Impressing at Interviews
Hey, you got yourself an interview? That’s great! You’ve taken your first step into the working world. But before you start hugging yourself and giving ‘high fives’, remember that you are only half way there. The real challenge is to get hired!
By Joshua Rayan
So here’s the plan: Just stand out from the crowd, be better than the rest, say the right things at the right time and ‘sell’ yourself as the best man or woman for the job. Easy? Not really!
Plus, when you have to do it in half or one hour, the tough becomes tougher! Relax, guys and girls. You can excel at interviews. When you walk into that door, you can be confident, well prepared and leave a positive mark on interviewers. You can be the top candidate and impress everyone to land the job you want. Let’s make interviews work for you!
“IF YOU KNOW THE ENEMY AND KNOW YOURSELF, YOU NEED NOT FEAR THE RESULT OF A HUNDRED BATTLES“.
- Sun Tsu, Chinese military strategist
Okay, we’re not going to war, but interviews are battlegrounds. You need to beat the competition. So research, research and research. With background work, you’re arming yourself with the right ammunition to accomplish the mission – get the job!
Start researching at the company’s website. The basic info you need is there. Also, talk to friends or company employees to get their input about company performance, work culture, the people and so on. This is the way to go if you want to find out the ‘real deal’ about your prospective employers.
Based on their info, you’ll know whether the employer is a stable organisation with a good internal reputation and whether they’re good to staff. If you have more time, check product brochures, read the paper about industry happenings and talk to those in the field. This keeps you up to speed with developments.
Your investigative work will give you an edge over others. If out of 100 candidates, only 5 of you are familiar with the employers’ products, processes, management and so on, your chances have improved from 1 of out 100 to 1 out of 5! You’re already one-upping other candidates. The interview hasn’t even started yet and you’re already ahead of the
PREPARATION MAKES PERFECT
It’s all in your mind! Visualisation is a very powerful tool to prep you mentally for the ‘big day’. Try these techniques:
• Close your eyes and visualise yourself at the interview. See yourself as being calm, cool, confidently answering questions and gaining the interviewers’ respect.
• You smile as you impress them with your certificates, qualifications, knowledge and work samples. It’s going well! You leave the room with the interviewers giving you positive comments.
• Keep imagining this mental mindframe up to interview day.
Tennis star, Andre Agassi, soccer player, David Beckham and many others use visualisation to see their success. If they’re using it to attain worldwide fortune and fame, why not you? Start seeing your success today!
As for technical skills, be on top of your game. If you’re applying to work as a Network Support Technician, make sure you know your stuff on Local Area Networks (LANs), wi-fi and connectivity solutions. If electronics engineering is your choice, then make sure you’re well versed with circuitry, telecommunications knowledge and so on. If you’re a draughtsman, then you need to have a ‘clear picture’ of building plans and architecture.
In short, it’s not just having the paper qualifications for the job, but also being able to communicate that knowledge that counts. Brush up on your knowledge or do some revision or practice, just to keep your sharpness and competitive edge. Employers are looking for the best and they will forget the rest!
Check this out: Over 70% of your communication comes via body language. You are influencing your interview with your gestures and actions. So, tap into this unconscious communication with the tried and tested ‘confident candidate’ look:
• Walk in with your head held high (not too high, be confident, not arrogant. Plus, you don’t want a neck ache!).
• Keep your shoulders back and your back straight (this reflects self assuredness and high self-esteem).
• Smile sincerely (not like people in a toothpaste ad)
• Walk briskly, but don’t rush.
• Shake hands firmly but don’t squeeze too hard.
• Speak with a clear, loud tone, but don’t shout.
Interviews mean you are ‘in-the-view’ of others. And interviewers will make their decisions about you from the first moment they see, speak or interact with you. Leave the right impression or ‘view; with these tips:
• Arrive 10 minutes early.
• Switch off or place mobile phones on silent mode.
• Greet the interview panel or person and wait for them to invite you to sit.
You can make the interview environment more comfortable by saying something positive. Good ideas would be commenting about the view from the window, a child’s photo on the table, or any travel pictures in the room. This help makes the interviewer friendlier to you…and puts both of you at ease.
If you notice that he/she is a soccer fan, it’s ok to enquire about their favourite team or player. Give it a try it; it works as long as you keep the small talk short and sweet, do not overdo the compliments as it will backfire.
You can also play the copycat game! Look at how an interviewer speaks. If he/she is chatty, then it’s OK for you to be a little more vocal. If they’re sticking strictly to business talk, it’s better for you to follow suit. If he/she speaks with a softer tone, you may want to reduce your volume a little too. These are mirroring tactics. It puts the interviewer at ease and makes the situation more conducive for both of you.
The right chemistry creates strong connections so learn to practise some interpersonal human alchemy and be pleasantly amazed by the results! One more thing, watch your projected energy level. You don’t need to be an Energiser bunny but you do need to project energy as that is often an aspect that people overlook. It can make the interview more interesting if you show eagerness and youth, as these are traits employers look for in fresh graduates.
Next up, Q & A time. Face it; interviewers are going to throw lots of questions at you. Take each question one at a time and answer them directly and truthfully. Speak slowly and clearly. Take your time and don’t rush. Verbal diarrhoea will only show that you’re nervous and get your employment chances flushed down the toilet!
