I interviewed a job candidate recently on behalf of one of Ridgeline Ventures’ portfolio companies that blew me away. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people over the years, but this one was different. At the end of it, I wondered why every interview couldn’t be as good as this one.

Well, every interview can. I want YOU to learn from this role-model-of-a-candidate and apply these tips in your next interview.

But before I tell you the single most impressive part of the interview, here are a couple of other areas where the candidate excelled.

  • Prepared to the max – This candidate was extremely well prepared. It was clear that in advance of the meeting he gained a thorough understanding of the company’s business model, he mystery-shopped to get first hand customer experience, he conducted thorough digital/social research to understand how the company presented itself in social media channels, he referenced some of the research/articles he read, and he had researched my background and the CEO of the company. He did his homework.
  • Engaged body language/posture – It’s shocking how often a candidate will slouch in his/her chair, not sit up and act engaged, and not give off good vibes from his/her body language. This particular candidate nailed it. He was leaning forward and engaged. At times, he mirrored my positions. His body language exuded the feeling of engagement.
  • Investigate questions – This candidate had numerous well-thought-out questions prepared about where the company is going (not about comp/benefits –-> don’t ask about comp/benefits in a first interview!). He was inquisitive about the current team, about the management style and culture, about the financial state of the business, and much more. He was prepared to the max with excellent questions and it reflected very favorably on him.

Now here’s what this candidate did to REALLY blow me away…

As I asked him questions, his answers didn’t just include what he did from a task/project perspective. They included what he accomplished, why he took the approach he did, and most importantly, what he learned and how he grew from that particular experience.  This allowed me to see what skills/experience/lessons he’d bring to his next company.

For example, to start the interview off, I asked him to talk me through his career progression. This guy completely nailed this part of the interview.  I was sold on this guy after this.

Most people talk through their career progression and only state their role and a few of the things they’ve done in each role. That approach allows the interviewer to get a glimpse of what duties the candidate had, but it doesn’t allow the interviewer to understand what that person learned and how/why they grew from those experiences.

Not the case with this particular candidate. Here’s an example of how he talked about his career progression…

  • At Company X I held the role of ______ in which I was responsible for X, Y, and Z. Some of the projects where I spent of lot of time included doing _______ and _______. Being in this role, I learned an immense amount about ______ because I ______________. I took away from this a greater ability to manage people through times of adversity, an understanding of how to manage up as well as down, and some specific skills in the area of ____________________. (notice how he highlighted 3 ways he grew from this experience)
  • I was then recruited to join Company Y as the _____________ and I decided to pursue that opportunity because of _______________ (this reason related to personal development which reflected well on him).   Some of the accomplishments I felt really good about in this role included _________, _________ and __________. The latter one, in particular was recognized by the CEO and gave me insight into how a CEO thinks about a business. I left Company Y having personally grown in 3 important areas:   _________, ___________, and __________. (this again demonstrates how he’s grown and some of the skills/experience he’d walk into my company with)

Do you see how he continually referenced what he learned and how he grew in each role?

He didn’t draw these lessons out into long lists, but rather he helped me understand a few important areas he was really strong in as a result of each experience. It was brilliant. It demonstrated he was continuously trying to improve himself. And it helped me place him inside of the company and see how he would make an impact from the specific, concrete lessons he had learned in the past.

Talk about your past experiences in that manner and I guarantee you’ll improve your interview results.

Bonus:  There were 3 other things this candidate did after the 1st round interview that reflected very favorably on him:

  1. He sent a thoughtful follow up note that wasn’t too long while also commenting on 1-2 topics we discussed.
  2. A few days later he sent a link to a relevant article that he thought I might enjoy. He used that as an opportunity to mention a couple of ideas he had which further allowed me to see how his brain worked.
  3. He also emailed me a 90-day plan that he created if he were to step into the job. This is exactly what I look for from a senior level hire. Someone who is proactive and takes the initiative to outline what he/she’d want to accomplish within the first 90 days on the job.

I hope these tips are helpful. I know how hard interviewing can be as well as how much time it can take to prepare. Frame your preparation time taking some of these tips into consideration and I know your interview success rate will improve.

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