A job interview is the first step towards getting a desired Job. This is the time for a prospective employer to evaluate a prospective employee. It is also the best opportunity for candidates to showcase their abilities before they actually do the job. The best of the candidates at times falter in the interviews in spite of their good track record. To avoid losing out on good candidates , employers use various methods to evaluate candidates. Still, an interview is an important part of the whole process and positive result in an interview can help make the further process easier.
Preparing well for an interview, therefore, is a must and even for the best candidates, a necessary process. The process starts right from the stage when you come to know about a suitable requirement.
Here are some Steps to help you best your interview .
Know the role and its requirements well
Understand the job description well- ask your consultant or the employer (if a direct approach) for clarifications. If you know people in your organisation doing similar job at the required level, ask them what it involves- not only in terms of functional requirements but also on core skills required.
Know the hierarchy - where does the role fit in the prospective employer company- your consultant can help you with this. You can also access resources like Linkedin to see the people in the organisation and try to construct a basic hierarchy chart. Talk to people in your network who work with the prospective employer and ask them for more details.
Do some basic research about what the prospective employer is doing in the space where your role falls and what the competitors are doing. You can scan the website and media announcements of the organisation. Also have a look at the social media pages of the company to know how they are engaging with their customers.
Look for organisations which are in businesses similar to the prospective employer and understand what similar roles there do and get paid. You can use resources like glassdoor.com to her with this. Another good resource for knowing levels and salaries for similar jobs are the job boards like naukri, monster etc. You can scan through the job listings and get a sense.
Prepare well on what you do currently.
Most people feel they know what they do, but when it comes to presenting it and explaining, they focus on some parts & leave the rest or give a very general overview which does not do justice to their role.
the best way to prepare for this is to maintain a notebook or an online document and on a daily basis add what you achieved for the day, what initiatives you took, what new projects you started, what improvements you suggested etc.
Over a period of time this becomes a record of what you did. To prepare a summary, look for the strongest and most frequent areas you worked in and they become your core functional strengths. Next, narrow down on initiatives and achievements in these areas and they become examples of your functional strength, lastly, highlight things you did outside your area of work, and these become your learning initiatives. Whatever is left, may not really be key in the interview.
Write down a summary based on above exercise and try explaining it to someone and then ask them what they think you do. Based on the response, refine what you have written, and repeat the process till you feel the person can describe your job.
Once you finish doing it, see how much it matches or fulfills the job requirement for which you are interviewing.
Make sure your resume says the same things as you do. If you write things you don’t do and are caught on that, that may be the end of your interview.
2. Basic hygiene factors
Dress up for the interview and for the role. well groomed appearance is important. It might be a good idea to check the consultant or HR on the dress code so that you are not over-dressed also. If you have doubt, keep accessories handy. For example if you not sure whether to wear a tie or not for the interview, keep one handy.
In case you expect to be sweaty or smelling because of having travelled to the interview venue, take a few moments to freshen up ( keep a deo in your bag if required) before you submit your resume to the security/reception/ HR etc.
wipe your hands dry once you freshen up. A wet handshake can be really annoying.
Carry a clean copy of resume. Ideally carry it in a folder so that the it does not get soiled, wet, smudged or creased.
3. Scheduling for the interview
Ensure sufficient time in hand when you go for an interview, so that in case you have to wait for multiple rounds, you are not rushed.
At times there are delays because of internal meetings etc at the employer end. It is better to take a day/ of half-day off for the interview so that while waiting you don’t keep getting calls from your office.
If the interview is part of a drive where many candidates are expected, make sure to reach as early as you can and preferably around the interview start time. This ensures that your waiting time is less and you meet the interviewers when they are fresh.
Wait patiently while making sure to keep reminding the employer that you are waiting. In case you are going through a consultant, keep them in the loop.
4. During the interview
Put your phone on silent, no-vibration mode before entering interview room.
If you are walking into a room where the panelists are already seated, greet them in general while looking at all. If you have been given the name of a particular interviewer, you can ask for the person when you enter the room.
In most of the mid-senior level interviews, panelists will welcome the candidate & shake hands. In case there is no movement from panelists after the greeting, take your seat and then get your Cv out.
In case you are waiting for the interviewer, and if no seat is specified, try to take a seat facing the door as it allows you to see the interviewer when they walk in.
Most interviews start with the interviewer asking the candidate to describe their profile to introduce themselves etc. Mid/Senior level interviews normally start as a casual conversation, with the interviewer breaking the ice by talking about things in general but it soon veers towards what the candidate does in current role. This is the opportunity for the candidate to guide the interviewer.
Ensure that you
are relaxed while sitting
Speak at a comfortable pace, don’t be hurried
Speak loud enough for the interviewer to hear you clearly
Maintain eye contact
Speak confidently and with enthusiasm
Keep moving or fidgeting. if you are nervous, keep your hands on your lap or chair support. Or use gentle hand gestures while talking.
