Whether you are fresh out of school, switching gears or re-entering the market after a career break, the interview is one of the scariest parts of the job hunt. If you are lucky enough to land an interview, consider it a small victory as you are one step closer to employment. This Tip Thursday, we help you prepare for the big day so you can land the job.
- Research the company. Preparing for the interview by researching your potential employer’s business demonstrates that you are an ideal candidate, especially because you have displayed a genuine interest in the company. Most companies have an online presence, so find their websites or social media pages and read up on the core business of the company, its organisational structure, its mission statement and objectives. This will also give you a clue as to whether you will be comfortable in that environment.
- Research the position. Find out what is required for the job, especially if it has a ‘fancy’ or obscure title. Most job adverts come with a description that sets out some of the duties the ideal candidate will be required to perform. You need this information to determine whether you have the right qualifications for the job and whether it actually suits your interests. Do some online research or speak to people you know in similar positions. You want to sound knowledgeable during the interview, not clueless or unsure.
- Practise your answers. If possible, set up a mock interview with a friend who can help you fine-tune your responses and point out areas that need strengthening. You can also search for videos online to help in your preparations. There are some key questions that all interviewers must ask to determine if you are a good fit for their company, so there is no harm in practising your answers to the big ones, such as “What can you do for the company?”, “What is your greatest weakness?” and, of course, “Why should we hire you?”
- Dress the part. Whether you like it or not, you are being scrutinised and evaluated from the moment the interviewer lays eyes on you, before you utter a single word. Some industries and companies are less formal than others, but it is always better to err on the side of caution: wear a suit if possible, or well-tailored, formal separates. Ensure that your shoes are clean and polished, your clothes fit properly and that your accessories are subtle. Dressing one level above the job you’re applying for shows a desire to succeed.
- Be confident. Greet your interviewer with a smile and firm handshake. Make eye contact. Try to make small talk during the walk from the reception area to the interview room – comment on or ask a question about an interesting piece of art in the lobby or an award the company recently won, for instance. This not only helps to break the ice, but could show your interviewer that you are observant and curious, which may work in your favour. However, don’t be ingratiating or insincere as this could work against you.
- Ask questions. It might feel like it sometimes, but an interview is not an interrogation. It is fine to ask questions of your own occasionally, especially if you are not clear on something that was said to or asked of you. Your interviewer will also ask you if you have any job related questions, so save those for when that part of the interview comes up. Prepare a minimum of five questions, some that will give you more information about the job and some that will tell you about the culture and goals of the company. This demonstrates that you are interested in more than a paycheque. On that note, do not ask about remuneration unless the subject is broached.
- Follow up. Send a thank you email or note a day or two after the interview. There is no harm in finding out if you are in the running for the job, but make sure some time has elapsed after the interview so you don’t come across as over-eager or desperate. You may send a formal email or letter, or call. If you receive a negative response, just get up, dust yourself off and try again.
Bonus tip: When you are contacted for an interview, there is no harm in politely asking whether it will be a one-on-one or a panel interview. You do not want to be caught off guard if you step into the interview room and instead of one person to impress, you are faced with three or four. Find out as much as you can without pressing too hard.
Need more tips and advice? Check out our Jobseekers Guide for information on resume writing, dressing for success, frequently asked interview questions and more.