Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden started each season by teaching his team one fundamental lesson: how to properly put on their socks and shoes. The basic premise of this was to solidify one of his favorite mantras, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” The same lesson can, and should be, applied to interviewing. It is crucial that everyone, no matter how senior or experienced, properly prepare for every interview. I’ve watched countless people overlook basic interview preparation steps that have disqualified them for opportunities that they’re otherwise highly qualified for, and with that, drafted six key steps for interview prep that can be applied for first round interviews for any role at any level.
1. Read The Calendar Invite. This sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed by how many people at all levels—from entry to executive—miss this step. Is this a call? Are you calling them or are they calling you? Is the phone number correct? Is this a video call? Do you need to download Zoom or Google Meet? Do you know how to use these platforms? Is there no clear direction on the invite? Email the interviewer and ask for clarification! Skipping this crucial step puts you at risk of being late, and setting the whole interview off on the wrong foot.
2. Know Who You’re Speaking To. Look them up on LinkedIn. What’s their role? How long have they been at the company? Have they been promoted at the company? Are they new? Where were they before? Check on your mutual connections and if you choose to name drop, be prepared for the interviewer to backchannel through that person for a reference.
3. Refine Your Elevator Pitch On The Company. Your elevator pitch on both yourself and the company should be 30 seconds or less. Most people are comfortable giving the high-level brief on their backgrounds because they’re very familiar with what they’ve been doing throughout their career, but the company pitch can sometimes be confusing. Our Director of Growth, Andrew Oddo, wrote about early customer messaging and the importance of clearly articulating the pain point that your product aims to solve. Though the post is meant for early stage companies, the basic formula (“Our product does X for CTOs, Product Managers, and Lead Engineers, who are facing challenges with Y”) is one that you can repurpose when explaining what a company does during the interview process. Use resources such as Crunchbase, G2Crowd, and Techcrunch to get a snapshot of recent funding, news and the competitive landscape to further solidify your pitch.
4. Read Their Content. Good rule of thumb – read at least 3 pieces of content and have an opinion on what you’ve read. Agree? Disagree? Don’t totally understand something? Ask about it! If they don’t have a blog on their website, check out the founder’s Twitter feed or see what the executive team is posting or reposting on LinkedIn. One of the best key steps for interview prep is that you should always be prepared with at least 5 questions when you go into any interview, and reading content is a great way to come up with questions. Which leads me to my next point…
5. Always Have Questions. The best interviews are the ones that don’t feel like interviews, they feel like conversations. Ask questions throughout the interview but at the end when an interviewer says, “What questions do you have for me?” the absolute worst thing you can say is, “No, I think you covered it all.” Try to avoid the generic, “Tell me about the day to day,” or “What’s the culture like?” questions and spend the time on questions that will influence your decision about your interest in the company and the role. How is the team structured? What are future growth plans? How has the sales cycle changed over the past year? This is one of the biggest key steps for interview prep.
6. Send A Thank You. Always. Always. Always send a follow up thank you to the people that you’ve interviewed with. Regardless of if you decide to move forward with the opportunity, send a follow up thank you email to the interviewer within 24 hours of the conversation. This is also your chance to ask any follow up questions that maybe came to mind after the call, or for you to send any articles or book names that you might have referenced during the interview. I often encourage companies to have a zero-tolerance policy for sales, marketing or customer success candidates that don’t send follow up thank you emails as it’s usually a very clear indicator of someone’s interest in the role as well as a preview to how they will handle customer interactions if you do hire them.
All in all, you should be able to run through these 6 key steps for interview prep super quickly. Companies don’t expect you to be an expert on what they do, but it’s imperative that you spent an adequate amount of time preparing to get the most out of your interview time.
If you liked “The 6 Key Steps for Interview Prep” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.