Swivel in your chair while talking
Become casual even if the interviewers are casual. You can laugh with them but don’t cut jokes. Maintain a professional demeanor.
Give positive reasons for looking for change (opportunity/learning potential/ challenging role etc) instead of negative ones (unhappy with current role/ organization/supervisor, salary hike, job location ….)
When asked about next 2 years/5 years etc, very often candidates talk about positions they want to occupy or responsibilities they wish to handle. However, without knowing a company’s growth plan or structure this could be a serious mistake. It is best to focus on
what you feel the role can offer you in terms of learning and opportunity to grow.
You can talk about what capabilities/skills you wish to acquire.
You can talk about how you wish to put to use all the experience from past and how you wish to build on it.
After the interview, thank the interviewer and specifically ask by when they can get an update and who should they keep in touch with. If the interviewer themselves are to be contacted, ask for the contact details.
5. Guiding the interview
when giving an interview, there are multiple opportunities for candidates to take charge of the proceedings and to guide it the way they want. These opportunities, when utilised properly will help the candidates to highlight the strengths, while keeping away the focus from the weaknesses or to present them as areas where the candidate wishes to become better. Remember, we are not talking about presenting false information or manipulation, but only advising on how to guide the interviewer to the areas which showcase your strengths and potential.
The first opportunity is at the beginning of the interview when the candidate is asked a simple opening question like
tell us something about yourself
can you take us through your profile quickly
or harmless looking questions which ask your opinion on any current affair etc.
These questions are meant to put candidate at ease and at the same time understand what the candidate thinks about himself and how he expresses generally.
While there is no hard & fast rule about what one should talk about, it is at times a good idea to talk about your personal background very briefly but enough to convey about your value system. More time needs to be spent on how the candidate has grown, how they have overcome challenges and learnt from them, how they have been trusted with more responsibilities and how they have delivered on them etc.
It is assumed that the candidate would be aware of the role for which they are being interviewed. Therefore, while talking about themselves, they should quickly highlight areas relevant for the role thereby focussing the attention of interviewer on these areas. The initial introduction should not stop abruptly and should be sufficiently long to give the interviewer 3-4 key areas to start questioning the candidate. These should be your strength areas.
Once the questions start on these areas, highlight all the success stories and demonstrate how you learnt on the job and succeeded. use the answering opportunity to highlight more areas where you want to be questioned.
towards the end talk about areas of interest and what you are doing to keep up to date on those.
if you are interviewing for a sales role- key areas to highlight is your ability to build database and to network with clients. talk about how your clients trust you and give you repeat business, about how you have handled challenging and difficult clients and won them over. Talk about how your upbringing had helped you do this job better than others etc.
if interviewing for operations role- key areas could be organising skills, ability to manage volume, methods devised for ensuring quality, initiatives taken to automate processes or to improve efficiency, training others, creating re-usable learning content etc
for mid/senior levels a lot of focus is on understanding if the candidate can scale up and take up new roles as they grow, flexibility in terms of handling more or diverse responsibilities etc.
6. Ending the interview
very often the interviewer may ask the candidate if they have anything to ask. a very common mistake people make at junior/mid levels is to ask about work days & timings, leave policy etc. These are questions which can be discussed with the consultant upfront or when the HR discussion stage is reached.
this is an opportunity to ask 1-2 relevant questions that can help you decide if the organisation is right for you or not.
questions can be asked to understand hierarchy, culture, decision making process, performance management processes etc. questions will vary depending on what level the interviewer is and what can he answer satisfactorily. Hence the question should be appropriate to interviewers level and relevant for your role.
Some other “handle with care” areas
if you already have an offer in hand ? - Many a times a candidate already has an offer in hand and is still keen to explore other opportunities for better role/ organisation. the interviewer may be interested to know if the candidate is interviewing at other places too. It is better to inform that there is an offer in hand and also explain reasons why you are still looking for other opportunities. candidates should avoid attending interviews only to shop for better offers and to pit one offer against other to negotiate as most hiring managers reject such candidates to avoid last minute back-outs
when asked about salary expectations? - have a reasonable figure in mind and more importantly have clear justification for your expectation. Justifications can include past performance record, newly acquired skills, expertise in the relevant areas, possibility of loss of income ( losing out appraisal/bonus/ incentive because of change) etc. Avoid giving personal reasons to ask for a hike ( increased responsibilities, my base was low when i joined previous organisation etc)
if offered a different role than what you had in mind? - if you are clear in your mind on what you want to do, you can politely decline the offer. However, if you are open to understand, ask for details on how it can help you further your career and what is the growth path etc. Once you have more clarity, ask for sometime to think and come back. Stay positive throughout the discussion to keep the doors open
An interview need not be a stressful experience at all. For well prepared candidates it is an opportunity to begin the process of acquiring your desired Job role.