The Container Store

Three Secrets to a Great Job Interview

  • Nov 14, 2018
  • Jason Hood (Recruiting & Training Market Manager) and Rachel Kennedy (Recruiting Manager)
Three Secrets to a Great Job Interview

As recruiters, we hear it all the time: “Looking for a job is hard work!” It can be so hard, in fact, that it sometimes even starts to feel like a “job” unto itself. With that in mind, we wanted to offer a few tips to help make your job search more rewarding:


• Do Your Research - When we’re interviewing a prospective hire, we usually initiate the conversation by asking an applicant, “Tell me what you already know about our company.” Many other recruiters are the same way, so that’s why it’s important for applicants to know both the company and what they’re looking for. Be sure to take plenty of time before the interview to learn more about the position and the overall business so you’re able to speak to specifics. 

There are numerous resources right at your fingertips that will help you accomplish this. First, we suggest looking at business sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, and follow the company’s social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to learn about the company’s events and culture. If they are a public company, investigate their stock price over the last month and year.  Always share, “Based on the research I’ve done on your company, here is where I believe I can contribute the most…” or, “Here is the skillset I can bring to the position…”

If you know the name of the recruiter or hiring manager you’ll be interviewing with, look them up on LinkedIn ahead of time. Learn about their educational and professional background, how long they have been with the company, and maybe even their hobbies (which can be great conversation starters). Look for commonalities, links, and mutual friends to get a conversation going.

• Use Your Network - Networking and referrals are also very important ways to prepare. Search your personal and professional networks to find someone who works where you are applying. Sometimes referrals get priority treatment, so mention names of friends who already work there and share what you’ve learned about the company from them.

• Prepare Your Questions - As Jason says, “I don’t only hire people based on their answers. I hire people based on their questions too.” In other words, be prepared to not only answer questions, but ask them! This indicates a high level of both interest and preparation, so make sure your questions are thoughtful and honest.

However, it’s important to not let your first question be about salary. The compensation conversation will come up, so don’t rush it. By leading with a compensation question, it shows that you’re only interested in money. It’s more effective to prove that you are worth a commanding salary first, and then let the recruiter bring it up.

• Take Phone and Video Interviews Seriously - Many interviews today are done via phone or video rather than in person, but these types of interviews are still an interview, so take them seriously and professionally. Even though only your head and shoulders are seen for video interviews, being fully prepared means being fully dressed. (A fellow recruiter recently told us about an experience where the video interview went wrong when the candidate stood up to adjust the camera and was only half-dressed!). Being completely dressed, even for a video interview, lays the foundation for your mindset and approach.

Some other things to remember in a video interview:

1.    Slow down. When we are excited and nervous, we speed up.

2.   Ask the interviewer occasional questions to ensure they are engaged.

3.   Practice the interview ahead of time to ensure your audio/visual components are in working order.

The same preparation goes for phone interviews. Many people take phone interviews during the work day (or worse, while driving!), but we don’t recommend this. When the phone rings, don’t rush to your car or scramble to find a private corner; instead, find a quiet place ahead of time. If you are home, secure your dogs in a safe space. And though it may seem silly, be sure to smile while talking; it actually does translate well over the phone. 

Have a Winning Attitude

In this continually evolving job market, more and more companies are hiring for attitude, not necessarily aptitude. The interviewer has a need (to fill an open position) and they’re hoping the person they’re interviewing will fulfill that need. Therefore, go into it with the belief that the company wants to hire someone and that someone might be you! You must believe that you can help the organization by adding your skillset. 

Enthusiasm is also incredibly important. We recently conducted phone interviews with two different candidates for a technical role in our company. After reflecting and looking back at the phone interview notes, we chose the candidate who enthusiastically explained why she was excited by the role and the company. Though her skillset was very similar to the other candidate, her positive attitude made all the difference!

Know Your Story

Inevitably, there will come a time during an interview when the interviewer asks, “Tell me about yourself.” This is not an opportunity to share your details of your life (your birthplace, your first pet, etc.); instead, start sharing your career’s “greatest hits.” This should include your biggest professional accomplishment, why you are looking for a new position, why the position you’re applying for appeals to you, and how your previous work and life experiences have prepared you for it.

For many people, major or minor life changes initiate a job change too. Some candidates are re-entering the workforce after caring for themselves, a child, or a loved one. This can cause some trepidation about how to explain perceived gaps in employment, but we recommend focusing on “the now.” Share what experiences you gained from your time caring for someone else (multi-tasking, project management, budgeting, etc.). Just think: your unique skillset can help solve an employer’s greatest need!

No matter what type of job you’re looking for, the most important thing is that you remain professional, courteous, and confident. And with the proper amount of preparation, research, and hard work, you’re putting yourself in the best possible position for consideration. These secrets may seem fairly simple and straightforward but, they’ve proven incredibly useful in helping us pinpoint the best new recruits time and time again!