Interview skills are learnt. Do your pre-interview homework, learn what questions you can anticipate and how best to answer them. Practice and preparation are key for a successful interview.
Your CV has impressed your research and networking activities have paid off and you have landed an Interview with your company of choice. Now to make sure you turn this Interview into a pot of gold and secure the job of your dreams. Below are some general tips and guidelines that should assist you through the Interview:
Most of you will have researched your company of choice thoroughly in order to get to this point. For those who haven't, it is essential that you do some background research on the company and the job before you walk in that door. The Interviewer will expect you to know a little about the industry and the company and will be very impressed if you are familiar with specific events, news and concerns relating to the business. Newspapers, industry and trade magazines, local libraries and the Internet are all good sources of information. Feel free to pick up the phone and ask the company for their annual reports and any marketing materials - most companies are more than happy to oblige. The very minimum information you will want to know is what lines of business the company is in, what the requirements and responsibilities are for the job you are applying for and the latest news pertaining to the company. Specific information about the company's new product lines, competitive positioning, plans for the future, vision, mission and values, business objectives and key personnel changes will further impress as will any information that bears directly to the position you are applying for. Treat knowledge as a primary competitive advantage; the more information you have about the company and role, the higher your chances of success.
- Be prepared
It is highly advisabe that you take with you to the interview a notebook to take notes and extra copies of your CV (in many cases the employer will have misplaced it, have an unclear copy if it was faxed, or simply expect you to provide it). In many types of jobs, you may want to take with you examples of your work eg. past creative work if you are in advertising, design or similar roles, published work if you are a writer etc. You may also want to take with you references and copies of your educational certificates just in case, although these are typically not required at the initial interview stage.
- Dress for success
Your first Interview is the first impression an employer will have of you and it is essential to make a favorable first impact. You should always plan to dress relatively conservatively for the first Interview even if the job involves casual wear. You can always dress down in later meetings. Generally, the image you want that first meeting is clean, well-groomed and conservative.
- Be punctual
Make sure you arrive for the Interview a good 15 minutes early. Allow yourself plenty of time for any potential mishaps eg traffic jams, unclear directions, public transportation difficulties etc. Showing up late indicates disrespect for the employer's time and hints at sloppy planning and poor time-management and judgement.
- Attitude counts
This is the time to show off your interpersonal skills. Employers are looking for certain key character traits and you need to demonstrate them at the Interview. Keep the following in mind:
- Listening skills
Make sure you listen intently, let the Interviewer complete his sentences and you don't interrupt. At the same time, show interest in what he is saying and ask pertinent and interesting questions. Good active listening skills are essential in any role.
In many cases, you may not be ideally qualified for the position, or you may have a steep learning curve ahead of you. You need to demonstrate to the Employer that you are extremely interested in the position and have the drive and ambition and keenness it takes to succeed! Enthusiasm is contagious and employers are always keen to add enthusiastic members to their team in the hopes that their positive attitude rubs off on the team and lifts the general spirit of the workplace. Your positive attitude will impress the interviewer as long as it is genuine and not overplayed and he will leave the Interview with a favorable 'feel' about you.
- Eye contact
Maintain professional eye contact with the Interviewer. Looking away continuously suggests distractibility and disinterest. Looking down suggests shyness and lack of confidence. By all means though keep it natural and feel free to nod your head and smile and even laugh where appropriate. Try to avoid staring the employer down, nodding superfluously or fixing a fake grin on your face out of nervousness.
- Emotional Intelligence
You need to demonstrate to the Interviewer that you have a high level of emotional intelligence and are willing and able to detect and adapt readily to new environments, demands, people, work styles etc. The Interview is a good place to demonstrate this. Be sensitive to the Interviewer's personal style by paying attention to his general behavior, his demeanor, his office space and the types of questions he asks, and tailor your answers and tone and pace of delivery accordingly.
Above all, be professional. Respect the Interviewer-Interviewee boundaries at all times and do not behave in an overly friendly or casual fashion with the Interviewer. Avoid bringing up your personal life unless in a directly relevant manner, do not comment on politics, religion or any other controversial topics dear to your heart, do not stray from the Interview topics and keep your answers factual, honest and professional.
- Have the answers
There is no telling what style an Interviewer will take and what questions he will come up with. Interviews range from the very structured and professional to ad hoc conversations where the employer may simply ask you to talk about yourself. In most well-established corporations however, certain questions are quite standard and we recommend you take the time to really think about them, develop answers and find evidence to support your answers from past experiences and qualifications. Read up on common and uncommon interview questions before the interview in preparation and know your CV inside and out so that no question about your career takes you unawares. Take time to introspect and reflect on what has enabled you to succeed in the past and how you intend to succeed in the future in the new role. Practice mock interviews with friends or run through possible scenarios in your mind in advance of the interview. Bayt has prepared a list of Common Interview Questions that you can start practicing on. Practice visualisation - if you see yourself already in the new role and succeeding in your new capacity, chances are the interviewer may see you in that capacity too; just make sure you are fully aware of what it is that has enabled you to obtain the role and what it is about your skills, qualifications, character traits and experience that has enabled you to succeed so you can communicate these factors clearly, honestly and and convincingly to the employer.