How To Interview: The 3 Things That Matter

Over the course of my life, I’ve been involved with quite a few interviews and hiring decisions.

At my previous job, I was involved with many interviews of professional coworkers and even on interview committees to hire people who would eventually be above me in rank.

Since leaving there, I’ve interviewed several people for potential assistant positions, particularly when management aspects of The Simple Dollar became overwhelming in 2010 and 2011.

In my personal life, I’ve interviewed several financial advisors and a few general contractors.

Almost without fail, I’ve found that three things mattered more than anything else when hiring any of these people. If these people did these things in a genuine way, they were almost always people I wanted to have around.

They asked questions about everything
People who tend to do a good job are always gathering information. They want to understand the job they’re expected to do with as much detail as reasonably possible. They want to know who they’re working for and what’s realistically going to be expected of them. They want to know how to transform the skills they have into something the other people are going to want.

People who can channel their curiosity and skills toward a specific job are always going to be useful and the easiest way to identify them is to simply see how many questions they ask and how insightful they are.

They already knew about me or my organization or started the interview by gathering knowledge
They came to the table already possessing significant information about what they’re getting into. If that wasn’t immediately available, they came to the table ready to figure those things out quickly.

In other words, they came to the situation as prepared as possible. As much as possible, they understand what the job will expect of them and who’s going to be doing the expecting.

When I researched them online, I found them engaged in repeated professional conversations
This indicated that they cared enough about what they were doing that they were engaged in it outside of their nine to five jobs. They sought out situations to discuss aspects of their chosen profession both with other professionals and with their clients.

This is why Twitter, messageboards, websites, and even Facebook can both prove valuable for professionals. It provides a clear way to demonstrate professional behavior and passion for a topic while also connecting with peers and potential clients.

These facts directly translate into things you can do to maximize your own interviews.

Get involved online
Look for opportunities to discuss your career and, yes, promote yourself a little, directly or indirectly. Twitter is great for this, as is a blog on a topic you’re into. Invest time in this. Use it as a way to learn more about your career path and interact with other professionals, too.

If you get an interview, do lots of homework
Find out as much as you can about the company you’re interviewing for, the position you’re interviewing for, and even the people interviewing you in advance of the interview. Understand what the company does and how the job you’re doing will help that company. If you can find out about the interviewer, you can seek areas of common interest with them.

Ask questions – lots of them
You should go in the door with several questions you want answered about the job you’re interviewing for. What kinds of specific problems will you be solving? What is the environment like? Ask follow-up questions about things you learned during your research. Even more important, ask questions about the things you’re learning during the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, as you don’t want to stroll into a toxic or impossible environment just as much as they don’t want to hire someone who can’t do the job.

These things should be routine for you, as this is the ongoing approach that a thoughtful professional takes with their career path. If you’re struggling in your career and these steps don’t seem routine to you, then you may want to rethink the exact direction of your career.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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