Preparing for Interview

So you have been called for a job interview and nerves are getting the better of you! Do not panic! Here are some tips to help you along your journey:

Research the industry and company
It is important that you have an understanding of the company’s industry. Do some general research on industry trends, opportunities and possible threats. Find out about the company’s position in the industry, its competitors, look at competitive advantages and ways you can help to make a positive contribution should you be given the role. Do general research on search engines, company website as well as newspaper articles.

Identify your “selling points”
What are the things that make you stand out; those unique traits that are relevant to this job? Write them down. Prepare at least three strong points and give examples to support each. One of your main goals will be to convince the interviewer that not only want the job but you are the ideal candidate for the role. Pull examples from your past experience and give accomplishments and how they can benefit this new job. Show passion and care as you describe each selling point.

Anticipate the interviewer’s reservations
Unless this is some highly specialized role – and even so – there will be several persons interviewing for the job and you have to stand out. The interviewer will be tasked with finding ways to eliminate people. Put yourself in their shoes. List all the reasons they would not hire you then come up ways plausible ways to counter these reservations.

Find common interview questions
These are online or in any HR book (something you should invest in to learn the basics of Human Resources). You would have already met them if this isn’t your first job and if this is your first, they are readily available. Do your research. Ask yourself the questions and answer them – over and over again. Always use relevant scenarios and examples. “Tell me about yourself” is bound to be asked.

Prepare questions for the interviewer
Always make sure you have some intelligent questions for the interviewer. This proves you are interested in the job and the company. Sample questions could be, “What kind of person are you looking to fill this role?” “What do you most enjoy about working here?” Do not be shy but ensure the questions make sense and provide you with additional insight into the company.

Practice, practice, practice
It is said that proper presentation presents poor performance and this is absolutely true. Get in front of a mirror. Look at your poise, facial expression, diction, your handshake, smile, introduction, ways you gesticulate with your hands and ensure you are being modest and confident. If you can ascertain the name and title of the interviewer that can also help as you can easily conduct a research to know how their name is properly pronounced, how they look and any other public information that can help to calm your nerves. Get two friends and practice the interview. One friend will act as the observer and the other the interviewer. Take note of their feedback and develop on them before your big day.

Be well-groomed while displaying proper body language
Find the most appropriate outfit for the interview. Ensure it is clean, neat and well-fitted and speaks volume. Make sure your hairstyles are suitable and your finger nails are well-trimmed. You should look like a professional. Try your clothing before your big day, that way you avoid wardrobe malfunctions. A simple as this may seem: take a bath, wear appropriate perfume or cologne – not dousing yourself with too much -, brush your teeth, clean your shoes and wear a smile. Additionally, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, sit with good posture and speak clearly.

Be punctual
One of the most annoying things for interviewers is to sit and wait on a candidate. Get the directions ahead of time if you do not know where you are going.  Ensure you arrive at least 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment so you can compose yourself and get in the right mindset.

Score a success in the first five minutes
Studies show that interviewers make up their minds about a candidate within the first five minutes. Do not waste any of this critical time. Enter the room with enthusiasm and positive energy, express your gratitude for the opportunity and demonstrate passion. Express something positive about the company. Highlight a recent success or accolade. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you’ve done your research and you are eager to the part of the team.

Get in favour with the interviewer
To ensure the interviewer doesn’t see you as another number, make sure you find favour from the get-go. As mentioned the interviewer may want to find ways to rule you out. Impress the interviewer throughout the interview alluding to the joy of learning more about the company and for the company to learn more about you. Be assertive and polite, responding with confidence, displaying positivity and be truthful – always. Remember that the interviewer may have already checked your public files. As an aside, in this day of technology and social media, please be mindful of what you showcase about yourself. Remember you are a brand and aim to protect your brand- always.

Be ready to handle tough/controversial questions
After all you would have already anticipated these. Listen keenly. Speak clearly and with surety. You may be asked about a topic that’s controversial (religion, politics, starting your family) speak your truth and be respectful. You can nicely ask for the relevance to the job or your application and then respond in that context.

 Be positive – always
No one likes a complainer so do not dwell on negative experiences. If you’re asked about past mistakes or weaknesses, do not be afraid to highlight these but show that you have leant, grown and are working on turning weaknesses into strengths. Be sure to provide relevant (not anything that can jeopardize your chance) examples.

Close on a positive note
Summarize all you have just spoken about by reiterating the reasons you are ideal for the post. Mention how eager you are to contribute to the company as well as grow with it on its journey and also the fact that you are looking forward to learning and emulating employees such as the interviewers. Be likeable and charming but professional. End with a firm handshake and a warm smile.

Bring a printed copy or two of your resume
Have one or two copies (depending on the number of interviewers) of your resume for each interview. If the interviewer has replaced his/her copy, you would be able to pass one along. This shows that you are prepared, a team-player and can already stand in the gap for your prospective employees.

Send thank you notes
Following your interview, send individual thank you note (electronically is acceptable) to your interviewer/s. Express gratitude for the opportunity, highlight the things that were of interest to you and ensure you have the correct spelling and title of the interviewer/s. Notes must be sent within 48 hours of the interview.

Don't give up
Yes, you are human and may feel discouraged if you were not successful in your interview. Do not give up and do not see your efforts as a waste of time. It was all practice. If you believe you didn’t do as well in the interview and could do a better job, write the interviewer highlighting ways you could have improved and ask for another opportunity. This is a long shot buy you may never know. It shows resilience and perseverance. One thing is certain – your ideal job will come. Keep working at it.

Best wishes to you!

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