The job interview is an unusual situation: You're put in a room you've never been in, with a person you've never met, to talk about a company you don't work at, in order to persuade somebody that you'll be excellent at a job you don't have.
But a lot of the "mystery" around great job interviewing comes from the fact that we don't do it that often. Every few years, we're supposed to magically dust off our interview skills and go out there and shine. So here's what you need to know for making your job interviews a lot less nerve-wracking and a lot more effective.
Preparation for the interview
Preparation is the first essential step towards conducting a successful interview. The better prepared you are, the more confident you'll be.
But a lot of the "mystery" around great job interviewing comes from the fact that we don't do it that often.
Ensure that you know the following things:
- The exact time and location of the interview, route, parking etc and how long it will take to get there.
- The interviewer's correct title and pronunciation of his or her full name.
- Specific facts about the company - its history, financial position, competitors, products and services. Research the company's website in full.
- Facts and figures about your present or former employer. Refresh your memory on this as you will be expected to know a lot about a company for which you have previously worked.
- Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Remember that an interview is a two way street. The interviewer will try to determine through questioning whether you are the right person for a specific job. Likewise, you must determine through questioning whether this potential employer will provide the opportunity for career development that you seek.
During the interview, you will be assessed for your strengths and weaknesses/areas for development. In addition to this, specific personal characteristics will be examined, such as attitude, aptitude, stability, motivation and maturity.
Some interview do's and don'ts follow:
- DO arrive on time or a few minutes early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.
- DO greet the interviewer by his or her title and surname. If you are not sure of the name pronunciation, ask the interviewer to repeat it.
- DO shake hands firmly.
- DO wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair and look alert and interested at all times.
- DO be as charismatic as possible; it is very important that you demonstrate your interpersonal skills during the interview.
- DO be a good listener as well as a good talker.
- DO smile.
- DO look the interviewer in the eye.
- DO follow the interviewer's leads. Try, however, to obtain a full description of the position and duties it incorporates at an early stage so that you can relay your appropriate background and skills accordingly.
- DO make sure that your good points get across to the interviewer in a concise, factual and sincere manner. Waffle will get you nowhere. Bear in mind that only you can sell yourself and make the interviewer aware of the benefits that you can offer to the organisation.
- DO always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on opportunity. It is better to be in a position where you can choose from a number of offers - rather than only one.
- DON'T answer questions with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Explain yourself whenever possible. Describe those things about yourself that relate to the position on offer.
- DON'T lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as close to the point as possible.
- DON'T make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.
- DON'T enquire about salary, holidays, bonuses etc. at the initial interview unless you are positive that the interviewer wants to hire you. You should however, know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.
Be prepared to answer questions such as:
- Why did you choose a career in accountancy/IT/tax/banking?
- What kind of job are you seeking?
- What is your technical experience?
- Why would you like to work for our company?
- What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now?
- When was your last salary review?
- What style of management gets the best from you?
- What interests you about our product/service?
- What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
- Which job did you enjoy the most and why?
- What have you done that shows initiative in your career?
- What are your major weaknesses and what are your strengths?
- What do you think determines a person's progress in a good company?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- What are your hobbies?
- What does 'teamwork' mean to you?
Closing the interview
If you are interested in the position enquire about the next interview stage. If the interview offers the position to you and you want it, accept on the spot. If you wish for some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date on which you can provide an answer.
Don't be too discouraged if no definite offer is made nor a specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to consult colleagues or interview other candidates (or both) before making a decision.
If you get the impression that the interview is not going very well and you have already been rejected, don't let your discouragement show. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may intend to discourage you in order to test your reaction.
Thank the interviewer for the time spent with you.
After the interview
Lastly, and most importantly, call your consultant immediately after the interview to explain what happened. The consultant will want to speak with you before the interviewer calls.
For further interview advice and some examples of competency based questions, please download our full interview guide.
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For more career advice, and information on how to switch careers, please contact:
Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
+27 (0)11 881 2414