Best Interview Practices for Job Seekers
Most of the best things in life are obtained with some level of difficulty, and with this in mind, getting a job is certainly not a walk in the park. Expect to be subjected to hurdles and obstacles, and accept the reality that you have to undergo a process in order to get hired at a company that you want to work in, in a job that you have always dreamed of or wanted. A job interview is simply one of the many steps in that process.
A job interview does not automatically guarantee that you will be hired. However, it is one of the most persuasive tools that employers or hiring managers base their hiring decisions on. Therefore, as an interviewee, you should not take it lightly.
In fact, applicants should see interviews as wonderful opportunities to “sell themselves” better to the company or organization they want to join. They will be meeting face-to-face, so they can present themselves in a way that will supplement the information in the CV and other documents that they submitted.
Let me share with you some of the best interview practices that jobseekers should observe as interviewees, from the time that you are informed of the fact that you will undergo an interview, until the said interview is over.
INTERVIEW PRACTICES BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Preparation is an essential step in the whole application process, not just the interview. Hiring managers and employers can immediately tell whether a candidate is prepared or not the moment they enter the interviewing room. If you want to put your best foot forward, you have to make sure you are armed and ready to impress them.
The preparation requires that you do your research and anticipate what questions will be asked during the interview.
What should you research on?
- Background and history of the company. You have to know the company that you are applying to. If you claim to have a desire to work in that organization but you do not know the basic information about it, your credibility will immediately go right out the window. And do not just stick to the basic information, either. It is good to look deeper, such as the organization’s goals, vision, its current performance, and what you think of its future. Employers are likely to be looking for people who will be with the company for the long-term, and they want someone who is knowledgeable about the company and the direction it is headed.
- The job you are applying for. You should know and understand what job you are applying for, and what it is about. You should at least have some basic knowledge on the duties and responsibilities that come with the position, because how can you claim to be a very good fit for the job when you don’t know what it involves?
- Background of the interviewer. If you have a way of knowing the people who will be interviewing you, it would also be a good idea to do some research on them. This will put you in a position where you will better understand and anticipate the questions that will be asked and to know how best to get in their good books.
You can get your information for your job interview research from various sources. Start from the website of the company or the organization. Get your hands on published materials about the company. Ask around. There may be people around you who are familiar with the company.
Review and anticipate questions.
Jobseekers are advised to make a list of the questions that they expect to hear during the interview. You may look for these anticipated questions online or ask others who have gone through job interviews for pointers. Formulate your answers as you envision yourself being asked these questions by an interviewer.
After you have listed down the common questions, you should review them and prepare or formulate responses.
- Keep responses concise but detailed. You should go directly to the point when answering. Do not meander or become long-winding, because this has the tendency to bore your interviewers. It may also take up a lot of time especially when you only have a few minutes allotted for the interview. You might end up being able to answer only one or two questions because you talked too much, focusing on the buildup rather than the heart of your answer.
- Do not memorize. There is a danger to memorizing responses. It is possible that the question that will be asked has variations on what you practiced or memorized, and you will be caught off-guard. It is better to come up with talking points, and work around it with your potential answers.
Dress for success.
The term “first impressions last” applies to interviews as well. Interviewers put a lot of stock on how you come across the moment you enter a room, and a huge factor of that is how you are dressed. Being ‘presentable’ is no longer enough; you have to dress well, and dress in a manner that any employer or organization would approve of.
In a job interview, dressing for success means:
#1 Dress in an appropriate and professional manner.
It should be appropriate in the sense that it is matches with the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a managerial or supervisory position, you should exude the aura of a manager or a supervisor. There is a rule of thumb that says you should dress “two levels up”, or two levels higher than the position you are applying for. Of course, if you are being interviewed for a mechanic or carpentry job, it does not mean that you should show up in your interview wearing overalls, complete with tool kits.
Dressing appropriately means you should also make sure your outfit is not too racy. Low and plunging necklines, sleeveless tops, and extremely short skirts for women are not good options. This may give your interviewers the wrong impression.
The default job interview outfit usually consists of a suit, but you can be flexible. Fortunately, corporate or professional dressing has evolved over the years that you can dress in a manner that represents your personality while sticking to the dress code in a corporate setting.
Some points that you should consider when picking out your clothes for your job interview are:
- The outfit should match the culture and sensibilities of the organization. Check if they have a dress code for their employees, and pick your clothes in accordance with it.
- Avoid loud patterns and flashy colors. They will be distracting for the interviewers. You want them to pay attention to you and your answers, not to the patterns and colors of what you are wearing. Similarly, do not over accessorize. Wearing too much jewelry will just be distracting.
- Clean your shoes. And your bag. Scuffed shoes and a messy bag will give your interviewer the impression that you cannot take care of your personal things, so how could you possibly expect to be trusted with company property?
- Make sure your clothes are dry-cleaned and pressed. Wrinkly clothes and clothes with stains won’t look good, and won’t help you make a good impression.
#2 Dress comfortably.
Imagine yourself wearing something very professional to an interview then throughout the interview you keep shifting in your seat because your clothes do not fit very well. This discomfort will have a negative impact on how you present yourself during the interview. It will distract you away from answering the questions properly.
In short, choose clothes that fit, and look good on your body. Clothes give a boost of confidence, and if you are confident that you are dressed well, you will be more comfortable in answering the questions during the interview.
#3 Maintain good hygiene and grooming.
Let us say that you are wearing your “power outfit”, one that you picked out carefully and maybe even had altered to fit your body. But you did not shower. You may be comfortable, but the interviewer may not be.
Fix and do your hair. If you have to wear make-up, make sure it is interview-appropriate and would not have the possibility of shocking anyone, especially the interviewer. Brush your teeth; make sure you do not have a foul breath. That will be an automatic turn-off when talking to your interviewer.
