Social change work is hard and frustrating and wonderful and terrible; it is also, at times, funny, quirky and just plain fascinating. With this blog we hope to capture all that goes into what we do at Capital Good Fund, and we invite you to join the conversation!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Five Tips For Job Interviews

Over the past six year's I've had occasion to interview dozens of candidates for all manner of positions: volunteers, interns, part-time and full-time employees, and independent contractors.  Given this depth of experience, I think I'm relatively qualified to give five tips for your next job interview:

  1. Smile.   I know you're nervous; interviews are awkward and kinda suck, for you as well as for the interviewer.  But that doesn't mean you can't fake it.  I can't tell you how many times I've come out to shake hands with the candidate, only to immediately get the feeling that they would rather not be there.  First impressions matter.  A smile says that you want to be there.  Remember that the interviewer enjoys the process about as much as you do.  We typically have a list of stale questions that we ask each candidate; the best interviews are those where the questions turn into conversation.  If you can smile and bring enthusiasm to the meeting, I guarantee that you'll have a better chance of landing the job.
  2. Come prepared.  This ought to be exceedingly obvious, but you'd be surprised by how many people show up without having researched Capital Good Fund in general and the position in particular.  Now, I know it's too much to expect you to spend hours brushing up on the organization.  Fortunately, you don't have to: reference a few things you read on the website--and, even better, about the interviewer--and you'll be good to go.  An example?  I typically ask people what interested them in Capital Good Fund.  A good answer would be something like, "After I saw the position I went to your website and gravitated toward your immigration loan program.  My mom emigrated to the US, and I would love to be part of an organization that helps people like her become citizens."  Boom.  Instant rapport!
  3. Ask questions.  At the end of every interview I ask if the candidate has any questions, and I am always turned off if they don't.  Even if you don't have any, ask something.  A lack of questions indicates a lack of interest.  And don't just ask about compensation; ask about the company's vision for the future, the interviewer's role at the company, the nature of the company culture.  And this shouldn't just be perfunctory: you want to be sure that this is a job offer you'd accept.  The more information you have, the easier that decision will be.
  4. Be confident and honest.  There's no reason to denigrate yourself.  If you lack on-the-job experience, don't dwell on it.  Play up your skill set and speak to your eagerness to learn.  Highlight examples where you've been given a new task and how you handled it.  As an interviewer, I get that not every candidate is perfect.  I look for people that are confident yet honest.  In other words, don't make it seem like your two internships make you the next Steve Jobs, but neither should you sulk about it.
  5. Remember my dad's motto: businesses don't do business with businesses; people do business with people.  I hire for a person's fit within the culture of the organization as much as I do for their skills.  I'm of the opinion that people can always learn new tasks, but interpersonal relations are what they are.  To that end, do anything you can to cultivate a relationship with the interviewer and the organization.  Know someone connected to the company?  Mention it. Notice a shared interest, such as tennis?  Ditto.
In short, a lot of qualified people don't land jobs because of how they present themselves.  It isn't about flashing a dense resume or dressing the snappiest, but rather showing that you're a genuine person who is genuinely interested in the work you might be doing.

A Bonus Tip: Have A Why
To really bring the point home, I recommend you check out this great TEDx talk, though I'll save you some time by highlighting the main point: people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  Put another way,  I hire for why you want the job.  Therefore when you show up at my office, have a reason for wanting the position and be sure to communicate that at every possible opportunity.

Good luck and happy interviewing!

Andy is the Founder & CEO of Capital Good Fund, a social change organization dedicated to ending poverty in America. Capital Good Fund provides financial services— small personal loans as well as Financial & Health Coaching—to low-income families.

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