The interview is essentially a face to face meeting between a candidate and a potential employer in which the main objective is to determine whether the candidate has the ability and qualities to do the job competently if hired.
In today’s competitive job market, you must use the interview as your best opportunity to market yourself and convince a potential employer that you are the best man or woman for the job. To do this successfully some homework and preparation is necessary in advance.
Find out as much as you can about the employer, company, position, services, clientele etc. in order to determine what the employer’s needs are and how your skills and training relate to these requirements.
Make sure you know what you have to offer in terms of education, skills, training and background, and that you have at least two copies of your resume to take with you on the interview, as well as any references or letters of recommendation you may have required.
Try to find out what types of dress would be appropriate and wear something that would make a favourable impression. Conservative dress is recommended for both men and women. Ladies should wear a neat dress or skirt and blouse. Do not wear pants and avoid flashy jewellery and too much make up. Gentlemen should wear a suit or jacket and tie, but if in doubt, take your cue from how successful people within the organisation dress.
Once you have completed this preparation and have studied your facts in relation to the job you are applying for, you will have more confidence to handle the interview and also useful background knowledge that will definitely give you a competitive edge.
If you are still in doubt, check with a Career Service which offers interview workshops or mock interviews to help you overcome nerves and teach you how to focus on your best qualities.
Try to get a good night’s rest or relaxing break before the interview.
HANDLING THE INTERVIEW
No matter how nervous you are, you must go to the interview by yourself, never take a friend or spouse as this will imply lack of confidence or lack of maturity.
Make sure that you have adequate time to get to the interview at the designated time, particularly if you have to travel a far distance by bus. Punctuality is very important and it is always better to arrive early than late. Arriving early will also give you time to compose yourself and attend to your personal appearance which may have become disheveled in a long, hot journey. Do not however, exaggerate, and arrive hours in advance because this will make you appear anxious and desperate.
Remember also that the interview starts the moment you enter the company or job location. Be pleasant to the receptionist, secretary or anyone you meet as the good or bad impression you make on them could affect your chances of getting the job.
When you meet the interviewer or employer, make sure that you introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a smile. If you fail to get his or her name, ask politely for it to be repeated.
Most interviewers or employers are aware that candidates are nervous about being interviewed and they will usually do their best to relax you. Be careful, however, not to assume too casual a posture or attitude because whatever you say or do will be assessed and poor manners will create a negative impression which will inevitably lead to rejection.
Sit up straight with your hands by your side or in your lap and look the interviewer in the eye. Your body language is very important because no matter how positive you sound, if you appear twitchy and nervous, it will convey a lack of confidence, so be aware of your behaviour and appearance.
Listen carefully to the questions asked and make sure that your answers outline your abilities and personality traits which are relevant to the job.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
One of the most frequently used openings for an interview is : “Tell me about yourself.” This is not an invitation to launch into a long life history. What the interviewer wants to find out is how does your background relate to a specific job or company image, so use this as an opportunity to start talking about your education, working experience and other achievements in relation to the job.
Another question is : “Why do you want to work with this company?” You must know something about the company and the type of work involved to be able to answer this question. Don’t be vague about your reasons for wanting the job because this will be interpreted as a lack of interest or the employer might think that you are merely shopping around without any particular goal. Find something positive to say about why you want to work with the company and this will impress the interviewer.
Another question is : “What are your long term goals?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
Don’t start talking about your plans to start your own business or to go back to university. What the interviewer is looking for is assurance that you will stay with the organisation long enough to be a worthwhile employee, or whether or not the organisation can confidently invest in training you.
An important question and one which must be addressed carefully is : “Why did you leave your last job?”
If you got fired or left because you did not enjoy the job, you will have to be honest about it. However, do not start to speak badly of a past employer or make derogatory remarks about the last organisation you worked with, because this will make potential employers uncertain and doubtful about you. Try to find a positive, personal reason for wanting to change jobs and give a good reason why you failed.
There are many other questions like : “What are your best achievements?” “What are your failures?” “How do you relate to your friends and co-workers?” Do not respond casually to any of these questions as they are all important in determining whether or not you are the type of person that the employer would like to hire.
You should focus positive aspects of yourself which will help you to get the job. If you have done your homework properly and assessed yourself and your reason for applying for a particular position, you should be able to handle the interview well.
WHAT INTERVIEWERS AND RECRUITERS LOOK FOR
Interviewers and recruiters look at three basic areas of your presentation during the interview.
The first is your appearance and personality which includes the way in which you dress, your manners and your ability to express yourself articulately.
Poor personal appearance and lack of self confidence including failure to look the interviewer in the eye or a limp handshake when introducing yourself can lose you valuable points and result in failure to create a strong impression.
Next is your educational background and training. More and more companies are using aptitude and intelligence tests to confirm their impressions because they want to know if a potential employee will fulfill their needs and function competently. Do not be too intimidated by these tests, instead try to do them as accurately as possible so that your good points will stand out. If you have poor scholastic record you should mention any skills or accomplishments you have gained since leaving school which will prove your capability.
Thirdly, the interviewer will assess your working experience. This includes any responsibility and duties which you have undertaken in a working situation. If you have a good track record as a sales person or a good reputation as an administrator or efficient secretary, make sure that you mention this in the interview.
Remember also that you are entitled to ask questions about the company and the job, and that the interviewer will be impressed by your interest. Do not place too much emphasis on money as your main reason for seeking employment and do not accept any offer until you have a clear picture of what working conditions and terms are.
End the interview with a firm handshake and do not forget to thank the interviewer for his time and attention.