Being on time during the interview shows how time-conscious you are, giving your interviewers the impression that you have good time management skills. Time management is a soft skill that all employers are looking for in candidates, and a great start to proving that you have this skill is to show up at the interview venue ahead of time, at least 15 minutes before the time. This is also an effective way of signifying your interest in the job. In addition, arriving early shows that you are punctual and reliable.
Arriving early will also give you more time to acclimate yourself with the environment or atmosphere at the venue where the interview will be held. It is also possible that last-minute changes about the interview will be made, and if you are there early, you will have an easier time adjusting to these changes. For example, the room where the interview will be conducted may be changed. You won’t end up going around looking for it if you still have more than enough time before the start of the interview.
But do not arrive too early, either. If you arrive, say, an hour or 30 minutes early, they might think that you are too idle. This also makes you look too desperate, and you really do not want to appeal to your interviewers with pity instead of your merits and credentials, do you?
INTERVIEW PRACTICES DURING THE INTERVIEW
Make good first impressions.
Making good first impressions is not entirely up to your choice of an interview attire or outfit. The first words that you say when you meet your interviewers, your greeting to the people you see in the venue, and even your actions and mannerisms are instrumental for interviewers to develop their first impression of you.
Be polite. Have a smile ready for everyone – and we mean everyone, from the receptionist to the other staff members you come across on the way to the place of interview. You never know, you may be working with them in the future. The same is true if you are being interviewed with other people. You might also end up working alongside them.
This definitely means that you have to pay attention to your body language. Your posture is also very important. Slouching makes you come across as someone who is lazy and sometimes maybe even sick. Standing or sitting ramrod-straight, on the other hand, may make you appear stiff and unyielding unless, of course, you are a candidate for a position in the military ranks.
If you have mannerisms such as bouncing your knee, tapping your foot on the floor or your fingers on top of the table, or wringing your hands, try to correct them. These are often signs of being nervous, and you do not want your prospective employers to know that you are terrified of them, do you?
There is another thing that jobseekers forget when they enter an interview room: turn off their phone. Do not just put it on silent or vibrate, because you may be distracted when a message or a call comes in while you’re in the middle of the interview. Turn it off to avoid disturbances. You can just turn it back on when the interview is over.
You must have often heard the advice about always being true to yourself. It is normal during an interview to show your best side, but that is the point: you show your best side, not pretend to be something or someone that you are not. If you are true to yourself and express your true personality, you will come across as natural and real during the interview. You will be able to deliver more truthful answers, and the interviewers will also be able to sense that.
Try to match the communication style of the interviewer. You have to connect with them, while making sure your personality is showing. You can do this by mirroring their manner. Be business-like when they are business-like. Try to be more personable or adapt a casual tack when you see that they are going that way. Needless to say, if they ask direct questions, then you should also supply direct answers.
Ask insightful questions.
At some point during the interview, the interviewer or staff asking the questions, may turn the tables and let you ask questions. It is possible that you have a lot of questions running through your head about the job. Go through these questions mentally and ask only the insightful ones, or those that make sense.
Interviewers tend to remember the candidates who posed challenging questions to them. Usually, interviewees would ask how much the job will pay them on a monthly or annual basis. They may even inquire on the vacation time and other benefits. This is a natural curiosity for the candidate but, depending on the execution or the way the question was asked, it may make you look like your sole interest in the job is the money or corresponding salary or pay.
If you did your homework prior to the interview, then you already have an idea on the salary and other benefits of the job. Therefore, you should refrain from asking about them during the interview. You should only ask about them when you have clearly won over the employer. If you wait long enough, they might even be the ones to volunteer the information to you.
INTERVIEW PRACTICES AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Thank the interviewers.
The job interview is an opportunity given to jobseekers to show or demonstrate their skills and other qualifications for the job. The interviewers gave you this opportunity, so you should thank them for taking the time out to interview you, and for actually conducting the interview.
Have a firm handshake before and after the interview. Many interviewers also observe how you do your handshake. If you have a firm grip, it exudes confidence. Do not grip too tight, because it will make you appear tense and nervous. If it is too brief, they might think that you are uncomfortable making long contact with others. Do not be too aggressive with pumping, either, because it makes you look too eager as to be unnatural.
WHAT NOT TO DO IN JOB INTERVIEWS
If there are DOs in participating in job interviews as the interviewee, there are also DON’Ts, or things that you must avoid doing, because they are likely to ruin your chances of landing the job.
- Do not speak ill of past employers. Expect interviewers to ask several questions about your work history, particularly on your past employment. They might even bait you when they start asking the reasons why you quit or were separated from the company. Do not badmouth your previous employers, not even if they were the employers from hell and your complaints are completely valid. You should always talk about them positively, but do not go to the extent of making up stories just to make them look good. In the same manner, do not offer information about your previous companies, because this is a sign of disloyalty. The interviewer will conclude that, if you were able to do it with your previous employers, you may do it with them in future.
- Do not talk too much. Talking too much, or taking too long in providing answers for direct questions will give your interviewers the impression that you have trouble getting to the point. This could also mean that you are just bluffing because you don’t know a thing about what you are saying.
- Do not display impatience. Is the interview running late? Just stay calm and cool, and wait patiently. This may actually be done on purpose, to see how patient you are. Constantly looking at your watch or making your impatience show on your face will certainly not earn you any points.
Interviewing for a job is one of the crucial steps in getting hired. If you consider yourself to be a poor interviewee, make an effort to change this. You can never really do away with interviews, because all job hiring and recruitment processes conduct them. Even a simple conversation with the employer may count as an interview.
Observe these best interview practices, and they will help you to land that job that you have always wanted.
When you hear the phrase “best business school”, the usual suspects include Harvard, Stanford and …