55. Step-By-Step Guide to Nailing Your Job Interview

November 10, 2022

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

You finally got the interview!

Right behind the feeling of elation comes the dreaded realization that you now have to nail this interview to get your dream job.

Fortunately, we’re here to help.

In this episode, Tori Dunlap guides you through the step-by-step process of preparing for your interview –– from picking out clothes to prepping wow-ing answers and how to follow up after the fact. Tori has coached hundreds of women through this process, helping them land dream gigs at some of the world best companies (and making sure they’re making more $$$$ than they ever thought possible).

You’ll learn: 

  • How to feel more confident walking into a job interview

  • How to think like a hiring manager

  • Common pitfalls we see in applicants at HFK


Feeling Overwhelmed? Start here!

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Tori Dunlap (00:15):

Hello, yet again, Financial Feminists. Welcome back. Welcome back to the show. We’re so excited to see you. If you are an oldie but a goodie, welcome back. If this is your first time, hi, I’m Tori. I’m the host of Financial Feminist and also the founder of Her First $100K, and we fight the patriarchy by making you rich. So we give you resources to better your money, including how to pay off debt, how to save money, how to invest, how to get compensated fairly at a job, and so much more. We have this podcast. We also have a lovely money personality quiz that you can take to get all of our resources in one place that is the best for you. So if you’ve frantically Googled, “How to save money?” at two in the morning, or if you’re just wondering where to start and you’re feeling super overwhelmed, you can go to herfirst100k.com/start to take that quiz and get all of those resources for free.


Thank you for joining us as always. Today we are talking about one of my favorite topics, which is the job interview. For many people that terrifies them. I get it. Job interviews are a little scary. However, I kind of love the job interview, especially when I was a candidate. I loved the job interview. There’s something about a job interview that feeds my pick me girl energy. That’s really what I’m doing, right? Is I’m just like, “Pick me. Let me do everything I can to convince you that I am the person that you’ve been looking for,” right? Pick me. Pick me. I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, Becky. But that’s what it feels like, right? And now as someone who employs people and someone who actively interviews, it’s very interesting being on the other side. So I’ve had a lot of experience as a candidate.


I’ve had a lot of experience coaching other people through job interviews as a negotiation and career coach. And now as a founder and CEO of a company, we’ve done a lot of job interviews here at Her First $100K. So we are going to give you the guide to job interviews today. What you can do before, during, and after to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success, preparing correctly, and giving yourself the best shot you can to make sure you’re getting this job. We’ve said this before on the show, but I also want to reiterate, job interviews are as much for you as they are for the company. As much as I am interviewing a candidate to determine if they are right for the job opening, the candidate is interviewing me and interviewing the company to make sure that it’s a right fit for them.


That is the kind of energy you need in a job interview. You need to roll up knowing your worth, knowing what you expect of an organization, and also being committed to saying no if it’s something that doesn’t work out for you. Okay. Let’s talk about all of the things that you can do before you show up for the interview. One, explore the company’s website. This should be so obvious, but we can tell at Her First $100K if you have no idea about the company, you have no idea about our story, you haven’t read our about page, you don’t know our mission and our values and our goals. We can tell. It’s very obvious. You might think it’s not obvious, it’s obvious. Poke around. One of the easiest things you can do is actually go to a company’s press page. That is where they’re going to post all of the news or exciting updates.


These are great things to weave throughout your job interview. It shows that you’ve done your research. You can also, again, go to the team or about page to see who you’re going to be interviewing with. Their name and photo are probably there. Might be a good idea to look to their LinkedIn to see where they’ve worked before, see what their experience is. Do some research starting with the company website. Another piece of research you can do is if the company has Glassdoor reviews, if they have information from other organizations, right? If you Google Her First $100K, you’re going to find info about the company on CNBC or on Entrepreneur. Best way to research a company beyond their website is to see what other people are saying about them. Glassdoor is going to give you what previous team members said, and other news outlets might give you an idea of what sort of challenges the company’s had or what sort of wins they’ve had recently. So do your research.


