A short prep checklist for your next interview

I’ve been speaking to folks who are in the process of preparing for interviews lately. While I have a long post on the topic, I thought I’d put together a short prep checklist.

When you prepare, consider allocating time among 4 types of questions –

  1. Why industry (15% of your time): Industry questions target your perspectives on the industry you are applying for. Ideally, you are interviewing for an industry you are interested in and this part of your preparation just involves synthesizing what you think based on recent news, blog posts and events.
  2. Why company (15% of your time): Company related questions typically judge culture fit and understanding of the context the company operates in. For the former, clearly understanding cultural norms and values (in companies that say they care about this) helps a lot. Amazon, for example, expects you to know their 14 leadership principles. And, for the latter, reading an analyst report or two that gives you a sense of the competitors and prospects can help a lot. If the company is public, reading their recently quarterly or annual filings is a must-do.
  3. Why role (40% of your time): There are 2 important variants of role questions –
    • Do you understand what the executives in your function think about? (less common but interesting and important)
    • Do you know what you would do/what skills you would need in your first day? (this is the most common variant and is typically tested using a case which simulates a real problem to test how you approach problems)
  4. Why you (30% of your time): “Why you” questions also typically ask two questions –
    • Would I like to work with you? (file this under the ambiguous “culture fit”)
    • Do your skills overlap sufficiently with the skills required for the job? (Understand the top 3-4 skills required and ensure your behavioral stories call these out – this is particularly important if you are switching careers)

Interview panels focus on different aspects of these 4 questions for various interviews. The “why role” and “why you” specific questions tend to be asked across interviewers.

I hope this helps.

PS: There’s a lot of luck involved in admissions or hiring. I hope you choose to learn from your experience either way and keep going, growing.