I should start by saying that I’m not taking a dose of my own medicine here, but I have been speaking to several friends over the last few weeks about best practices for finding a new job and interviewing at various companies. I wrote a blog post about a year ago that details my thoughts on making the transition from banking to tech, which I believe are mostly still applicable. So in this post, I will not focus so much on the job-finding but rather the second step of the process: interviewing.
Most companies begin with a phone screen: a conversation with a recruiter. But the hiring manager or members of the team will eventually sit on a panel to question the candidate. Interview questions are generally role-specific, but there are some questions that are generally applicable across most jobs. Here are some of my favorite interview questions that you should be sure to have answers to, beyond the standards “why do you want this job”-type questions:
1. (For early stage companies): What value do you derive from the product? What feedback do you have on the product? Alternate versions of this question include What are your favorite/least favorite aspects of the product? This one is a giveaway. If you’re interviewing at a company, you should be a user of the platform, a reader of the blog, a subscriber of the service, etc. If you can’t afford it, you should at least have gotten a demo or signed up so that you know what the system entails. If you can’t speak elegantly about the product and form your own opinion about what you like and what should change, you probably won’t be a valuable asset to the company. Pro-tip: for more established companies, questions about “the product”, be it a newspaper, a physical good or service, or a mobile app, you must be able to speak knowledgeably about what exists, and your opinion on it.
2. What do you think of the revenue model? How can our company catapult revenue? You should be able to explain the revenue model swiftly and in a few concise sentences. Regardless of the position you are interviewing for, know how the company makes money (where applicable).
For the second segment of the question, the key is to think outside the box. I don’t want to hear about how we already make money or monetization channels that already exist. Instead, you should be extrapolating what you know about the industry, competitors or general macro factors to make a suggestion about additional sources of income.
3. What are your favorite companies in the space? What do you think about ___ trend? This is a test of how well you know the industry in which you claim to want a job. Especially if you’ve never had a job in the field in which you’re interviewing, know about the trends: what’s favorable, what’s not, and how that applies to the company and people with whom you’re speaking. Understand how the trends affect this particular idea or product, and definitely have an opinion on it. Learn about not only what the popular arguments are, but how they are being publicly countered or disagreed.
4. How can you add value immediately? This is a giveaway, but not irrelevant at a small or growing company. If the hiring manager is looking to grow a team quickly and needs people who can begin working and get things done, they need to see immediate value or the hire isn’t worth it. Whether you’re just graduating from school or a team manager, you should be able to demonstrate these principles. And in this answer: show, don’t tell. Examples are much more valuable than false promises.
5. Do you have any questions for me? This is critical and not to be overlooked. Questions for the interviewer are often an afterthought, but I very often judge a candidate based on his or her questions for me. Things like “walk me through your day-to-day” are fine, but somewhat uninspiring. I’d rather hear questions like “what are some of the hardest challenges you face?”
Generally speaking, if you’re an “athlete”, someone who is smart, scrappy and nimble, you are a valuable hire. “Studying to the test”, in other words, reading only what you think you should know and not being able to think outside the box, will likely hinder you more than not having previous experience in the field.
Any questions, comments or additions? Tweet me.