The second thing you can do is you can practice answering common job interview questions with your partner, with a friend, with a family member, or you can just do them on your own. The more practice we get at answering these questions, the more comfortable we’ll be. We will do a whole podcast episode about common interview q
uestions, but some good places to start, having stories or narratives that demonstrate that you know the skills and the necessary requirements needed for this job. Great place to start. Knowing your general timeline, because unfortunately, companies still ask the, “Where do you see yourself in five years,” question. One other way we can prep is practicing potential job interview questions with someone else, with a friend, with your partner, even with yourself in the mirror. The more you practice responding, the more comfortable you’re going to get and the more confident you’re going to be.


Right? It’s like knowing your lines in a play. If you know them really well, you remember them when you’re nervous, as opposed to you having a general understanding and then blacking out on your monologue. Not like that’s ever happened to me before. We will have a full podcast episode with different common interview questions and how to answer them. But in the meantime, a good Google search will get you there. You also, in addition, need to prep questions of your own. One of the biggest red flags is when I’m interviewing somebody and I go, “Do you have any questions for me or any questions for us?” And they go, “No, I think I’m good.” No, you have questions. You should have questions. Questions about the benefits, questions about the pay, questions about the company, questions about how you can be successful here. Again, we’ll do an episode about this.


My favorite follow-up question to ask is, “Is there anything about me or my experience that gives you pause? If so, I would love to address that.” What a power pose of a question. It shows that you’re open to feedback, and it also shows that you were about to shoot down any potential qualms or any concerns they have about you, right? So that is one potential question, but get your response questions prepped. And also throughout the interview, this is the time where things are going to come up. We’ll talk about during the interview in a second, but you can also, of course, think of an interview question as you’re talking. We kind of talked about this already, but you also want to look up the people you’re going to interview with on LinkedIn. If you don’t know the people you’re going to interview with, that’s a quick email.


“Hey, I would love to know who I’m chatting with tomorrow so I can feel well prepared.” Look them up. Did you go to the same college maybe? That would be convenient. Do you have a mutual connection with them? Where did they work before? What are they good at? It’ll help give you an insight so you can, again, showcase all of your skill sets, but also find some common through lines. One of the most important things you can do to prep is review the job description again and format your experience around the job description. So if, for example, there’s a bullet point that says, “Manages time effectively,” make sure you have a specific example of a time in your past where you managed time effectively. Or if it says, for me, I was a social media manager, so if it says, “Increases our Facebook account likes,” which, who’s using Facebook anymore?


But if it says something like that, I will have a particular example of a way that I’ve done that at a previous organization. Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, well, I don’t know if I have that experience. I don’t know what stories I’m going to tell. I’m kind of applying for this job and it’s outside of my regular skill set, or it’s kind of beyond my current scope of work. We have a free workshop called How to Land the Job When You Don’t Meet the Requirements. We’ll link it down below. It’s very useful for that. Okay. A couple logistics things. One, send a confirmation email. Say, “Hey, looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow. Making sure that time still works.” Nothing more embarrassing than either showing up on Zoom or driving, God forbid actually driving to the interview and either you fucked up the day or they canceled and the email didn’t like… Confirm.


Confirm it. You also want to compile any portfolio examples or other supporting documents. Your resume, your cover letter, right? Samples of your work. You can send that off in the confirmation email if this interview is happening digitally or remotely. Get a good night’s sleep. I did not do that last night, so this podcast recording has been rough. Imagine if I was interviewing right now. I would not be… It would not be great. So do everything you can to get a good night’s sleep. Rest up. Also, eat some good food. Don’t eat the thing that you know is going to trigger your IBS right before you get on a job interview, right? I’m going to eat a nice salad. I’m going to have some soup, because again, the last thing you want is that mid-interview, oh shit, I have diarrhea moment.


Can we keep this? I don’t know. We’re keeping it. Doesn’t matter. Okay. Eat some soap, eat a salad. If you’re lactose intolerant, don’t eat the fucking dairy. Don’t do it. You also need to ask for a glass of water before you interview or get a glass of water if you’re interviewing remotely. One, water’s always good. You’re probably going to have a dry throat. You’re going to feel a little parched. You need some water. Two, this is the thing that a lot of people don’t realize. You need to give yourself something to do to think over a question. So when someone asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And you need a little bit of time, Well, actually, right, I just took five seconds and you can’t see it, but I just took a sip of water. Perfect opportunity to gather your thoughts, to take a breath in a way that doesn’t look like you’ve just malfunctioned for a second.


