Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience. The expectation of a positive outcome adds to the pressure of only having a limited amount of time to summarise everything you have to offer a future employer. Irrespective of the stage you are in your career and the experience you have to date, each interview round demands research and preparation to ensure you get the most out of your interview and make a positive impression.
The usual understanding of 'preparing for an interview' is to studiously research and practise common interview questions and familiarise yourself with the company and its operating environment. Although this is at the heart of any interview preparation, there are other peripheral factors that help you on the path to interview success. Some of these factors need to be considered before the interview, some during, and then there are some that should follow after the interview. Here is a step by step approach to having a successful interview:
1. Do your homework
It is imperative you have knowledge about the sector in which the company operates, the standing of the company in that sector, the brief history of the company, its values and mission statement and in what direction it intends to grow. Research the organisation structure to get a better idea of where will you fit in, what position will you be reporting into and who will be reporting into you.
Knowing these details not only sets you apart from the rest of the crowd, but also helps you frame you answers keeping the company in perspective.
2. Prepare several questions
You should prepare a list of questions about facts you are not aware of the company. This way, you stay informed about the organisation goals, you are able to determine if it is the right company for you and most importantly you demonstrate an interest in the position.
Try to get more information on the interviewer or ask your recruiter for more details. Being aware of the team he/she comes from, the work they do, its stakeholder, will help you gain valuable insights on what kind of questions might come your way. All these efforts would eventually help you avoid the blind corner before an interview.
3. Do a complete ‘fact finding and need analysis’
Any open position in an organisation reflects a purpose/need of the business. You should be well aware of this need and should match your skills to it. You should thoroughly strip the job description and conduct a point to point analysis and compare it with your skills. This will enable you to respond to the fitment questions in a more efficient manner.
4. Prepare for the general questions
Every interview has a few basic questions the interviewer would ask. E.g. Tell us about yourself, What is the latest projects you have worked on?, Why do you want to leave you current organisation?, Give us instances where you have demonstrated xyz skill (these can be skills like leadership, technical, domain knowledge, etc.) Having prepared for these questions will enable you to present the answers confidently and in a structured manner which can help in setting the right tone of the interview.
5. Ensure you are carrying the right things to the interview
Yes, a lot of companies usually demand your CVs before hand and they provide for basic stationery like pen and paper when you are in an interview, but it’s always better to provide for it. It is advisable to carry a perfectly legible copy of your resume printed on a good quality paper. It is also advisable to carry a soft copy on your phone or email. You should be prepared with a note pad and a pen to take down pointers or important data.
6. Get your interview attire right
Office dress code has seen a paradigm shift with all the new start-ups and tech giants relaxing their dressing norms. However, there are firms that still prefer the old school formal dress code. You need to identify what would be the best attire for the occasion. Neutral colours are the norm for formal interviews. Ensure you have spent some time grooming yourself before leaving for the interview. Leave before time and reach the interview location in a relaxed state of mind.
7. Body language for the interview
Your body language and posture during an interview is an important parameter you will be gauged on. It is safe to say your interview starts from the moment you enter the interview lobby. You might also be judged on your conduct while you are waiting your turn, the way you engage with the first person you come across in the organisation, your handshake and you composure. Organisations in a sector where interpersonal skills carry more importance evaluate and emphasise more on these factors.
8. Be relaxed and give your best shot
An interview setting can be intimidating for a lot of candidates. Take a pause, step back and breathe before entering the interview room. Enter with a smile and follow it with a firm hand shake and eye contact. You should be precise with your answers and refrain from being too verbose. Being verbose may be an indicator of you not being sure of the answers. Let the interviewer complete their question before you start answering. Compose your thoughts before answering and recollect the responses you have prepared for. Remember, a constructive interview is the one which has a to and fro interaction. Try not to be too aggressive or submissive in your answers. In case of contradicting opinions, try putting across your point, whilst acknowledging the interviewers point of view as you both might have situational references for your opinions. Refrain from maintain a mono tone during your interview, however avoid being too loud. Use hand gestures where needed. At the end of the interview express your willingness to answer any further questions and let the interviewer know you are approachable if they need any further information from you.
9. Build a rapport and follow up
Build a rapport with your recruitment consultant. This will make you feel comfortable in sharing your thoughts with them and getting honest feedback. You can send across an appreciation email and remain engaged with them. This way you will be building a long term relationship with the person and that may be useful in the future as well.
One must always remember, every interview one goes through will be a learning experience and successful or not, it will help you refine your interview skills.