A professional approach for successful interviews

Getting a job interview is usually the last of a number of difficult steps that might produce a job offer. But remember, when you finally get the interview, this is “show time” – an opportunity for you to sell yourself. Give yourself every possible chance of getting the position, and leave the interviewer with no doubt that you are the best candidate for the job.

A.  Preparation for the interview

1 Find out everything you can about the company. This will demonstrate a genuine interest in the organisation and an affinity for things that its employees do. Your research should include information on the nature of the business, changes in the industry, the size of the company and the diversity of products and services provided.
2 Create a list of questions you want to ask. You should avoid asking about salaries. Your questions should instead focus on the overall operation of the company, specific details concerning your department and an awareness of your contribution to its future.
•  Which direction is the organisation going?
•  What is the outlook for business over the next few years?
•  How would you describe the culture here?
•  How do people get recognised for superior performance outside the formal compensation
•  What kind of training does the organisation provide?
•  How readily does the organisation embrace new technology and other improved working
•  What kind of expansion is planned for the future?
•  How are employees kept informed of changes in the organization?
•  What would be the primary reason for people leaving the company in the last year or two?
•  How many people are working in my department?
•  What’s the total number of team members in the organization?
•  Are there some characteristics common to people who have been promoted?
3 Review your CV to ensure that it contains as many things possible that could be of interest to the company. Double check the spelling. Bring along 2-3 CVs in a nice business folder. Re-read the copy of your application form over and over again, so you know by heart how to answer all details.
4 If you do have more than one interview, schedule them with sufficient time in between to avoid rushing from one to another.
5 Collect and organize all supporting documentation, such as certificates of your professional qualifications and references.
6 Be sure to have accurate directions and address of the prospective employer, to ensure that you don’t spend time searching for the property. Have the phone number on hand.
7 Consider doing a role play with a friend, have them ask you some challenging, open-ended questions that require on-the-spot mental acrobatics. Or just do it alone at home, question and answering all those possible topics which might arise.

B.  The day of the interview

1 Dress for success.
•  Make sure that you are well groomed, a neat hair cut and cleanly shaven.
•  Your clothes should reflect a neat, professional image. Suit and trousers should be well
•  Avoid outlandish hairstyles and body ornamentation, avoid showing necklaces, and to many
•  For ladies, decent make-up is suggested. No high heels or painted fingernails. Little or no
    rings & jewellery.
2 Leave yourself extra time to get to the interview, arrive well ahead, but not to early. 10-15 minutes are fine.
3 Have 2-3 copies of your CV and all supporting documentation ready, including non-confidential work you have done that would demonstrate your ability to do the job.
4 Bring along writing materials so you can take notes, this will make a good impression.

C.  Start of the interview

•    Punctuality: Never arrive late for an interview.
•    Handshake: Strong and confident, not limp and fishy.
•    Introduce yourself with your full name and a smile.
•    Eye Contact: Meet the interviewer’s eyes.
•    Personal Appearance: Grooming and dress make the first impression.
•    Smoking: Refrain from smoking, both during the interview and in the reception area.
•    Application Form: Present a neat, complete record; never write “see resume”.
•    Confidence and Poise: Fiddling and hesitation will make you appear ill at ease.
•    Try some small talk: “Thank you for taking your time”.

D.  During the interview

1 Let the interviewer control the discussion, listen carefully to the questions. Show that you understand by nodding and paraphrasing difficult questions. Pay attention to what the interviewer says and asks. Watch non-verbal cues. Look for facial impressions that might indicate confusion with your answers.
2 Do not ramble to open-ended questions. Try to be as direct as possible. If you are not sure that you have answered the question, ask if the interviewer has the answer he/she was looking or.
3 Express yourself clearly, pay attention to your voice, diction and grammar.
4 Show enthusiasm rather than passive indifference; ask questions about the job, the company and the industry. Look and act interested.
5 Give definite responses to questions. Be ready to justify job changes. Do not discuss income unless asked.
6 Project a great attitude. Show your “can do” enthusiasm by:
•  Always accentuating the positive
•  Giving examples of the good things you have achieved
7 Project positive body language.
•  Smile warmly when greeted.
•  Sit slightly forward and maintain eye contact without staring.
•  Greet people with a firm handshake.
•  Stand tall or sit up straight, so you project enthusiasm and confidence.
•  Avoid putting your hand in front of your face.
•  Do not cross your legs or arms, it may mean resistance.
•  Do not look to much around the room, focus on the interviewer.
8 Speak to impress by:
•  Articulating key ideas with a firmer voice.
•  Avoiding rushing through answers and rambling.
•  Avoiding slang or swear words.
•  Avoiding annoying words such as “like” at the beginning, middle and end of each sentence.
9 Listen. Make sure you answer all questions adequately. If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification.
10 Stay calm and confident. You got the interview, now get the job! Impress upon the interviewer what you have to offer and not what you want in return.
11 Close the meeting decisively. Express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and your eagerness to meet again: “Thank you for your time; I have enjoyed this discussion; where do we go from here” or “I feel we would have a good working relationship”.
12 Never ask anything regarding salary. The interviewer will raise the subject if he/she is interested in you.

