How To Ace Your Next Interview

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
It's no secret that today's job market is competitive — particularly in the case of joining a small, innovative start-up looking for bright people to help them do big things. If your résumé impresses the recruiter, and you make it through to the first round of interviews, you should aim to shine brighter than the hundreds of other applicants competing for the same role. Ahead, we share some easy and effective ways stand out from the competition.

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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Learn About The Company
Read, read, and re-read about the company to which you’re applying — and then read about it some more. Research who they are, what they do, who they do it for, and where they want to be in 10 years — and not just by taking a cursory glance at the company website.
Think about why they first launched, and how they’ve developed since then. Learn about projects and campaigns they’ve worked on, and get an idea of what people in and around the industry have been saying about them.

Do they have a blog? Good. Read it. And, scour their social media profiles. You’ll get a better idea of the company’s personality, the sort of people who might be interviewing you, and whether you’d actually be a good fit on the team.

While you’re thinking about the team, find the founders and key staff members on LinkedIn to see what led them to where they are today.

Related: Interview Like A Pro
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Use Their Product
If the company is an app, download it. If it’s a website, spend time on it. If it’s a game, play it. If it’s an expensive piece of one-of-a-kind wearable tech that only exists inside a secret vault in San Francisco...well, use your imagination.

Interacting with a company’s product is the best way to gain a 360-degree understanding of both how it works and what its limitations are. This will enable you to think creatively when asked how it might be improved — because you will definitely be asked how it could be improved. Consider which aspects of the tool or service you like most, and come armed with questions and imaginative ideas for its future development.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Think About Their Industry & Competitors
Be prepared to talk about why you find the company’s industry exciting, and how you see it impacting upon the future of the world. Whether it’s a mobile app, an online gaming platform, a trendy e-commerce operation, a new type of smart-watch, a virtual reality console, or an innovative food delivery service, think about where the industry is going and how you see the company developing within it.

Does market research prove the company is tapping into global trends, and that there is genuinely a place for them in the world? Brilliant. Tell them. Everybody loves having their ego stroked a little bit.

Who are the start-up’s main competitors? How do they all compare? What are they each doing differently? Do they have distinct clients and users? What are their best features and why? It’s crucial that young companies stay ahead of the game, and this means offering something more valuable or attractive than their competitors. If you come into an interview with a strategy for being better than the rest, interviewers won’t be able to resist you.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Consider Your Favorite Brands
Whatever role you’re applying for, think about other brands excelling in the same area. Does Nike have a brilliant social media presence? Did Starbucks just roll out an awesome update to its iPhone app? Is there a Pepsi poster on the bus stop outside your office that makes you smile? Think about why you like these brands and their ideas, and then bring some of your own to the table in the interview. Paint yourself as the sort of ambitious person who chooses to join a small company because you know it’s somewhere you’ll be able to make a difference and contribute to immediate growth. Prove you’re an individual who believes that a start-up with 10 employees should be doing things just as brilliantly as an international powerhouse with 10,000.

Related: This Is Helping Millennials Take Control Of Their Finances
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Hand Them Something Pretty To Look At
Nobody can resist a printed A4 sheet of paper with lots of lovely headings and bullet points — particularly if the bullet points are genuinely relevant and thought provoking. Handing every interviewer in the room a document with some of the questions you’ve been asked to prepare proves you’ve really done your homework, and that you want to make a good impression. It will also help you stick to your train of thought if you lose your thread during the interview. Plus, when they’re reconsidering all the candidates, you’ll be the one who they recall best, since everything you told them will still be in their hands.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Ask THEM Questions
It’s important to think of job interviews as two-way relationships: It’s as much about whether you want to accept the position as whether they want to offer it to you. There’s no point faking your way into a role that’s not right for you, only to be miserable three months later.

Asking the interviewers rich questions about the position’s roles, responsibilities, and trajectory will not only help you evaluate whether or not you really want the job, it will also paint you as someone with a curious mind. And, that’s what every start-up is looking for in a new employee. Don’t even think about asking if it’s a 9-to-5 job, because chances are that joining a growing start-up means you'll be expected to work overtime and go beyond your particular job specifications.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
You may be nervous, but just remember that interviewers are people, too. All they’re looking for are enthusiastic, energetic, intelligent people to join them in making their company a success story. If you really are passionate about the job, they’ll be able to tell.

Next: The True Product-Strategy Need-To-Know