Your interview actually starts when a representative from your potential employer calls you to make an appointment. And it only ends when you are officially employed or rejected. So, it is important for you to be on your best behaviour at all times.
You can easily lose the opportunity if there is negative feedback from the person who arranged your interview. Every person from the company with whom you have the slightest contact can affect your chances in ways you can’t imagine.
Don’t take any chances. Be prepared.
Before the interview
Many fresh graduates do not read up enough before their interviews. Your preparation should focus on:
The job description: Match your experience and qualities to the job responsibilities listed in the advertisement;
The company: Be familiar with its products and services, its background and management team;
The interview details: Confirm the time of your interview, check the company’s location and find out what you can about your interviewer.
Make a good first impression. It is always better to be a little overdressed than risk being perceived as “sloppy”. Wearing a business suit gives you confidence, which will translate into positive energy in the interview room. To put yourself at ease, try to find out what attire is appropriate.
Women: Wear formal tops with sleeves and a jacket if it is appropriate. Avoid showing any cleavage; undergarments should be out of sight as well.
Men: Wear long-sleeved shirts in white or pale shades, neatly buttoned at the cuff. Choose a tie with a conservative pattern and wear a blazer if appropriate.
Women: Skirts should end no more than three inches above the knees. Choose dark-coloured skirts or pants.
Men: Use dark-coloured pants (black, navy, or grey).
No shorts, Bermudas or cropped pants please.
As a rule, avoid wearing political or religious symbols.
Women: Avoid flashy accessories and wear coordinated colours for your belt, shoes and outfit to look stylish and professional.
Men: Avoid chunky jewellery. Just stick to wearing a watch and/or a wedding band. Your belt and shoes should be in the same colour.
Hair and makeup
Stick to classic hairstyles and natural shades.
Women: Keep your hair neat — it should not cover your eyes or parts of your face. Use light makeup.
Men: Opt for a clean-shaven look, a neat haircut and natural hair colour.
Don’t turn up at the interview in flip-flops, sandals or sneakers.
Women: Use dark-coloured or nude pumps or peep-toe shoes of modest height. Avoid stilettos and platform heels.
Men: Use dark-coloured dress shoes with dark-coloured socks. Never use white socks.
A strong perfume or cologne can be distracting, so only use a scentless deodorant or a light perfume.
The day of the interview
Arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. You may have to fill up forms or go through a pre-interview briefing. It is important that you make the effort to fill up every part of the application form. Leaving blanks or simply indicating “refer to resumé” is always regarded as a lack of interest in the role that you are applying for.
Be courteous towards the receptionist. Ensure that any feedback provided to the upper management is positive.
Maintain an upright sitting posture while waiting for the interviewer. Do not play with your mobile phone while waiting. Focus on projecting the best “you”.
During the interview
First impressions are extremely important. You want to come across as sincere and earnest, not arrogant and sloppy. Always stand up and greet your interviewer. Reach out first and give a firm handshake. Always let the interviewer take the lead to end the handshake and only sit down after the interviewer.
Share your work experiences, strengths and weaknesses. Include your co-curricular activities (CCAs) and experiences outside school (e.g. community service) to highlight relevant skills and showcase your intangible qualities. Stay calm and smile even when you think you may have answered a question incorrectly.
Do not badmouth your previous employer — it will not reflect well on you. Monosyllabic and monotonous answers, bragging or puffing up your credentials will not impress the interviewers either.
Avoid fidgeting. This could signal to the interviewer that you are nervous, restless or uninterested. Maintain eye contact and a good posture at all times.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
Be prepared with a few questions to ask the interviewer when he poses this question. For example, you might ask: “What are the next steps in the interview process?”; “What are the expectations?” or “Who will I be working with?”
The way the interviewer responds can also help you gauge your chances of getting the job.
After the interview
Exit the interview on a positive note. Give a firm handshake, make eye contact with the interviewer and thank him as you leave the room.
Sending a “Thank You” e-mail to the interviewer the next day will also help to differentiate you from the rest.
Internal decision-making processes take time, so — unless a certain date is specified — wait at least two weeks before making a follow-up call. Don’t be a stalker.
Dealing with rejection
If you were rejected for the position, chin up. Ask for feedback. Also, ask yourself: “What are the areas I should improve on? In what ways could I have handled myself better?”
Draw lessons from this to do better the next interview. Interviewers always looking for a suitable fit for both the job and the organisation.