E.  Be prepared to answer some of these often asked questions

1 Why did you leave your last assignment?Be careful what you say, give good reasons and criticize your former employer only if you have completed your contract. Answers might include: better prospects, to get more experience, change for a bigger or international company etc.
2 Can you tell me something about yourself?The interviewer wants to get to know you in the shortest period of time and has put the onus on you to set the pace of the interview. Be brief in your comments. Do not ramble. Organise your thoughts into brief descriptions of your birthplace, childhood, parents’ vocation, school days, work history, achievements and interests. The interviewer will watch for your enthusiasm, energy level, effective communication, body language and so on.
3 What position are you looking for?Be self confident and realistic in regards to your experience. Try to sell yourself, but be sure you can deliver what would be expected from you.
4 What are your objectives and long term plans for the future?Tell the interviewer that you would like to join a modern, progressive company similar to the one under discussion. Emphasize that you can do an outstanding job with your years of experience and could be considered for promotional opportunities. Give examples of time spans (in 2-3 years I aim to be F&B Director; in 7-8 years I would like to be General Manager). Employers like people who plan and set precise career goals.
5 What is the one thing you are most proud of and what are your strong points?Choose your answer carefully. You must sound self confident without being conceited. Don’t hesitate to give some positive examples of what you have achieved.
6 What do you think are your weakest points?Everybody has a weakness. But sometimes a weakness can be an advantage. Mention one or two weaknesses you may have, but discuss some of the methods you employ to control or overcome them.
7 Why do you think you are good at this job, why should we hire you?Give precise examples of what you have achieved so far, including mentioning figures. Offer suggestions as to what you would do if you were hired. Show self confidence, but know your limits.
8 What are you doing in your spare time?Talk about your hobbies, your sport activities and best of all, mention business books and literature, your willingness to widen your professional knowledge, studying and staying on top of the latest business trends.
9 When would you be available?If you are without a job, say: “as soon as you would like me to start”. If you are still employed, state the time frame of notice and emphasize that you would like to fulfill your contract. This will always impress your interviewer.
10 What salary expectations do you have?Try to be tactful and avoid mentioning any specific figures for the salary you have in mind. Leave it to the interviewer to make you an offer. The salary and remuneration package will be the last thing discussed.

F.  Be prepared for constructive criticism

Avoid presenting yourself as:
•    Cynical, lazy, only looking for the best package.
•    Intolerant, narrow-minded, unwilling to start low and work up.
•    Having owner problems.
•    Having low moral standards.
•    Not being able to listen to employees needs.
•    Conceited, superior, know it all, unable to take criticism.
•    Not being able to adapt to cultural differences.
•    Only shopping around. Unable to make long term commitment.
•    Impatience in dealing with your team members.

G.  Reasons for failures during interviews

The following results are based on a survey carried out on several hundred international companies. They can make the difference between getting a position or losing out. Any 2-3, and you have almost certainly wasted your time going for the interview.
•    Late for the interview.
•    Poor personal appearance.
•    Sloppy application form.
•    Lack of interest and enthusiasm.
•    Showing little or no interest in the company or industry.
•    Showing intolerance and/or strong prejudices.
•    A lack of planning for career without purpose or goals.
•    Avoiding unfavourable factors in your past records.
•    Failure to look at interviewer while conversing.
•    Not asking questions about the position.
•    Giving indefinite responses to questions.
•    Being overbearing and aggressive, and having a conceited attitude.
•    Wanting the job for only a short period of time.
•    Merely shopping around.
•    Unyielding; too rigid; too demanding.
•    Inability to take criticism.
•    Limp, fishy, wet handshake.
•    Poor diction, bad grammar and inability to express oneself clearly.
•    Lack of confidence and poise; nervous; ill at ease.
•    Indecision.
•    Laziness.
•    Lack of manners and courtesy.
•    Lack of tact, manners or maturity.
•    Being cynical.
•    Unwillingness to arrange future interviews.
•    Failure to appreciate the interviewer’s time.
•    Having very narrow interests.
•    Failure to participate in activities.
•    Low moral standards.
•    Being a high-pressure type.
•    Replying to questions with clichés.