THE interview process must always be a two-way street — for the interviewer to find out more about the interviewee to determine four key areas of fit — job, company, department and supervisor. It should also be an opportunity for the job applicant to find out more about the job and so on, to determine if he wants to proceed with the hiring process.
The key to a successful interview is preparation. Being prepared gives you the needed confidence to perform well at the interview, which in turn enhances the chances of your being shortlisted to either move to the next round of interviews, or being offered the job.
Do your research on the company you are to interview with so you will be able to answer questions like “What do you know about us?”. You should also know and understand what is required of the job you are applying for. Find out the interviewer’s identity — questions asked by hiring managers and human resources are likely to be different.
Other than fact gathering, it is perhaps equally important to be prepared psychologically. If you go for the interview to “give-it-a-try”, you may not perform well enough. You may have more than one interview opportunity, but at the back of your mind, you should tell yourself, “This is my only shot, I don’t know when the next opportunity will come. I will prepare myself really well, so I can get the job offer.” You have to be hungry, and want the job badly enough so you can perform at your peak.
As it will be a two-way street, you can still decline the job offer eventually should you not wish to proceed. There is only one objective from the perspective of an interviewee — to get a job offer.
Arming yourself with relevant questions to ask is also part of the preparation. To determine if your intended question is a good one, ask yourself these two questions. Is it an open-ended question, and will the response be useful to me? If “yes” and “yes”, it is a good one.
Write down questions the interviewer is likely to ask. Prepare your responses in bullet points and ask a friend to role-play with you, and give you some constructive feedback. If possible, video-tape the role play so you can learn by observing your body language. This is by far the most effective way to prepare for your interviews.
Do not write down in full sentences how you will respond. During the interview, you may forget certain words, and either panic or fumble. Worse, you may recite your answer so it gives the negative perception that you are reading from a script. You are likely to come across as mechanical and unnatural.
Even if your potential employer is known to be casual in office attire, you should not dress casual, simply because you are not part of the team yet. We dress formally when meeting someone in an important position. Similarly, we should take the effort to dress up for the interview — to show due respect.
For executive-level positions, my advice is to dress formally — at least wear a long-sleeved shirt and a tie. For women, a blouse with a dark-coloured jacket is good. Men should wear light-coloured shirts (white or blue are my favourites), dark-coloured trousers and black leather shoes (polished). For both genders, wear a smile as well. Oh yes, for the ladies, mild or light make-up is good.
During the interview
Know your interviewer — I am not just referring to his job title, which is, of course, also important. Not just his function, but also his name.
You should always exchange name cards at the start of the interview. Put the interviewer’s card in front of you during the interview as you don’t want to forget his name.
Having your interviewer’s contact details also allows you to send a “thank you” e-mail subsequently. Discreetly — get a friend to do this for you — check out the interviewer via LinkedIn. Try to find commonalities — schools and university he attended, companies he worked for — this information is useful when you try to “connect” during the interview.
The initial 30 seconds of the interview are key — establish good connections and eye contact, give a warm smile, demonstrate basic courtesy, and you have cleared a third of the hurdles. The remaining two-thirds focus on how well you answer their questions, and how intelligent and useful are your questions in turn.
Wrapping up the interview well will also leave a positive impression with the interviewer. Three things to remember — thank him, reiterate your keenness to be part of the team, and ask when you are likely to hear from him again.
Article by Paul Heng, founder, managing director and executive coach of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. For more information, visit www.nextcareer.net