It’s never a question of job interview survival. Be perfectly aware what a job interview is and your success rate will multiply. Learn how to achieve this.
A company has asked to see you to discuss a job opening. Congratulations. You just got your first interview. Question this – What is a job interview all about? Read on.
Very soon you will be:
- A guest of a company
- In a room by yourself
- Talking to a person – or people you don’t know at all
- About a company you probably don’t know anything about
- About a position you want but don’t know much about
Sounds like a challenge? It sure is. Prior to the interview you already did your research so we shall not dwell on this here. Now it is time to focus on how to behave and what to do and really understand what a job interview is all about.
There is no winging it. Don’t expect that because you are superman, the interviewer(s) will think so too. They don’t know you! So: PREPARE.
- Try to find out who (names) you are going to talk to.
- Research the person/people (Goggle them, check LinkedIn). You want to get a feel for who you are meeting with. Perhaps you can source a picture too?
- Is there someone in your network who knows these people?
- Repeat your earlier research (from when you first applied) – something could have changed.
- Plan how you wish to shine:
a. You need to sell yourself
b. Think about/note down weaknesses that come to mind
c. Think about/note down strengths that come to mind
d. Be prepared to answer – “how can you add value to the company” and “why are you the perfect candidate for this position”. We can’t aide you on this save to mention that these questions WILL BE ASKED. The other day we heard from a career professional that the key parameter of people wanting a career is NOT $$$ (contrary to what you might think). It’s the ability to add value, feel needed and be able to contribute. It may be suspected that employers to prioritize people who can add value, who can make a difference.
e. Another question: Who are you? Prepare a 5 min sales pitch. Don’t bore people starting with “I was born in Birmingham on ……..”. 5 mins. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
f. Listen before you answer. And listen carefully. You must be precise when you answer questions. If you have no answer- say so. Don’t guess, lie or speculate.
g. Have the question repeated (but not too often of course) to buy you more time to think before you answer, especially if you are caught a bit off-guard. If happens.
h. Think of your posture. Check elements of cultural sensitivity you MUST respect. E.g. in Asia: Two hands when exchanging business cards; never use left hand to pass anything, never show shoe sole etc.
i. Always maintain eye contact.
j. Don’t lean back with your arms across (defensive/protective position). Smile when appropriate and show that you are self-confident, even if you are not. Don’t appear cocky – there is a fine line to appreciate.
Pick three elements that you think are key. Stay with them. This is what politicians do – so-called “stay on message” items. And be convincing on these 3. Don’t focus (too much) on what you have done and your past successes – if they are not pointly relevant. Focus on what the company is looking for and how you can help them achieve this, based on your experience and skills. The interview is not about you, it’s about your value potential. You have your written notes so refer. Don’t plan on memorizing everything. Refer to you notes. There is no harm in doing that and it will send the message that you have prepared well.
If all goes well, expect that you will meet several people. Make sure you have a container of relevant questions to ask. Ask at least one question to anyone who is involved in the interview. Asking questions show that you are insightful, prepared and that you care. Work to establish company and position relevant questions. Some universal suggestions could be:
- What are the key deliverables you expect from this function, one year from now?
- Who are your key competitors and what worries you the most?
- What type of people succeed in your organization?
- How did you get started in this industry?
- Why do you stay with Company X?
- What are your biggest company related concerns in the near and mid term?
- What are the key elements of Company X’s success?
- How is the company/business unit/Division etc. looking 3 years from now? What are your plans/expectations?
These are just appetizers. Do not underestimate the need to prepare. Remember: You are – probably – one of several excellent candidates for this position. You have one chance, one moment to shine and captivate your interviewer(s). In terms of preparation, make sure you appear organized. Do not forget to bring your personal business cards, note pad and pen! It seems simple but trust us, very awkward sitting there without a pen.
You would want to make sure that your preparatory notes and questions are neatly organized. Make a one page summary sheet of the company you are talking to – the key highlights – and your questions. During the talks, confer with your paper.
Tip: It also pays off to print a relevant document or two with the company’s letter head/logo on it. It could be their latest financial statement, list of executives or the corporate brochure. Make it discreetly visible so that the interviewer(s) can see that you are prepared. This always impresses.
And a practical note. We are all human beings. It’s possible that you are nervous, that you shake a bit, are excited etc. Hints:
- Take a few deep breaths before you step into the interview.
- Think of something pleasant, let your mind wander (a bit).
- Remember they called you as they think you look good on paper! That’s is to your advantage
- If you shake, don’t let it show. If really bad, decline if they offer you coffee, water etc.
Finally, while you may be desperate for the job, do not let it show. Make sure you let it show that you really want the position but not that you are desperate.
We did say “finally” but there are two more minor yet very important elements.
After the interview, make sure you follow up promptly and thank the interviewer(s) for their time. This is normal courtesy but it also assures that the interviewer finds you professional and that they REMEMBER you.
You may find yourself in a room alone on one side of the table, facing two or more interviewer(s) on the other side. Typically, one interviewer is the lead while the other(s) appear silent. Make well sure that you focus on all of the interviewer(s), that you don’t just have contact with the active one. Maintain eye contact with everyone; direct your response to the group rather than a specific person. It is quite common that the silent ones are observers but key decision makers in the process. If you lose them in the interview you WILL have lost your job chances.