Giving yourself something to do, giving yourself even something to hold, right? If you’re the antsy person who kind of needs some
thing to play with, you can hold your glass of water on the table. You can sip your glass of water when you need a little bit of time or you need a breather. So pour yourself a glass of water or ask for a glass of water when you show up. When they say, “Can I get you anything?” You say, “Yes, a glass of water.” You don’t say, “No, I’m fine.” It’s not bothersome. They’re asking. Ask for a glass of water. The other thing you can do is when you arrive, again, assuming this is in person, go to the bathroom. One, will clear up any chicken tikka masala worries. Two is that you’re going to be able to take some time to compose yourself. Check your teeth, make sure there’s nothing in them.


Straighten your outfit and take a couple of really big, deep breaths. You can power pose if that’s your thing. However, power posing, I think according to recent studies has been debunked. But if you need to feel strong and powerful, do it. Great. Amazing. I will sometimes turn on Beyonce in my Airpods when I need to do something strong and powerful. It’s very similar to the water thing. You’re taking time to gather yourself before you go, and if this is a remote interview, try not to schedule a call or something right before the interview. The last thing I want you to do is feel frazzled going into this potentially stressful situation. Give yourself some time. Give yourself some time to go to the restroom. Give yourself some time to take some deep breaths.


All right. Let’s talk about during the interview. You want to do the exact opposite of what I’ve done in this podcast episode, and you need to speak slowly and deliberately. You’re going to be nervous. You’re probably going to start talking faster. This is, again, the perfect time to take some deep breaths and to slow way down. As a theater major, as someone who did theater my entire life, one of the frequent pieces of feedback given to actors is you need to slow down. And weirdly, what ends up happening is if you slow down twice as much as you need to or you think you need to, you will be at the perfect pace. Even now, I’m telling myself slow way down, and I feel like I’m talking slowly. I know I’m talking at a normal pace. I’m talking at a digestible pace. So constantly be reminding yourself that this is not a race.


You don’t need to get all of the information out in just one breath, right? It isn’t a contest. Speak slowly, deliberately, and with as much power as you can muster. You also want to smile and make eye contact as much as you can. I get for a lot of people, that’s hard. Eye contact’s really intimate. It’s really vulnerable. Eye contact’s really important. It’s kind of like going on a date. Making eye contact, again, speaking slowly and deliberately, and looking fully at the person is going to show that you’re confident and show that you’re well prepared. You also want to avoid saying a couple things in a job interview. We’ll talk more about this also in an upcoming episode, but we never, ever want to apologize for not having experience. We don’t want to say, “Oh, I know I don’t have the experience, but,” we never want to say that. There are ways that we can highlight our experience and to show that we’re qualified even if we don’t meet the necessary qualifications on paper.


Again, we literally have a free workshop, an hour long to teach you how to do this. The other thing you don’t want to say is anything about your last job or previous work experience that is negative even if your boss was awful. So even if you had a terrible experience, I know I did. I had a lot of toxic jobs, I worked at a lot of toxic companies. You don’t ever want to say, “I’m leaving because I hated my job. I’m leaving because of this,” right? We always want to position it in an honest but good way. So if you’re asked something like, “Why are you leaving your previous job? Or why are you looking for work?” You don’t want to lie, but you want to highlight something that maybe contributed to your negative feelings. So if you’re leaving because your boss was terrible, you don’t want to say, “I’m leaving because my boss is terrible.” You want to say, “I didn’t see a clear path for growth and development at my job, and both of those are very important to me.”


That is the perfect way of saying what you need to say while also positioning yourself well. Your interview is not a therapy session. It is not a time to complain about previous sucky situations, even though I feel ya. Sucky situations, especially at a workplace, are awful. The other thing is we want to feel confident discussing money. Again, we’ve discussed this before in job interviews, but we don’t want to give the first number. So in questions like, “What is your desired salary?” We would like to say, “At this point in the process, I don’t have enough information to determine that, but I would love to know your budget.” 9 times out of 10 they’ll give you your budget. I have made countless TikToks using that script. But again, they ask you your desired salary or what are your salary requirements, put the ball back in their court. Don’t get flustered.


