You can ace your job interview by remembering one simple fact: The company interviewing you isn’t in business to hire people. It’s in business to produce profit. That’s why all those interview books are wrong: Success in a job interview is not about answering questions. It’s about managing your meeting so that you can show how you will deliver profit. Unless you get that, you have no business in the job interview to begin with -- in Silicon Valley or any other tech mecca.
The profit-based interview
More so than other industries, technology is focused on profit. There is no room for hiring errors in a company that’s heavily invested in R&D, under the watchful eye of venture capitalists waiting to cash out, or hanging by its stock price. This means your objective in the interview isn’t to deliver good answers to questions. It’s to transcend the questions -- the entire interview process, in fact -- so that you can present your business plan for how you’re going to do the work profitably.
A profit-based interview starts with good choices. You can’t ace just any interview, only the one for a job that’s right for you. I cannot overemphasize this: The reason people fail in most interviews is they’re interviewing for the wrong jobs. The level of motivation that’s crucial for success starts with choosing the right company and the right work. There aren’t 50 “right” jobs out there for you, so don’t shotgun your résumé to 50 companies.
Don’t chase job listings
You must invest in the right interviews. This starts with motivation. The higher your motivation, the more powerful your interviews will be. For example, select only companies involved in technologies you really want to work on. Success also depends on the soundness of the business, your ability to contribute to it, and the quality of the people.
Don’t ignore companies that have downsized. If a company is basically sound and has good prospects, a layoff can signal opportunities for talented problem-solvers who are needed to turn the business around.
Don’t chase job listings. The job you want may not even be open. Don’t let that stop you. Applying only for listed jobs is a fool’s errand because the competition is enormous. Instead, apply for a job that’s created just for you, as a result of your demonstration that the company needs you.
Don’t pursue just companies -- seek out good people. The best people work for very good companies. If a company has a strong technical staff, that’s one to pursue. Don’t know how good the team is? Find out -- or don’t apply.
Think like an investment banker
To pick the right companies and to be prepared for a compelling meeting with management, you need to think like an investment banker. It’s not enough to read the annual report and a recent trade article. Become an expert in the company’s business.
Track down past and present employees of the company. Ask them what the company’s biggest problems and challenges are. Then figure out how you can help tackle them.
Talk to the company’s customers and vendors. You will find the hidden skeletons, and you will learn who the real decision-makers are in the company.