Being prepared for an interview is of utmost importance. It is the time for your skillset and personality to shine through and for you to not just be another CV in the pile. This is the Big Time, the Big Show!!
Below is an amalgamation of tips that will have you properly prepared for that all important interview. Sit tight though, it’s a long one. But, the more prepared you are, the better.
Research, Research, oh, and more Research
For an interview to run smoothly, it is imperative that you look for as much information on the company as is humanly possible. Things to look for- company competitors, company products, sister companies, company culture, financial performance, management, and potential colleagues. Make sure to visit the company’s website, research your interviewers on Linkedin, and ask your social circle if they are aware of the company and if they have heard news on current and past employees. The more you know about the company, the more comfortable you will feel in the interview and the more professional you will come across in the interview.
If you have gone through an agency, make sure you have been given all the correct information so that you are able to prepare properly and correctly.
Proper Preparation is Key
In an interview, you may get asked questions that yesterday you knew the answer too, but due to nerves, you can’t remember if you have your drivers license or not. Make sure to go through your career with a fine tooth comb so that you don’t leave out any of the good stuff. Write down your list of achievements, the projects you have worked on and what you learnt from them (positive and negative), any procedures you implemented, and the like. Further, make sure to work through the Job Description with your CV and highlight the similarities and examples that can be discussed. In this way you may also be able to predict what types of questions will be asked of you during the course of the interview. Practice answering questions, or ask a family member or friend to run a mock interview with you. This will allow you to make sure that your answers make sense and actually answer the question.
In general, you will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer, which can be prepared for beforehand. Ask what immediate concerns the interviewer would like to see addressed, or how your performance will be evaluated. You can also ask the interviewer what they enjoy most about working at the company.
The Importance of First Impressions
When meeting somebody for the first time, it takes a few seconds for them to make up their minds about you. It is therefore super important that you make a good impression from the start.
• Attire: Try mimic the environment you have researched. Is the company super professional (wear a suit and tie), or are they laid back and relaxed (formal pants, button-down shirt)? Do you have an outfit that matches their company colours? If not, try the hint of a power colour instead- black pants, white shirt and a red tie (power colours are red, green, and blue). Ladies- pencil skirts or formal pants, with a blouse are always a winner. In terms of jewelry, don’t wear anything too overbearing, small and simple will do you good. Try incorporate company or power colours as well.
• The Handshake: It’s all well and good that you have the degree and the experience behind you, but a strong and professional handshake, with a beautiful smile and some confident body language are definitely going to land you the job. From the moment you hit the intercom, right until you leave, you are being judged, so make sure you exude confidence, warmth, and professionalism to everyone you meet.
• Arrive Early: You never know what could happen on the roads. Try to arrive 20 minutes before your interview starts. This will give you some room to breathe, just in case something doesn’t go your way.
During the Interview
An interview is a stressful situation, there is no two ways about it! So make sure to do the following:
• Keep calm and answer confidently! You have done your research and preparation, now it’s time to put that into action.
• Take deep breaths and think of your answer before speaking. Listen to each question carefully as this is one of the elements that interviewers look for.
• Be yourself. Try to be as natural as possible. Smile and maintain eye contact. You have to stand out from the crowd. Only one person will get the job so you need to make sure that you don’t sound like everyone else.
• Round off your answers. You don’t want to ramble on and on and get off topic. Give precise answers related to your experience and the question. In order to keep your interviewer’s attention, you’ll want to keep your answers succinct, but you don’t want to omit important information either. That’s a tough balance to reach. “Never use more than 60 seconds on any answer,” writes Robin Ryan in her updated edition of “60 Seconds and You’re Hired!” She explains that we live in a world of short attention spans and sound bites. In order to leave a memorable impression, your answers need to be enthusiastic and succinct.
• Always speak honestly whether it’s a positive or a negative. Whether your last boss was a bullying dictator or you’re full of compliments, they want to hear how you managed to take the negative and make it good. When faced with the challenging prospect of discussing previous employment, you should be ready to add a positive spin on even the most reasonable of complaints. While we’re on the subject, keep your integrity intact and never lie. Being able to trust your employees is pivotal, so being caught out in an interview can mean an instant rejection.
• Be realistic about your salary expectations. The market is cheap and many employers are not paying top salaries. Try to be realistic so that you can get a job soon. I have seen too many job-seekers approaching me after many months of fruitless job-hunting, to inform me that they are finally prepared to drop their salary expectation. Sometimes a half a loaf is better than none.
• Plan to follow up. It will be your responsibility to follow up after the interview. Job seekers often become discouraged when they don’t hear back, but don’t let this stop you from following up. Before you leave the interview, find out when to follow up and with whom. Take initiative and contact the appropriate person after the stated date. Your persistence can show interest, maturity and responsibility. One last warning: Never assume no news is bad news. It only means the interviewer hasn’t contacted you yet.