. Some team members will be interested in a position strictly for the job security and compensation. Others are motivated by the ability to lead people or are passionate about the company's mission and how they contribute to the bigger picture. If you're interviewing with a potential team member, getting their answer will give you insight into what they're motivated by and give you more insight into the company culture in their perspective. 

Interviews are an exciting opportunity - make the most of them by asking critical questions about your potential employer and team. Whether you end up accepting an offer or continuing your search for the perfect role, the process will give you perspective on the company's values, employees, and your potential career path. Use these questions as a starting point to help you guide the discussion in a way that will ultimately support your decision. In doing so, you communicate to your employer your own values and that you've thought about the position beyond the job description - both of which increase your desirability as a candidate! 

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Carole Boyle

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