10 Tips To Nail The Interview

Although there are some layoffs going on in Silicon Valley, the Stella & Dot Family of Brands is growing and hiring – with over 40 open positions. That means I spend a lot of time interviewing.  Of course, you have to be qualified to get in the door. But once that door is open, here are some tips on how to make a good impression – and land the job.

  1. Do your due diligence. I once interviewed business school students for Dell. Of the 20 candidates, about half couldn’t speak to the product line. Those interviews ended in about five minutes. Great employers are looking for passion and initiative – and a lot of that starts with passion for the mission and product. One qualified candidate not only knew we were in the enterprise space as well as personal computing, he had also read Michael Dell’s book, The Soul of Dell, and had questions about the culture. Guess who got hired? Research the company and competitors.
  2. Don’t dish about your former employer. This is an interview, not a therapy session in which you seek solace for how your last boss did you wrong. Even if it’s a valid complaint and you are baited by the interviewer, never go there. This is like going on a first date and complaining about your ex the entire time. No one wants to hire someone prone to negativity and gossip. Focus on where you want to go, not where you want to leave.
  3. Be articulate. Like, um, I mean, this is so not like, ya know,  junior high, where like, OMG, you can just like, uh, say whatever! Break the bad habit of using filler words. Practice, record yourself, practice some more.
  4. Make eye contact. Who are you talking to? Is it someone on the floor? Eye contact conveys confidence. Shifting, wandering eyes convey insecurity. If you doubt yourself, others will too.
  5. Use confident body language. You know about the firm handshake, but what about the rest of your body? I recently had a Skype interview where the candidate played with her hair the entire time, like she was primping in the mirror. Don’t fidget. Literally, lean in. Don’t cross your arms. If you are listening and engaged, tell your face.
  6. Listen to what someone is asking you. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that order. Make sure you understand the intent of the question before you jump into an answer.
  7. Watch your public demeanor. I often meet candidates for coffee or lunch to see if they are courteous by nature. If you are in public, this requires that you not only impress your prospective employer with what you’re saying, but also how you are conducting yourself. Watch your manners, volume level, and basic common courtesies in a public setting.
  8. Interview your employer. The best hires for our executive team always seem to be interviewing me. When it comes time to ask questions, have some good ones. Ask about the core values and culture of the company, the long-term vision and the definition of success in the role.
  9. Be You. Be professional and on point, but let your unique personality and perspective come through. Share how you grew up and why you have the values you have.
  10. Stay on topic. Do not babble. Often I’ll ask a candidate one question, and they start to address it but then quickly wander off topic. When asked a question, think of answering like you would in a spelling bee. If you need to, ask for the meaning to be sure you understand the intent of the question. Are we talking pair or pare or pear? When you’ve finished spelling that word, don’t start spelling other words. Give your answer to the question asked as thoroughly as you can. Then stop talking.

Use these tips to deliver a polished, cohesive interview. Here’s a common question and an example of how I would answer it:

When have you demonstrated that you can overcome difficult challenges at a past job?

Hmmm… I love a good challenge, but let me reflect for a minute on one of the best examples of a challenge I have overcome that would be most relevant to my ability to succeed here at (this company) in the role of (job you are interviewing for and have researched). (Be comfortable with a bit of silence while you think. Do not say ummm, uhhhh, well, etc).

At my first job out of college, we had to deliver a product in half the time with half the resources. While it was daunting, it was critical to accomplish to get our next round of funding. So, we had to get creative. I was able to barter services from another company and trade some overstock product we had…. That is just one example of how I took on a difficult challenge and delivered. (Now stop talking and wait for next question.)

Happy job hunting!

Jessica DiLullo Herrin
About the author: 

Based in San Francisco, Jessica DiLullo is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at the Stella & Dot Family of Brands.  The company is backed by Sequoia Capital, and sells high-touch brands through 50,000 independent business owners.  Prior to Stella & Dot, Ms DiLullo held executive assignments with Dell, Inc., Trilogy and weddingchannel.com.  She also authored “Find Your Extradorniary” and is an “Influencer” on LinkedIn.  Follow Jessica on Twitter.