Ask the interviewers to repeat or explain questions if you didn’t hear or don’t understand them. A simple “Excuse me, but can you repeat the question?” or “Can you explain that, please? I’m not too sure what it means” would be fine. Don’t dodge queries with evasive answers or blank stares. If you don’t know the answer, say that you don’t. Explain later why you’re not familiar with that question and make an effort to get the answer.
Example, “I’m sorry, I’m not too familiar with that area as I specialised in another aspect. But I can look it up and educate myself it’s required for the job.” Watch your gestures and actions too. It’s good to be a little animated (waving your hands or fingers to emphasise a point shows confidence and poise). But don’t go overboard.
If you’re nervous, put your hand under the table, out of view, hold a pen in your hand and squeeze it.
Then, it may be test-taking time. No sweat, just be calm and follow instructions. Interview tests or practical exams have one big difference to examination ones…the former is normally viewed subjectively as it relies on the interviewers’ interpretation. So give it your best shot!
Consider these suggestions as strategies to deal with tests:
• Ensure that you know your technical stuff, this is a must!
• Hone your skill by revising or practicing, in the case of practical situations.
• Ask lecturers and seniors for advice.
Now, it’s your chance to ask questions. Make sure that you do!
Do not ask about salary, benefits and leave entitlements. Leave that for the negotiation stage where the company is ready to make an offer. Instead, ask about the company’s working style and culture, where does management best see you working, what would they expect from you and so on. This shows that you have initiative; you’re enthusiastic and keen on the job.
Round off the whole experience with an excellent touch of professionalism and PR for a great finish. After the interview is done, sending thank you notes via email is an excellent way to show your appreciation, to keep in touch and to keep your image in interviewers’ minds. A phone call is good too. Do it ASAP after the interview – the same day or the day after.
After a week or two, do call to check on your interview’s status. This keeps you in the loop and helps you decide on whether to continue focusing on this company, or to concentrate on another employer. Good Luck! We don’t have any good luck charms! But you don’t need one. Follow the advice given and you’ll be your own good luck charm. The success you want at interviews awaits you!
HEAD TO TOE:
Look good, feel great and impress interviewers with the right sense of dressing and grooming. Always check to see what’s considered appropriate at your prospective employer.
• For shirts, white or very light colours are appropriate. Avoid any dark colours or prints. Striped shirts with faint small stripes are acceptable. And stick to cotton or cotton-blends, do not go for fancy polyester or silk. Shirts should be well-ironed and all buttons buttoned up. Shirts with button-down tabs at the collar are considered informal, if you can, avoid them.
• For trousers, they should be dark and well-ironed. Do not wear casual trousers like chinos or khakis. The most versatile colours are black and dark grey. Fabric wise, go for a wool-blend as it lends a touch of class and seriousness. Plain front or pleats are your personal choice. The length of the trouser should reach the upper tip of the heel of your shoes and cover a little of the front of your shoes.
• Belts should always match your trousers and your best bet is a 1 inch thick black leather belt with a simple silver buckle.
• You can be a little creative with ties. Generally, dark ties go well with most colours. Or a good trick is to use similar shades of the same colour for the shirt and tie. E.G. If you are wearing a light blue shirt, match that with a dark blue tie. For the tie knot, use a half-Windsor. The bottom tip of the tie should reach the middle of your belt when you stand up straight.
• Dark leather shoes are the right footwear (black is the best colour, but a good pair of dark browns are acceptable if you are wearing brown-toned trousers). Make sure they’re clean. Polish your shoes (including the backs, and edges of the sole). Loafers, sneakers, sandals, cloth or suede shoes are out. Socks should always be dark. If your trousers and shoes are black/ grey, go for black socks. The length of the socks should always hit mid-calf. When you sit on the chair and cross your legs, you should not show any skin.
• Long hair may be accepted at certain workplaces, but a short crop is the safest.
• Keep beards and moustaches well trimmed.
• Leave earrings, nose rings and other piercings at home. Cover all tattoos.
• Keep rings to a minimum – just a wedding ring or maybe one other, that’s it!
• TIP: The key is to look neat, presentable and noncontroversial.
Dresses, suits: conservative business suit or dress of a natural or woven-blend fabric in a soft colour complementing your skin and hair colour -- blue, navy, grey, beige, tan or brown. Skirt lengths should be at least to the middle of the knee. Skirt lengths above the knee are not acceptable for most situations.
Blouses: simple classic style, white or soft colours. Avoid very frilly styles and low-cut necklines.
Shoes: sensible leather shoes; polished pumps or medium heels in a colour that matches your outfifit.
Panty Hose: natural, beige, or tan; avoid patterns or lacy stockings.
Purse: (optional) small or medium size in a colour that goes with your outfit.
Nail polish: either clear or conservative colour.
Makeup: keep it simple and moderate. Apply a foundation,blusher, natural-coloured eyeshadow, muted lipstick and loose powder to finish.
Jewellery: simple, minimal. One set of earrings only. No more than one ring on each hand.
Hair: Keep your hair well groomed. It’s not necessary for you to tie it, but make sure it looks clean and tidy.