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How to be successful in a job interview
Job interview preparation
Of course every one of us wants to know how to be successful in a job interview. During my career I have had occasion to interview scores of applicants. While many candidates do come well prepared for an interview, it never ceases to surprise me to see a whole lot of candidates who seem totally unprepared. It is extremely important to be well prepared for any interview, at the least it shows your basic interest in the job, and indeed this is half the battle done; remember the interviewer is also as much interested in getting a suitable candidate as you are interested in getting a job. But if you do not seem prepared for the interview itself, the interviewer will naturally wonder whether you will be able to sustain a decent performance on the job. Getting a few basic things right and with some simple job interview preparation, you can face job interviews with a great deal of confidence.
When should you start preparing for a job interview?
Start preparing even when you are not looking for a job.
Right through your career, even when not looking for another job; keep a detailed career file: Keep record of each of your jobs done, your specific roles, special assignments, training programs attended etc. Keep good record of any special achievements, awards or certificates won, appreciation letters from employers etc. After all a job interview is one place where you do need to blow your own trumpet albeit discretely and with finesse. How else will a prospective employer know what he is getting. Keeping good and authentic record of your achievements is often a credible way to demonstrate competence/excellence to prospective employers.
When you start looking for a job
Do a complete and honest self-assessment (ideally do this every year). List out fully your knowledge/skills and experience. Understand your values and goals (both long-term and short-term); be clear of the field you are seeking a position in and the type/level of position you seek. See if any refresher course / training will add much value to you. Also brush up if needed the fundamentals in your specific field. Prepare a list of common interview questions likely to be asked and be clear in your proposed answers to them.
Some commonly asked interview questions
Questions about your previous job such as:
- your designation
- starting and last drawn salary
- job profile and responsibilities
- whom you were reporting to
- working hours etc
- reason for resignation/looking for new job
- gaps in employment history if any
- problems faced in earlier jobs if any
Personal questions such as:
- strengths and weaknesses
- what you liked and disliked about your job
- how well can you work in a team
- how well can you handle work pressures/stress
- what motivates you
- your ambitions/career goals etc
After you get a job interview call
You have applied. You are excited to get an interview call. What now?
It is important to prepare for each job interview. Research the organization well. Gather whatever publicly available information is available about them from business magazines, newspapers, internet etc. Most interviewers will be favourably impressed if you are knowledgeable about the organization - it shows that you have taken the trouble to prepare and are meticulous and serious about your attempts. Analyze the position you are interviewing for and how you can fit in and add value. What jobs have you done, what assignments have you handled that prepares you and makes you a right fit for this position. Once the interviewer is satisfied with the basic mettle, temperament and knowledge/skills of the candidate, he needs to assess whether he will fit in the specific position.
On the interview day
Ensure you know the venue well and will not reach late. (you can make a visit the previous day if necessary so that you don't spend time searching the location. Dress in keeping with the organization's dress code. Needless to say, your attire does make a significant first impression. Usually you will not go wrong with formal attire for a job interview. Make sure you keep with you several copies of your resume. Keep with you any other materials you are expected to bring such as certificates, sample works (if appropriate), interview call letter etc. Get a good nights sleep the previous night. Be relaxed and confident.
Plan on reaching the interview location 15 - 30 minutes in advance, (even more if traffic is unpredictable). Ensure you have a contact number to reach the interviewer in case you happen to get somehow delayed.
More tips on the job interview
1. Make a good first impression: Remember you get only one chance to make a first impression. Many times interviewers make up an impression of you in the first few minutes of seeing you walk in and converse with them. And they are often significantly guided by this first impression. Dress right, walk in with a good posture, be polite and courteous to everyone. This might appear so very basic, but you would be surprised at the number of people who don't even measure upto these.
2. Talk positively: Candidates who appear negative about themselves, past employers or organizations, or about their work in general would not make a good impression. Avoid deriding your old organization or boss, even if there is good reason to do so. The interviewer will be left wondering if you would do the same thing to his organization in your next job interview.
3. Don't talk too much or too little: Avoid giving one or two word answers. Let your answers be clear, descriptive yet to the point and brief. Talking too little leaves the interviewer not finding about enough about you to take a hiring decision. Talking too much is not productive either.
4. The job interview is like a sales call: You have to sell your services to the organization. But like any good sales call keep the selling discreet. The best sales happens when you inform/educate the buyer and make him want to buy. So while this is the time to blow your own trumpet, don't blow too hard either. Remember this is a buyer who wants to buy. He has called you for the job interview. Give him a factual account of your accomplishments and skills with particular reference to the job you are interviewing for.