Do you generally recommend that candidates go 'above and beyond' in preparing for interviews?
This question is a bit subjective as going "above and beyond" can mean different things to different people. If a candidate truly wants a role, in my opinion, they should do whatever they feel puts them in the best position to receive an offer. I cannot remember ever walking out of an interview and thinking to myself "that candidate was overprepared." With that said, there are a few areas, I would recommend a candidate focus on:
1. Know the company/product: I highly recommend learning everything you can on a company. Some examples include reviewing their product offering, reading case studies and watching a demo on their website.
2. Know the role you are interviewing for: You should know the job description inside and out. Understand the experience the company is looking for and the day-to-day responsibilities of the position. Practice speaking about your background and how it is a fit for this role.
3. Learn about your interviewer: It can never hurt to know more about or find something in common with the person interviewing you. For example, learn about their previous companies/positions, where they went to college or some of their interests. Most of this information can be found on Linkedin or on the company website. Find a way to work this into the interview as it can make for a much better conversation and shows the interviewer you have done your research.
4. Prepare questions for the interviewer ahead of time. If you are not good at coming up with questions on the spot, it is best to have 3-4 questions written down ahead of time. Asking questions shows the interviewer you are interested in the position and want to learn more. Any candidate truly interested in joining a new company should have plenty of questions to ask.
It's really important to be prepared for any interview you take the time to do, both out of respect for the hiring manager's time and your own. That said, I view an interview as a conversation and opportunity for both parties to learn about each other. Here are two tips for being prepared and showcasing yourself in the best way:
Any presentation or demonstration project should be done explicitly for the hiring company. Many Customer Success roles will require candidates who advance multiple rounds to prepare a presentation, written project, or sample QBR. Though interviewing multiple rounds for multiple roles is time consuming and often downright exhausting, it's critical that you make sure what you put forward shows preparation and willingness to do the role. I often give candidates a prompt with sample scenarios that are unique to the skill sets the job requires or situations we're experiencing and trying to solve for. The interviewees who stand out most are those who take the time to prepare as the prompt requests. We often get candidates who say "oh, this is a QBR I did at my old company, does that work?" While I totally understand that doing presentations for multiple roles in an interview process takes a lot of time, those who prepare specifically for us send the message that they will do the work and want the job.
Do your research... but don't make it weird. It may sound silly, but it's true! Candidates should be as versed as possible with what the company does, their target market, ideal customers, etc. Likewise, candidates should have looked at the hiring manager's LinkedIn to be familiar with their basic background and any known mutual connections. The critical part, however, is that the candidate uses the background information they've researched as part of their answers to questions.
Resist the urge to say something like "Hey, Go Eagles! ... I saw you went to North Olmsted High School." Fun fact: a candidate really said that to me. The awkward conversation that followed highlighted that no, we didn't go to school together, nor did we have mutual acquaintances, but they found it on social media and thought it would be a cool fact to share.
The phrasing of this question is interesting to me since I can't know what the asker's definition of 'above and beyond' is... so let me just say that there is a level of commitment in preparation that should always be fulfilled. However, if you go beyond this level, it can get weird (e.g. don't get weird with a hyperlevel of detail about my life as portrayed on LinkedIn, for example).
The professional level of preparation for interviews:
Research who you are meeting with. Notice their experience, where they've worked, major topics they post about. Do mention things that you are curious about or would like to learn more about. Don't be performative to basically name drop them to themselves.
Research the company. Search news, the CEO's posts, anything you can find, if you can trial the product then do that for sure. If they're public, read their quarterly filings to get a sense of their major corporate initiatives. This includes gleaning what you can from LinkedIn re: structure of teams, who reports to whom, etc.
Be organized for how you will manage your job pipeline. Have a tracking sheet with data points for each opportunity so you stay really organized. Prepare the questions you will ask across all interviews so you can compare each opportunity apples-to-apples.
Follow up after your interviews. Thank each interviewer and include something substantive: what you learned from them, the questions they answered that were important to you, emphasize how you see this as a mutual fit.