Don’t be like, “Well, at my last job… I don’t know,” right? Nope. “At this point in the process, I think it’s a little too early for me to accurately price myself, but I would love to know your budget.” Put the ball back in their court. All right. Let’s talk about after the interview what we can do. One, call me old fashioned, I still think a thank you note is so important. Now, I sometimes still send a handwritten thank you note. Four years ago, three years ago when I was coaching people, that was a non-negotiable for me is send a handwritten thank you note. I think in 2022, especially if it’s a remote job, handwritten thank you note might not even get there in time. So I know I’ve been most impressed as someone interviewing candidates when they’ve just sent me a message after that recapped what we talked about, that thanked me for my time, and that mentioned what they were excited about.


So do send some sort of follow-up note. A very impactful follow-up note is not just a thank you, but an outline of what you’re going to do when you come on board. This is also called a 90 day plan. This has probably come up actually in your interview, and this is something you can prep beforehand, but will be even more impactful after the interview because you know what their needs are, right? You listened to your potential boss talk about what this role could be. So the 90 day plan is exactly what it sounds like. How are you going to hit the ground running? What sort of projects are you going to spearhead in the first 90 days? What sort of problems do you see within the organization and how can you provide a solution? As someone, again, who hires people, that is so compelling.


It shows that this person actually heard us, actually knows what problems can be solved, and feels like they can take the initiative to be successful here. So incredibly impactful. So a thank you note, a good thank you note is not just one that, of course, thanks the person for their time, but also sends that 90 day plan. “Hey, I really appreciated our conversation and based off the information, here are a couple things I think we could implement in my first 90 days.” The other thing we want to do is we want to reach out, if you can, to other team members and ask about their experience. You can find them on LinkedIn and just say, “Hey, I’m applying for this particular role and I’m in the final stage of the process, and I would love to know your experience. How do you like the company? Do you feel supported? Do you feel like you’ve been able to be successful?”


One, you’re going to get a lot of good information. Two, hopefully those employees go, “Oh, this person’s really impressive.” And then they go tell your potential boss, “Hey, Tori Dunlap reached out to me and asked me a lot of good questions and we should hire her.” It works on two levels. Gives you more information about if this is a company you actually want to work for and if there’s any red flags, but also demonstrates again that you’re going after this job. And finally, breathe. Take some deep breaths. If you haven’t heard from the company in a day, that’s probably pretty normal, especially if they’ve told you at what point they’re actually going to get back to you. Take some time, deep breathe, keep applying for other jobs, keep doing your work. They’ll get back to you when they’re going to get back to you.


Now, if it has been way past the time they said, or if it’s been like two weeks, three weeks, a month, that’s the time when you follow back up. But also a red flag because they should have reached out to you if they wanted to give you the job, right? Also, a good thing. Again, like I said at the very beginning, job interviews are as much for you as they are for the company. You want to be noticing how the company behaves themselves. Do you feel supported by your potential boss or by management? And does this feel like a role where you can be successful, where you can actually make some solid change and get compensated fairly? We have so many job interview, resume resources. We have a full resume template. We have a job interview guide. We have a whole course about negotiation, and we also have an entire chapter about earning in the book, Financial Feminist.


All of those we’ll link in the show notes. We also, again, have that free workshop called How to Land a Job When You Don’t Meet the Requirements. That is going to be so impactful and useful for people who are either just graduating college, transitioning careers, transitioning industries, or just going for a job that’s slightly outside of their skillset. As always, Financial Feminist, we hope this information was helpful. We appreciate your support of the show. Subscribe, leave us a review, tell your friends, and we’ll catch you later.


Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, Her First $100K Podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap. Produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alena Helzer, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning, and Ana Alexandra. Research by Ariel Johnson. Audio engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe. And theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests, episode show notes, and our upcoming book also titled Financial Feminist, visit herfirst100k.com.


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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