Tips for Interview Success
Proper job interview preparation equips you to enter the interview room with confidence. Start your preparation by giving yourself a pat on the back for getting this far. An invitation to interview indicates you’ve submitted an excellent résumé and the recruiters were impressed by your cover letter. Your next step is to get ready for the actual interview. We’ve compiled the tips below to make your job interview preparation easier.
Get the Basics Right
Your first preparation task is to plan your day. Double check the street address and plan your transport, departure and arrival times. You should aim to arrive at least 20 minutes early. Being early gives you a time buffer should you have difficulty finding the office. You may also need time to fill out HR forms before relaxing with a few deep breaths! If you’re a well organised person, you’ll have no trouble getting to your interview on time. If you’re the kind of person who’s always late, don’t allow yourself to be late this time! A recruiter will not be impressed if they are forced to wait for you. Tardiness is usually a deal breaker in the hiring process. Calling to say you’re running late does not excuse your tardiness.
Know What to Expect
Be sure you know whether you’ll be interviewed one-on-one, or by a panel of recruiters. Will your interview be 15 minutes or 2 hours? Will you be required to audition, do a presentation or demonstrate skills? Knowing these things in advance relieves anxiety and allows you to perform better during the interview. Make a quick call to your prospective employer’s office to clarify uncertainty.
Plan Your Image
Don’t leave your first impression to chance. Put effort into presenting yourself and creating a memorable first impression. Your goal is to create a professional and likable image. Arriving early is a great start. Be sure to plan:
- What you will wear – It used to be that all job interviews were attended in formal business attire. These days, companies have become more relaxed. If your prospective employer has casual dress standards, it is probably acceptable for you to wear casual business dress to the job interview. If you’re unsure, make a phone call to your recruiter’s office and ask. Remember, it’s always better to over-dress than to under-dress. Unless your recruiter specifically asks you to wear casual attire, wearing a suit and tie is usually a safe bet; it certainly won’t put you at any disadvantage.
- Grooming – Poor grooming will detract from even the smartest business suit. Attention to small details will give you an immaculate, professional image guaranteed to impress. Make certain your shoes are polished, your hair is neat and tidy and your nails are manicured. Men should always be clean shaven with neatly groomed facial hair.
- What you will take – A slender document file adds to your professional image. It also demonstrates you have invested time and effort in your job interview preparation. The file should contain all employment related information. Even if you have already sent them, always take a copy of your completed job application form and your resume. Other items to take are reference letters, certificates, licenses and photo identification. A list of questions you’d like to ask during the interview is useful. Optionally, carry printouts of the original job advertisement and official information about your prospective employer. This impresses interviewers by showing you’ve done your research and you’re interested in the company.
- What you will say – Prepare what you will say by imagining anticipated conversions before your interview. Pay attention to four particular conversations. First, your greeting. Think about how you will greet your interviewer. Where possible, say their name. For example, say “Hello John, nice to meet you.” Second, prepare your responses to common interview questions (see below). Third, prepare questions you intend to ask (see below). Fourth, prepare a positive farewell. For example, “I’ve enjoyed our conversation today. I know I would get excellent results working within XYZ company and I’m certainly very interested in the position.” As you end the interview, it’s also appropriate to ask when you can expect to hear a result and offer to leave a copy of your résumé.
Prepare Answers to Interview Questions
Thoroughly research common interview questions in your industry. No doubt you’ll enjoy a few easy-to-answer questions (like “How long have you worked in this industry?”), but most questions will be more complex. Expect open-ended questions designed to get you talking.
Typical questions include:
- “Why would you like to work in this position?”
- “If you were faced with XYZ dilemma, how would you deal with it?”
- “It seems you have a lot of experience with ABC. Can you tell me more?”
- “Your résumé says you increased sales by 200% in 3 months in your last position. How did you achieve that result?”
Be aware that interviewers often ask intentionally difficult or negative questions like:
- “What are your weaknesses?”
- “When have you failed to meet your sales targets and what was the problem?”
- “At what times have you had difficulty working with other team members?”
When faced with such a question, aim to give your answer a positive spin. For example, answering the first question above, a weakness might be that you are a perfectionist. As a perfectionist, you have trouble leaving work unfinished and often work late. To your prospective employer, your personal weakness would be an advantage.
Prepare for your interview by writing down answers to these questions. Keep your answers focused, always relating your past work experience to the requirements of the position on offer.
Once you have written your answers, practice saying them aloud. Rehearse talking about your previous job experience, your successes, how you overcame obstacles and your future aspirations with a new employer.
Prepare Questions to Ask
Expect the opportunity to ask questions during your interview. Don’t waste time with insignificant questions. Instead, ask thoughtful questions designed to give you a competitive advantage. We recommend strategic questions such as:
- “John, what do you like most about working at this company?” - This is a rapport building question. Asking the interviewer to talk about themselves establishes a personal connection, thereby improving your chances of being remembered after the interview.
- “What are the sales goals of this Fast Moving Consumer Goods department in the next financial year?” Whilst this example might not apply to you, notice the use of industry jargon. Asking such a question demonstrates your understanding of the industry and your acknowledgement of the department’s function. The strategic premise behind this question is to sell yourself by subtly referencing your knowledge and experience.
In addition to strategic questions, remember to ask simple job-evaluation questions. “What will be my daily responsibilities in this position?” and “What is my expected sales target?” are two examples of questions you could ask.
Final Thoughts on Interviewing
An interview is never one-sided, so be bold in asking your questions. Interviews are a two-way street. Don’t focus solely on ‘getting the job’. You must evaluate whether the job is right for you. Interviewers will usually tell you whether you should wait until the end of the interview to ask questions, or whether you can ask at any time. Always aim to leave the interview with all your questions answered, knowing whether the job is right for you.
An interview is a fantastic opportunity to sell yourself. Being properly prepared will help you relax and give you confidence throughout the interview. It is often said “success comes when opportunity meets preparation”, so put effort into your job interview preparation and get ready to succeed!
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