You get the call. After days and months of applying for jobs, tweaking your resume with key words from job announcements/postings, to ensure that you avoid the “black hole” of online applications, and applicant tracking systems, you have an interview and are a candidate for the job. Yet, like public speaking, going to the dentist and sitting exams, you like most people fear/dislike interviews. You get nervous, about the process, and the prospects of being faced with tough interview questions that you might not know how to answer. And even if you already have a job, or are in desperate need of one, the process of preparing for and participating in an interview can be just as intense.
This is understandable, for there is no fool proof way of doing interviews. A quick search of the internet will present job seekers with many of resources on how best to prepare for an interview. Job seekers will also find that there has been a shift from traditional interviewing to modern trends involving behavioral interviewing, presentations, panel interviews, personality /psychometric tests and assessment centers. Gone are the days, when the interview process involved just one interview with a lone interviewer. In fact, rarely, in a few places and organizations does this still occur.
Today, the average interview format for any administrative, professional or technical job may come in 2-3 stages/parts (again depending on the scope of the role) with 2 or 3 interviews. These might be 2 in-person interviews, or the initial screening might take place via a telephone interview. How well you do in the telephone interview, determines whether you will be invited to the second in- person interview, which informs the final selection of candidate. For higher level roles, the top 2 candidates from the second interview are then invited to a third interview, with senior members of the management or executive team, and this is where the decision is usually made.
Here are some useful tips that could help you to prepare for your next interview opportunity and possibly help you to ace it:
- Do your research: Ensure that you understand the company’s mission, vision, strategic objectives, market environment, or any current projects or developments. This information might be available on the company’s website, LinkedIn or Facebook page.
- Understand the job position: Carefully review the job announcement or job posting to identify the key responsibilities of the role, reporting relationships, and the key skills or competencies that are being emphasized. This will help you to think about how your skills and experiences align to what the employer is looking for.
- Develop your stories: Tell me about a time when?Describe a situation where? Behavioral interviewing and questions have emerged as popular techniques used by interviewers to delve into the candidate’s experiences, to see how they think and/or potential for success. Using the STARs approach, the interviewee/candidate should be able to clearly articulate stories from experience in a current or prior role, using the Situation, Task, Action and Result method. As such, the serious job seeker should devote some time, beforehand, to developing stories which demonstrate their experience using skills such as: customer service, solving conflict, team work, handling feedback and responding to change to name a few.
- It’s a conversation: Often times, the candidate goes into an interview thinking mostly of answers to commonly asked interviews questions. While this is good, the interviewee should always formulate at least 3-5 questions which do not directly relate to the compensation package to ask of the interviewer(s). Remember that interviews are conversations. They present the interviewee with an opportunity to learn more about the role, gain insights into the organization’s priorities, challenges being experienced and the culture of the organization. In fact, it is poor practice of the interviewer not to ask the candidate if he or she has questions, and even poorer, when the candidate is asked and responds no.
- Prepare yourself: Significant efforts should be made to ensure that you present yourself well to the employer. This includes dressing appropriately in professional attire, and doing a “dry run” to ensure you know exactly where you are going, and parking arrangements etc. Also take up to 3 copies of your resume along to the interview, just in case they ask you for it.
- Arrive early: “First impressions last”. A late arrival never reflects well on the job candidate. Calling your contact to indicate that you are delayed due to an accident or some mishap may be understood but not always forgiven. Being late is a huge risk to take, and you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Aim to arrive at least 10-15 minutes prior to the interview.
- Be self-aware: Maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer(s), a firm handshake, good posture, along with deliberate use of gestures and tone are important. No matter how friendly the interviewer(s) appears, do not become overly comfortable. Your interviewer is not your friend and you are the one being evaluated.
- Losing the battle, doesn’t mean you lose the war: You win some, you lose some. Understand that the interview can go either way. You might have been a great candidate for the job, but another candidate might have been more qualified than you, or an internal candidate might be tipped over you, because of their knowledge of the company etc. So, if the outcome is not favorable to you, don’t be too crushed. Ask for feedback, reflect on the experience, look at what you did well, what you could have done differently, and take that to your next opportunity. At the end of the day, you have just met and interacted with 2 or 3 more persons, who are now familiar with your skills and your brand (see earlier post on Branding).
- Build goodwill: Always send a thank you note. This should preferably be done on the same day of the interview or within 24 hours. Ask the interviewer(s) for business cards at the end of the interview or just note their name(s). You can also use this information to connect with them on LinkedIn and keep connected. You never know what the future holds, or when your paths might meet again.
- Have your references ready: Your references can make or break the entire process. Identify three professional references that are accessible and reliable and obtain their permission. Your references should be persons that, you are confident, will speak well of you, and honestly of your work ethic and performance of the job.
Best of wishes in your job search and interview. The journey continues!!!!