3 unexpected tips to prepare for any interview

Ramit Sethi Ramit Sethi · March 11th, 2016

Two candidates walk into an interview.

One has an MBA. He’s wearing the sharpest suit and carrying the sleekest business cards.

The other is a college sophomore. He walks in with none of those things, but he walks out with the job.

How? What did he do that most people — like the MBA — don’t do?

Well, that college sophomore was me. And in this post, I’ll show how to really prepare for an interview so that you walk away with a job offer — not scratching your head wondering what went wrong.

These are the same techniques I used to get job offers from Google, Intuit, and a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund.

But it doesn’t just work for me. Thousands of people have used these strategies to prepare for interview after interview, and beat out people with 10+ years of experience — getting $50,000 raises like this:

Let me show you how to do the same and prepare for any inteview with two of my favorite hacks.

Interview Preparation Hack #1: Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes

Most people walk into an interview and only focus on themselves. They get so caught up in their own needs, wants, and concerns that they forget to talk about what the interviewer wants.

This is a huge mistake.

When I was in college and going to interviews, the number one thing I would remind myself was this:

It’s not about me. It’s about them.

I put myself in the interviewer’s shoes.

That meant I stopped saying things like, “Well, I’m looking for a job that challenges me. I want something that’s rewarding for the hard work I do.” This is I, I, I syndrome and a sure-fire way to land in the “Do Not Hire” pile.

The better way is to talk about what the hiring manager wants.

For example, if the hiring manager asks, “Why should I hire you?”, don’t give the classic me-focused rambling answer.

Respond like this:

"Well, based on the things we’ve already talked about, I know there are 3 main challenges you’re looking at.

The first one is getting new leads, the second is increasing conversions, and the third is retention.

And my experience is in email marketing. I’ve done a lot of work on the conversion side of things and I think could help you guys in AREAS 1, 2, 3.

In fact, the last company I worked with increased their conversions by 26%. I think I can do even better for you."

BOOM! This is the complete opposite of what most people do, which is talk endlessly about themselves. This is the best mindset to have when you walk into your interview. Put the interviewer’s needs first and you will walk away with the job.

Having said that, I don’t just want to tell you, "Here’s a mindset. Bye!"

I want to go a step further and give you a few word-for-word answers to prepare for common interview questions — so you can see this mindset in action.

Interview Preparation Hack #2: Give the Perfect Answers to Tough Interview Questions

Having these answers on hand — combined with the mindset from Hack #1 — will ensure nothing in the interview throws you for a loop.

Interview Question #1: "Can you tell me about yourself?"

The average candidates says:

"Great question. I started working at A Company a few years ago. Then I worked at B Company for a while. Now, I’m at C Company, and I’m looking for room to grow."

What’s wrong with this response? There’s absolutely nothing unique about this. 5,000 people could say the exact same thing. And, in fact, they do! It’s more like reading from a history textbook than creating a narrative of why they should hire YOU.

They ALREADY know that you worked for company A, B, and C — no need to spend so much valuable time talking about it.

Here’s a better response:

"Well, if you look at my experiences, you’ll see that 3 things stand out.

First, I have experience with many areas of selling, including prospecting, consultative sales, and customer relationship management.

Second, I’ve always been fascinated by the business development side of sales, which is why I chose to study marketing, and specifically, outside sales in college.

Finally, I’ve always wanted to take my skills to a larger stage, which is why I moved from A Company, which was a small startup, to B Company, which is a Fortune 100 business. Now, I’m excited to be with you because those transitions and skills fit perfectly with your current needs."

Why this works: You’re not just chronologically listing off facts from your resume, you’re painting a picture of your growth. If you’ve done your pre-interview homework, you’ll know what aspects are most important from your background to highlight.

(In the example above, I highlighted the business development side of sales because that’s what the hiring manager was looking for.)

Interview Question #2: "What’s your biggest weakness?"

The average candidates says:

"My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist."

What’s wrong with this response? 99% of people will say something to this effect. It’s completely forgettable. Plus, it doesn’t spin the weakness into a strength, which is the whole point of this question.

Here’s a better response:

"I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my answer to this question because understanding your weakness is important.

Here’s what I think: I’ve spent most of my career working in one industry. In many ways, that narrows the focus of what I know intimately.

Having said that, I actively tried to work in many different departments and pushed myself to take on a variety of roles. In fact, I was promoted faster than anyone else to lead up new projects around X and Y.

Today, I’m ready to take what I’ve learned from industry B to a new industry and continue to grow. That’s why I’m here today."

Why this works: Almost everyone hates this question. It feels like you’re telling the hiring manager why NOT to hire you.

But if you know how to spin your answer into a strength, you’ve answered this question successfully. They want you to think on your feet without stumbling over your words or making up BS responses.

Interview Preparation Question #3: "Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge with X?"

The average candidates says:

"One time I showed up late for work. But I was willing to skip lunch that day — so it all worked out."

What’s wrong with this response? If you guessed everything, you’re absolutely right. Not only does it make the person look unreliable, but also it seems like they think showing up to work late is okay.

Here’s a better response:

"When I first got hired at Company A, it was actually difficult to make it to work on time.

The traffic was pretty bad — no matter how early I left home. And one day, I actually showed up late, which was pretty frustrating for everyone involved.

Even though I was still getting my work done — by staying late — my coworkers didn’t like having to wait on me to finish.

So I decided to look deeper into the situation. I wanted to see if there was a way to make things easier on everyone.

And I realized that I could actually work on them from home and still do most of the projects being delayed. I put together a proposal for my boss to test it.

And we tried it for a few weeks. Not only did working from home help everyone leave work on time, but it also gave me a huge productivity bump by not spending so much time in traffic. I haven’t had an issue since."

Why this works: This answer is beautifully done. It takes a really bad problem — being late to work — and shows that the person was in complete control of the situation.

Also, notice that it paints the whole story, not just the issue. He shows the problem. He shows how he looked for a solution. And he shows that he actually came up with a great one.

Hiring managers love details like this. The more specific you can be about what you learned, the more memorable you’ll be when it comes time to make an offer.

Bonus Interview Preparation Hack: Avoid these deadly interview mistakes

I’ve shared two of my favorite hacks to help you prepare for any interview, but I want to give you one more….

You’ve got the interview. You have amazing answers on hand — you’re almost there. Don’t blow the whole thing by committing one of these non-verbal interview mistakes.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, I put together 3 free videos with more interview tips. So you can see live examples and specific ways to improve your non-verbal skills. These are the fatal flaws most people won’t tell you you’re making.

Just enter your name and email below to learn how to avoid these costly blunders and get the job of your dreams.

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