Guide to successful Job Interviews
Handling job interviews is probably the most critical part of the whole job searching process. There are numerous books on the subject and just about everyone has something to say on the matter. Mention job interviews and most people will have a horror story to tell you about some experience they had.
This section has been written to give you some practical advice on handling job interviews successfully. We'll discuss various elements like interviewing methods, what to expect, how to handle those tricky questions, preparation, what to take with you, what to discuss and what not to discuss.
The job interview is a time for them to get to know you better. They have already decided that you have the experience and knowledge that they require, that is why they want to meet you in person. What they really want to see at the interview is who you are. Your attitude and personality are going to be the most important factors in the decision making process.
Preparing for job interviews :
Preparing for job interviews is probably the most important aspect. Do this right and you will breeze through it, go unprepared and you will fail miserably. Preparing for a job interview means getting your mind right and feeling confident. Remember you are the best person for the job, you just have to show them that.
Firstly do some research on the company and its products, know who their customers are and what the company's objective is. Once you have this information, then make a list of what skills or knowledge you have that would be valuable to them. You cannot sell yourself to them if you don't know what it is you are selling.
Next thing to prepare is your physical appearance. You have to dress right for job interviews, don't wear anything too flashy, neat and clean are more important than the latest fashion. The aim is to look professional without overdoing it. If you are not comfortable with a shirt and tie, it might be best not to wear one, unless the job will require you to dress this way. It is important that you feel comfortable, the last thing you want is to be worried about your appearance during the interview. It will only make you nervous and you will quickly lose confidence.
Work out what you need to take with you. A copy of your CV, originals (and copies) of your qualification papers, copies of references, samples of your work (if applicable) and anything else that they may want to see. Again make sure everything is well organised and neatly presented. Don't take a pile of paperwork that you have to sift through for ten minutes to find something, that will give them the impression that your are disorganised.
As the job market becomes more competitive, so do screening methods. Employing a new person is an expensive exercise and companies want to ensure they do it right. When the job market becomes more competitive, new interviewing methods are introduced. It is not uncommon these days to be put through a series of tests and interviews before a company makes the final decision.
Some of the processes that you might experience include:
Aptitude tests: These tests are designed to find your personality traits. They would be looking for a particular type of person and this test will show them if you fit their profile. You can't cheat in these tests, if you attempt to "formulate" your answers, the results of the test will show. Be honest here, you can't hide who you are.
IQ/Thinking tests: These have been prepared to work out your analytical and logical thinking patterns. To some extent general knowledge would be useful, however they are really geared towards finding out how you analyse data and find solutions to problems. Again it is impossible to cheat on these tests, but a little preparation would go a long way. Prepare for this test by doing some logical thinking puzzles. There are lots out there in the bookshops.
General knowledge : Tests in this section include mathematical, grammar, spelling and general knowledge. Preparing to take some of these will include doing a revision of you school work. Forget the calculator and go back to pencil and paper. If you are a wiz at maths, then you should have no problem, but if you are like the rest of us that reaches out for the calculator, then get some practice prior to attending.
Panel Job Interviews : These can be nerve wracking types of interviews, however, most job interviews these days include a panel. The panel might just 2 people or it can be as many as 10. To handle this interview well, you must appear to be confident, don't hesitate too long before you give an answer. Watch your posture and try not to fidget too much. When answering a question make eye contact with one or two of the people. Find a friendly face and use that person for most of your eye contact, it will help in making you feel more relaxed.
One on one job interviews : These type of interviews are easier to handle, they are generally more informal. The best way to handle these type of interviews is to relate to them as a form of conversation. You should ask questions and exchange information as you would during a normal conversation. Offer your own information as needed without waiting to be asked.
Handling job interview questions:
There are various types of questions asked at a job interview. Most job interviews start with chit-chat type of questions, these are designed to break the ice and get the conversation flowing. Questions like "did it take you long to get here", "did you find the place alright", "were you able to find parking". Most of these just require a "yes, no problem" type of response, you can elaborate more if you wish, however ensure that you don't provide information that will give them a bad impression. Saying something like "It took me ages to get here, traffic was so bad, I hate travelling to this side of town.." would not make a good impression. If this is the place where you would be working, they would automatically be worried that you will be late to work everyday.
Most questions will be geared towards finding out a bit more about you. They might be historical questions regarding your previous employment or education, or they may be hypothetical questions "what if...". These are geared to finding out how you would handle a situation or to find out your personal views to certain areas.
Whenever answering a job interview question, give as much information as you can. Tell them why, where, when and how. In other words use samples to prove what you are saying. Make a statement, then qualify it by giving a sample of a situation and how you handled it.
There are times that you will be asked a hard question during a job interview. Don't panic, there is a reason why these questions are asked and that is to see how you handle a difficult situation. Being prepared is always the best policy.
Following are some samples of questions and some advice on how to handle them efficiently.
How would you handle a difficult customer?: Be careful here, don't say that you have never had a difficult customer as anyone who has dealt with customers knows that is impossible. Use a sample to demonstrate how you handle a difficult customer. Talk about an incident at a previous job (where, when), explain the situation, how you handled it, and what the outcome was.
Why should we choose you? : Ask yourself why you applied, what makes you prefect for this position, what can the company gain from hiring you, what have you got to offer, how would you handle this job. This is what they want to know, so go ahead and tell them.
Tell me about yourself: Split your answer into two, the professional and the personal level. Both are just as important, how you move from one to the other depends on what you have to say. The best way to answer this job interview question is to give a brief summary of your life, professional and personal, less emphasis on the early past, more emphasis on the present and the future.
What are your weaknesses?: Don't say 'I don't have any". Everyone has weaknesses and it takes strength to recognise them. Say something relevant but not hugely important to the specific position, and always add a positive. Something like "I haven't had a lot of exposure to on-site maintenance, however I am looking forward to being more involved in dealing with customers directly and learning their needs".
What are your strengths?: Customise your answer to meet the position requirements, remember the things they asked for in the advertisement? Tell them your strengths but also demonstrate them and show them how they would apply to this job. Use samples of how your strengths were valuable, use the "why, where, when, how" demonstrate and prove your strengths.
Job interviews are not that bad, so long as you are prepared. Maintain good eye contact and ensure that you have some questions to ask. job interviews are a two way process, a conversation where they want to get to know you better and you want to find out more about the position.
Above all, try and keep calm, smile and show professionalism.