As soon as a company identifies you as a potential candidate, you will need to begin preparing to close the deal. Thorough interview preparation will increase your chances of landing the right job. Thorough review of negotiating guidelines increases your chances of getting a fantastic final offer.
Landing the Job
Understand the Process. Before each interview, try to find out the format (phone, video, panel, group), the type (screen, behavioral, case, test), and who will be conducting the interview. It’s okay to ask!
Research. Before any interview, research the industry, the company, and the people you will be meeting. Understand the job requirements and employer's needs and wants. The company's website is a good place to start, but don't forget to tap your network and use tools like LinkedIn to find information about the people you will talk with and what is valued by the organization.
Anticipate Questions. Look at the job description carefully, list out the requirements and think about what they might ask you. Use this handy chart to map out examples of how you have demonstrated the key qualifications for the job. Talk to people who have been through the process about what to expect.
Prepare the Answers. Most importantly, prepare for the opening question “tell me about yourself”. Keep it concise (less than 2 minutes), chronological, and relevant to the role. The other questions you must prepare for are: “why are you leaving your company?”, “why do you want to join our company?”, and “why should we hire you?” Whether these questions are asked directly or indirectly, you must convey this information.
Know your salary expectations. This question is typically asked up front. Be prepared.
Practice the Interview. Nothing beats a mock interview for practicing your responses and getting constructive, actionable feedback. Contact ACS to schedule an appointment.
In the Interview
Listen carefully to the interviewer's questions so that you can respond to exactly what is being asked. Don’t be afraid to pause and think about your response.
Ask clarifying questions if you don’t completely understand a question - rephrase it to the interviewer and check for accuracy (“So that I’m clear on your question, you’d like to know ____, is that right?”)
Be succinct. If your answer is too long you risk complicating your message and either confusing or boring the interviewer. A good strategy is to summarize the central point of your response at the beginning of your answer, then more fully explain.
Outline your responses when you can. For example, if you are asked, "Why are you interested in our company?”, an effective format for your response is: "I want to work for your company for three reasons: Reason A is... Reason B is... and Reason C is..."
Prepare closing questions that are engaging and relevant to your interviewer. When in doubt use this time to get to know your interviewer – s/he could be your future colleague. Samples.
Nervous? Remember, the company is as interested in you as you are in it. It's okay to pause, stumble on your words here and there, and break eye contact occasionally. These are all natural behaviors and are better than seeming “canned.”
After the Interview
Immediately make notes about the position, each interview, and follow-up instructions. Jot down what you feel went well, and not-so well during the interview, and any skills you did not have a chance to discuss or expand upon. Your notes will be useful in writing thank you letters.
Thank you notes are a must. They may not make your candidacy, but the lack of a thank you can break your candidacy. Email is perfectly acceptable. If you believe there is time in the process and you want to add a personal touch, a handwritten note is great too. If you interviewed with several individuals, make sure each person's letter is unique. Sincerely compliment the interviewer or his/her company, reiterate your interest in the position and restate the follow-up action that was agreed to during the interview. Click here to view a sample thank you letter.
Follow up if you don’t hear from the employer according to the timeline given. Be politely persistent and indicate your continued interest.
References are typically requested as a final stage in the process before you get an offer. At some point in the interview and evaluation process, most employers will conduct informal or formal checks on you which could include your online presence, recommendations, references, credit history, grades, etc. Have at least a recent direct supervisor, a peer, and a direct report that you can provide, and be aware of what these individuals will say about you as a colleague and, if applicable, your reason for leaving.
Background checks are routine and can be done during or after the hiring process. Expect that an employer’s checks will include your online/social media presence, criminal record, credit report, and your employment and education records.
Case interviews are hypothetical business problems that you are asked to solve as part of the interview. These “cases”, usually present a real-world business scenario, but can also include analytical, mathematical problems, or brain teaser type questions. The purpose of the case interview is to gauge how well you listen, your logic in problem solving, how you formulate a plan, and whether you can articulate a solution under pressure. Generally, there is no one right “answer” to the case question, but rather the interviewer is evaluating your approach, structure, analysis, poise, and communications style. The best way to prepare for case interviews is to practice
Recommended resources for case interview preparation:
- PrepLounge is a website with resources to assist in case interview preparation including practice cases with peers and experts.
- MyConsultingCoach: redefines case interview preparation by teaching applicants how to think like a consultant. The Case Academy is an online course that prepares you for your case interview. Darden alumni are offered a free one-year trial. To register for the trial, use your Darden email address or contact Alumni Career Services.
- Case in Point and http://www.casequestions.com/ by Marc Cosentino, former director of Career Services at Harvard
- RocketBlocks case interview prep with interactive drills
- Case Interview Secrets: A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting by Victor Cheng. His website also provides many resources including free email tips.
- Crack the Case System: How to Conquer Your Case Interviews and http://www.mbacase.com/ by David Ohrvall, Wharton MBA and former Bain consultant. Offers one-on-one case interview coaching for a fee.
- Consulting Case 101 is a membership (fee-based) site with access to hundreds of a cases and links to most consulting firm websites. The site is a collaboration between students at Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
- All major firms now provide sample practice cases on their websites. Some are online interactive and some provide PDF solution keys.
- For quantitative skills review, Matthew Tambiah offers the online course, "FastMath Ace the Case."
Be prepared. Technically, the negotiation process starts when you are first asked the question “what are your salary expectations?” This question comes early in the process, usually in or right before the first interview. A company doesn’t want to waste time if they aren’t going to be able to satisfy you. Research the salary for your target role early, so that you know how to answer this question. The most important number in your negotiations is what the employer is willing and able to pay.
Slow the process down. You don’t have to react immediately. Upon receiving an offer, express enthusiasm but no commitment. Get details on the start date, salary, bonus, incentives, relocation and equity. Agree on a time frame (several days to two weeks) to review the offer and respond. To buy extra time, you can also:
- Propose a trip to review real estate
- Ask for an additional meeting to meet more team members
- Ask to meet with HR to review policies and details
- Get the offer and all materials in writing
Consider all factors. Our Compensation & Benefits Checklist is intended to help you consider all aspects of an offer. You will also want to ensure you are clear on non-compensation factors such as your responsibilities, your reporting relationship, and the review process. Ask questions if you aren’t sure.
Read our blog posts for:
Want customized negotiations assistance? Reach out to ACS to schedule an appointment.
Declining an Offer
There are times when an effective job search pays off with more than one offer of employment. If you find that you need to decline an offer, consider the following tips:
- Be prepared to be asked “what will it take for you to accept?” You might be surprised how far the employer is willing to stretch when you are now willing to walk away.
- When declining the offer, be as gracious as you were when establishing first contact. You'll want to include these contacts in your network going forward and ensure they still have a positive impression of you.
- Without being critical of their company or offer, simply let them know you're making a decision that is in your best interest and fits your situation. Be positive in your tone and refrain from disclosing too many details.
- Tell them you regret that you will miss the opportunity to work with them … after all, they liked you enough to offer you a job. Wish them success in their business.
- Communicate your decision to each person with whom you interviewed, particularly the hiring manager. Express to your key contact(s) that you hope to stay in touch in the future and consider connecting with them on LinkedIn.
- Offer to make a referral for the opening to another excellent candidate in your network if possible. Of course, you can also suggest that they post jobs on Darden Career Link.