Interview basics: the twelve commandments
Below are twelve key points to bear in mind in order to transform your hard-won job interview to a lucrative offer.
The importance of practice and preparation cannot be emphasized enough. Generally, a job hunter is much more versed in the fine art of interviewing if they have been out looking for jobs and interviewing for a while; it is critical however for newcomers to the interviewing scene to know what to expect, how best to behave in an interview setting and how to answer the questions in a manner that reflects on them most positively. Read the current literature on interview trends, prepare answers to the most common interview questions and perhaps rehearse by having a friend or better still, a peer in the industry conduct a realistic mock interview and analyze your conduct and answers. You should know your CV inside out and be able to answer any questions that relate to it without hesitation. Job descriptions for a given role are key wellsprings of information on the skills required - aim to present each and every one of these required skills in a personal skills inventory as you answer the interview questions.
2. Have the company, industry and product line well researched
You are much more likely to impress and convince the employer of your unique suitability for the job if you are intimately familiar with the company, its position in the industry, its product lines and what may be required for a candidate in your role. Once you can see yourself as part of a "big picture" you can better formulate your answers, prepare your skills inventory and formulate your success stories as they directly relate to the company's requirements.
3. Arrive early
Respect the interviewer's time. Aim to arrive 15 minutes early and busy yourself with the company or industry literature while you wait. You can also use the time to go over your CV and answers you have prepared so you feel more relaxed and in control during the interview. If disaster strikes and you are running late, make sure to call the interviewer to inform them.
4. Be aware of the importance of first impressions
As you have heard a myriad times before, you will not get a second chance to make a first impression so make sure your first impression conveys a successful, enthusiastic, well-mannered professional who will be an asset to the team. Smile and shake hands firmly when you meet the interviewer and be aware that over 60% of the cues being communicated to the interviewer are non-verbal cues. Watch your body language, gestures and tone of voice and bear in mind that the manner in which you are conveying information may be as important as what you are saying. Stay calm and focused and demonstrate self-confidence and professionalism in your answers and how you deliver them. Your attire MUST be professional and you must be well-groomed for your interviews, it is far better to err on the conservative side than to arrive dressed in a slovenly manner and communicate a complete disregard and disrespect for industry norms and the company culture.
5. Keep your answers brief and to the point
Answer the questions directed at you in a precise and succinct manner and make sure you do not ramble or get carried away on an irrelevant and inconsequential tangent. The more you get carried away on a given question the more likely you are to slip up and communicate weaknesses or factoids that are best not brought to bear at the interview stage. Demonstrate clarity of mind and thought process by making your answers simple and to the point - this does not however involve killing the conversation flow with yes/no answers. Aim to keep the conversation going on a pleasant professional respectful tone with answers that illustrate your strengths and experience and keep the interviewer excited to learn more.
6. Bring to bear facts and data from your past experiences to support your answers
Make sure to support all your answers with accurate facts and figures to gain credibility with the interviewer and show you have a keen eye for the bottom line. Expound in detail on targets achieved or overachieved and talk about measurable milestones and contributions to the bottom line whether they be in terms of money made, money saved, losses averted or otherwise. Be very specific about your skills and describe past success stories that support them in accurate, quantifiable detail.
7. Know your strengths and make sure you communicate them at least once
The interviewer is looking to hire a winner who has had a record of achieving success in a similar capacity in the past. Be prepared to elaborate on past successes that bear in a direct manner on the present job and show how those experiences are directly relevant to the role, responsibilities and skillset required for the present job. Keep in mind that the employer is looking to minimize his/her risk by hiring a candidate who has excelled in a similar or identical role in the past and can brings these skills to bear on the present job. Even if your past job was very different than the present one, you will be able to come up with success stories that relate directly to the job requirements in that they highlight key skills or character traits whether they be creativity, initiative, problem-solving acumen, sales skills, negotiation skills, communication skills etc.
8. Do not dwell on weaknesses or personal matters
Two areas that have no place during the interview stage are your weaknesses and your personal life. Avoid talking about personal matters and answer any question on weaknesses with either a brief explanation of what area you would like to further develop your skills in or by reiterating a key strength of yours that you perhaps take too far. The first shows you know what key skill you need further work on and are willing to take action on it and the second approach reiterates a key point of strength. You may also mention a weakness that is completely unrelated to the position at hand eg if you are applying for a creative role in and advertising agency you can mention that your accounting or investment management skills are not your strongest point and you are much more comfortable in a creative role. Whatever you do don't open a can of worms and torpedo your chances of securing the job by dwelling on real weaknesses and shortcomings that directly relate to your ability to excel at the job.
9. Ask questions
Have a list of questions prepared beforehand that are designed to impress the employer and show that you are familiar with current company/industry issues. An appropriate line of questioning can make for excellent conversation and will leave the employer with the impression that you have done your due diligence and researched the company and industry thoroughly. Do not ask about salary and vacations at the early interview stages.
10. Talk like an insider
If you have researched the company, industry and product lines thoroughly you will be able to talk like an insider and impress with your insider's insight on relevant issues. Keep the conversation flow fluid and informative by bringing up facts you have learned about the company and its products and competitors and show how you, armed with your unique skillset and experiences, can positively impact the bottom line.
11. Do not discuss salary too early
Asking about salary too early in an interview will make you appear mercenary. A potential employer will look for enthusiasm for the job itself, not just the salary on offer. Most serious companies will have a formal wage structure - so don't be afraid to ask about it at the appropriate time. Prior research into realistic salary expectations will also help avoid embarrassment.
12. Do not over promise
Don't promise what you are not in a position to deliver. Your over confidence will eventually catch you out, with potentially serious consequences, should you actually get the job. Promote your skills enthusiastically but stick to the facts.