How to Nail a Job Interview
The following article was written by Monroe Consulting Group for the Jakarta Globe Supplement "You're Hired!", which comes out today! If you missed your copy you can download a copy here.
When you are invited to interview with a company it is crucial that you take the time to thoroughly prepare. This may sound obvious, but it's not. Far too many applicants walk into a face-to-face meeting without a full understanding of the company they are hoping to join, the wider industry or even themselves.
In order to give yourself the best chance of converting an interview into a job offer it is advisable to follow a few simple, but important, steps. Prior to the interview you should:
Know the company. Find out as much as you can about the position, the company and its needs, so you can detail how your background fulfils those requirements. You can gather information by reading the company’s Web site and researching any articles that may appear on the Internet.
Know yourself. Mentally review the skills and character traits you have that will help the company's bottom line. Think in terms of the value you can add to the position and the company.
Know your job history. Review your past achievements and be prepared to describe your work experience in detail. Gather letters of reference and samples of your work to present to the interviewer as proof of your past accomplishments. Practice describing your experience in terms of your responsibilities and achievements at each job.
Know the questions. You can almost guarantee being asked: "Tell me about yourself." Approach this from the employer's point of view. Ask yourself, "If I were hiring someone for this position, what would I want to know?" Then answer those questions. And be ready for tough ones, too. Think of the worst questions you could be asked about your experience and abilities, then prepare positive responses.
Prepare questions of your own. Employers are as interested in your questions as they are in your answers and they will react favourably if you make intelligent enquiries about the position, the company and the industry. (Examples: Where does this position fit into the company as a whole? Is there any problem on this job with waste/accuracy/meeting quotas, etc.? What is the largest single problem facing your staff now?)
Get the big picture. Visualize the entire interview from start to finish. See yourself as performing with style and confidence. How will the interview end? Will you get a job offer or be called back for a second interview?
Making a good first impression
The outcome of the interview will largely depend on the impression you make during the first five minutes. To succeed, you must project a professional, competent and enthusiastic image. Your aim is to convince the interviewer that you would be an asset to the company.
Keep the following in mind:
Punctuality. Do whatever it takes to arrive a few minutes early. If necessary, drive to the company the night before and time yourself. Allow extra time for traffic, parking, crowds and slow elevators.
Dress. Your clothing should be appropriate for the position you're seeking. Attire must fit well within the office and be immaculate. If you don't know what the typical attire at the company is, ask your recruitment consultant. Shoes should be polished; pants/skirts and shirts pressed.
Grooming. Clean hair and fingernails are essential. Hair should be styled conservatively. Avoid excessive make-up, jewellery or cologne.
Handshake. A firm handshake is appropriate and projects confidence. Make eye contact when you clasp hands.
Body language. Send the right message by standing straight, moving confidently and sitting slightly forward in your chair.
Conducting the interview
Have your own agenda and know where the interview should be heading. This will give you confidence and help you move from one area of questioning to the next. Remember: Most interviewers are as uncomfortable as you are. They
just want the position to be filled as quickly as possible. If you can put the interviewer at ease by helping things move smoothly, you will improve your chances of being hired.
Remember the following:
Enthusiasm and eye contact. Demonstrate your enthusiasm by making eye contact and maintaining an interested expression. Nod and gesture in moderation; excessive body movement can distract and annoy the interviewer.
Listening skills. Listen carefully and ask questions to probe deeper into what the interviewer is telling you. Most interviewers are delightfully surprised by a question such as, "How could I help you solve the problem you've just described?"
Communication skills. Good grammar and articulate speech are essential. If these are areas in which you are weak, work on it. Practice with your family, practice in front of a mirror, record your voice, take classes – do whatever it takes to become a more effective communicator.
Negative statements about previous jobs or employers. NEVER make them. Instead, be diplomatic. No matter how bad your last job or employer was, there was probably something good you learned from the experience. Emphasize the positive – with a smile.
Follow through. This is a crucial and often overlooked final step in the interviewing process. At the end of the interview thank everybody for his or her time. Once you have left the interview venue send an email thanking them for their time and expressing your interest in the position.