The little things do matter. By little things, I mean stuff like bringing extra copies of your resume to the interview (ideally on cotton resume paper as it helps your resume stand out in a stack of other papers). If you are interviewing for top roles at big companies like Google and Facebook, your interview is just plopped on the busy calendar of someone relatively senior who works in the function you are interviewing for (eg. a Senior Product Manager would interview a prospective Product Manager).
Given your interviewer is probably sprinting to get to your interview and then be on time to whatever they have after it, they likely didn’t have a chance to look at your resume beforehand beyond a rudimentary skim at best. Giving them a paper copy in person will likely be appreciated. Even more importantly, having them look at your resume will help them ask questions more tailored to your background which will lend to more interesting conversation. For all you know, you and your interviewer may have gone to the same college or worked at the same company previously! These little things help you build rapport and can definitely work in your favor.
I’d also recommend always asking for the business card or email address of the interviewer. This allows you to send your interviewer a thank you message after the interview. In that message, I’d recommend mentioning how you “especially enjoyed your conversation about x” which will help your interviewer connect your name/email to actual interview conversation. You want to make sure you leave a positive, memorable impression.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing interviewers are asking themselves is “would I want to work with this person?” Even if you are brilliant and extremely experienced, you won’t get the job if you come off as an arrogant person who would be a pain to work with. Interviewers are looking for people who will create value for the company while being fun to work with.
My favorite trick for winning job offers is pitching a big strategic idea for whatever company I am interviewing at during the Q&A portion of the interview. This effectively turns the portion of the interview that is supposed to have the most value for you personally, into the part that has the most value for the company that’s considering hiring you. You can always ask the questions you had after you get the job offer!
The idea you pitch should be relevant to the role you are interviewing for. So as a Product Manager, if I was interviewing for Uber, I might ask the interviewer if they have considered offering “Uber Haul”—a class of service that will have my Uber be a pickup truck to serve the use case of needing to transport both myself as well as some large item (eg. a new dresser) from Point A to Point B (eg. from Ikea to my house). I would then point out the obvious drawbacks of this idea, such as it’s not as common of a use case as just needing a ride, but then identify the pros such as it could be a service Uber charges a premium for, it could appeal to a new category of drivers/vehicle owners to help grow Uber’s driver base and differentiate from Lyft, and it could help Uber grow in suburban markets in which most people already own a car and don’t use ridesharing services often, but do occasionally need help hauling something because they only own a small sedan. Pitching an idea like this is a great way to start an interesting conversation and be a memorable candidate.
The reason I always use this technique is because I realized something while being an interviewer for the Cornell International Business Association. When you have great candidates interviewing (which top companies always do), and you are spending a lot of time asking them all the same questions, the responses from one candidate to the next start to sound more or less the same after a while even if they are great responses. By proposing something out of the box, you will immediately stand out in the mind of the interviewer and be memorable.
There are two books everyone needs to read to truly excel in interviews:
The first book is Case in Point by Marc Cosentino. Case in Point is to consultants what the Bible is to Christians. I know what you are thinking: “But I don’t want to be a consultant...” Regardless of what company/industry you are interviewing for, being able to think like a consultant will be a valuable life long skill.
I always re-skim Case in Point before interviews as it is extremely helpful in allowing me to breakdown problems in a clear and organized way. Something a lot of people forget is it’s not just what you say that matters, but also how you say it. If you didn’t study business in college, I would especially recommend reading this book as it will help get you up to speed with some important business concepts.
The second book is Swipe to Unlock. I actually co-authored it along with Neel Mehta and Adi Agashe, who are Product Managers at Google and Microsoft respectively.
The underlying idea behind the book is essentially that there is a big difference between being able to write code and being "technical." Being able to write good code is a valuable skill necessary to be a software engineer. Being "technical" however is a vital skill for everyone which lets you make informed decisions—both personal and professional—by understanding how the technology you use every day actually works.
Swipe to Unlock breaks down all the core concepts of both business and technology with no assumed knowledge. It is a one stop guide for anyone to become technical, by answering everything from how Google search works on the backend to how artificial intelligence will affect the job market and everything in between. The book is a #1 Amazon Bestseller and has glowing testimonials from readers who have gone on to receive business strategy, product management, and marketing job offers at Google, Apple, Microsoft, and more.
You will almost always be asked some behavioral questions during interviews. Behavioral questions are essentially about you questions like “tell me about yourself,” or “tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership.”
Behavioral questions are meant to be answered with an example driven story. The secret to preparing for behavioral interviews is having about 5 to 8 stories/examples prepared beforehand that you can spin in different directions to highlight whatever trait you might be asked about. What I mean by this is whether I am asked to talk about a time I demonstrated leadership or a time I worked with others to accomplish a goal, or a time I had to work effectively under pressure, I have a story prepared that can work to answer any of these questions.
At a certain point, the question you were asked doesn’t even matter if the story itself highlights accomplishments that makes the interviewer want to hire you. My friend Rohan who works at LinkedIn wrote a great piece on his blog that explains how to tackle behavioral interview questions in depth.
Something I always do before interviews is go on Google News and search the name of the company I am going to be interviewing with to make sure I am familiar with all the recent events surrounding the company and then try to figure out the strategic implications of those events. I recommend doing this again the morning of the actual interview as it is possible something big could have just happened.
I was in an Uber from my hotel to my final round interview with Microsoft when I learned (through this technique) that Microsoft had literally just announced acquired Xamarin. Admittedly, I had never heard of Xamarin before the acquisition but because of it, I quickly read up on it. My interviewers were very impressed when I asked them their thoughts on the acquisition and if my presumptions regarding the strategic rationale behind it were on point.
In addition to using Google News to read up on the company as a whole, I also recommend googling the role and company you will be interviewing at followed by the word interview (eg. “Google Product Manager interview”). What will likely come up first is Glassdoor on which previous interview candidates shared the exact questions they were asked when interviewing for that specific role!
For popular roles at top companies, you will find a slew of helpful resources worth reading spread across everything from Quora to personal blogs. It is definitely worth your time to go through at least the first couple of pages of Google results as there is definitely be some extremely insightful resources from people who have either interviewed for that role or actually conducted the interview. I have actually had some questions I found online on Glassdoor and blogs actually recycled and asked to me during interviews at top companies!
The tl;dr of getting job offers: be prepared, be likeable, and demonstrate value. Do these three things and your interviewer will go to bat for you every time to make sure the hiring manager chooses you for the job.
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Also, you may want to check out my bestselling book on Amazon: