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When Can You Start?: The Best Basic Interview Hacks

My experience with recruiting lead me to post an interview hacks thread on my Facebook page last year. I had no clue it would become as popular as it has. I get frequent emails requesting a link to the thread, and have received a few emails from followers thanking me for the advice since having employed the suggestions I made, they started landing jobs.

So being the negro-loving sis that I am, I’m giving you all my best advice in one article. In addition to recruiting, I’ve honed my skills interviewing and always land the gig. So fuck with me as I give you the hacks to navigate interviews.

Write it down!

You know those days at work when everything is going wrong and you wanna take that stapler and run it up your coworker’s ass or go to a customer’s house and beat the brakes off of them? Believe it or not, you need those kinds of days. When you have particular tough day, WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN!

Writing down not only the problem but how you solved it will help you in interviews tremendously. Additionally, when you have one of those days where you’re on your shit and are handling your job like a pro, write down what you did and all the positive feedback. Keep a work journal, and even if you don’t have the time or energy to write down detailed notes daily, use it for any specially trying or successful day.

Now you have dozens of references to review before an interview. So when an employer hits you with, “Tell me about a time you had a problem and how you solved it,” or something similar, you already have examples ready to go. And when you’re asked about accomplishments or a time you provided exceptional service, you have examples for that as well.

LMGTFY: Google is your friend!

Before you complete a phone screen and certainly before you arrive for an interview, spend some time on the company’s website. Familiarize yourself with the “about” section. Google the company and read a few articles about them. This not only help you answer the customary “What do you know about us?” that recruiters are trained to ask, but you will be able to ask intelligent questions about the company.

For instance, if you see an article about the company’s new diversity initiative, you can ask what prompted the company to undertake such a program and how it is improving the work life of its employees of color. You may also want to ask about a big deal and how it will affect the company’s business dealings moving forward. Let’s say you’re interviewing with a company that recently located its headquarters to your area. You’d do well to ask a question like, “Moving to a completely different city, how does the company plan to shift its corporate culture to align with the culture of this area?”

In addition to researching the company, when you’ve confirmed the person you’ll be interviewing with, always google them as well. Find their LinkedIn profile and review their experience. If the person is senior management, they may have a picture and profile on the company’s site. In either event, you want to find any information you can about the interviewer’s career history so that you have an idea of their own expertise and what they’re inclined to ask and be looking for in you.

Too early is as bad a being too late!

I cannot tell you how many times an applicant arrived for an interview 30 minutes or more early. And while most people think they’re showing their potential employer how prompt they can be, all showing up excessively early does is annoy the interviewer. If you show up to the reception desk for a 11 AM interview at 10:20 AM, the recruiter or whoever is set to interview you could still be finishing up with another candidate, in the middle of a project or otherwise engaged, and is likely to be annoyed at being interrupted so early.

Arrive no more than 15 minutes before your interview. Now it’s always wise to be at the location at least 30 minutes early so that you may allow time for any inconveniences and time to get into the building, but sit in your car or go to a nearby restaurant until such time as you will arrive early enough to show you’re respectful of the employer’s time and value promptness but not so early that you show you’re not respectful of the employer’s time.

Nobody’s perfect, fam!

When I interviewed candidates and asked about their weaknesses, anytime they responded with that bullshit line about being too much of a perfectionist, I knew I wasn’t going to hire them. In addition to coming off as arrogant, it shows candidates doesn’t have self-awareness and are unable to critique themselves honestly. That tells me that they also won’t respond well to constructive criticism if they think their work is perfect.

The best way to answer this question is honestly. And not so honest that you reveal shit that would immediately disqualify for the position, but honest about a weakness that you know is innate. Then finish up with clear examples of how being well aware of that weakness has pushed you to work on it. For instance, I am honest about my tendency to get disorganized easily. So to this question, I answer, “Because I am a multi-tacker, in environments where a lot of paper is necessary, I know I can easily become disorganized. Knowing that about myself has help me to put a variety of self-checks and systems in place to counter my natural inclination toward disorganization. One thing I do is always order and immediately use the supplies I need to get and keep myself organized such as file folders and bins. I also make a practice of not picking up one piece of paper without putting away another if I’m moving from one task to another.”

This way, the employer is like, “OK, I see this candidate can not only self-check, but this is a weakness I can easily check her on if need be.”

Like your mama said, “What goes on in your home stays at home!”

Though it is illegal for employers to discriminate against you being in a number protected classes, it’s best not to reveal anything about your private and home life that could potentially though unfairly prejudice them against you. Casually mentioning your children, spouse, age, marital status or religion opens the door for probes disguised as small talk. A lot of employers try to skirt around asking directly about your personal life with questions such as, “Is there anything that would prevent you from being present and reliable?”

Now if you’re anything like me, when it comes to your kids needing you, it’s fuck any job. But if you’ve already been advised of the work schedule and the like, you know if you can manage to be there and give what they need. So don’t go telling business you don’t need to because you’ll never know if they held that against you.

Interview them too!

Too often, candidates go into an interview thinking they’re only there to ask questions when in fact, an interview is supposed to be a mutual experience. Just as the employer is asking questions to see if you are a good fir for them, you should ask questions to make sure the company is a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company and culture.

Know yourself and what kind of company will suit your needs and work style. If you are not a stickler for time, ask about flexibility. If you are not very social, ask about the frequency of team building and social events. If you are in the final stages of the interview process, ask to see the workspace to get an idea of if it will comfortable for you. Ask about short and long term goals for the department.

When I was recruiting, the questions candidates asked me were just as how they answered my questions.

That’s it for my basic interviewing tips. The full seminar costs, y’all! But for more tips, check out the full thread here. And if you feel so inclined to show me your appreciation, PayPal and Square Cash (the cash app) thank me the loudest.





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Kinfolk Kollective avatar About the author: LaSha is a writer who’s obsessed with Black people. Find her work here of course, but also on Ebony, The Guardian, Essence, Salon, Everyday Feminism, Teen Vogue, HuffPo and For Harriett. She’s loves trap music & 90s R&B, watches Jeopardy faithfully and believes fried chicken is her soulmate. The clapback queen is loud and clear about loving her kids above all else and kinda digs her Yankee husband too. Anti-Blackness gives her hives. Get at her @lashawrites on Twitter.

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