Part II – The Interview
In the Part I of this “My First Job” series, we have discussed how to draw your objectives and worked out how to obtain a balanced view of your personality and skills, along with the selection of the most adequate companies. You then performed the matching exercise between your desires/ambitions and retained the potential companies in your radar for your first job. If you’ve not yet come across my article, pls. quickly refer to Part I and read it before entering this new stage, the Interview preparation and conduct process.
Gosh, I’m invited to my first job interview, I already feel my legs tremble, what image of myself will they perceive, how will they judge me, I wonder if I’ll be up to the task…
First, don’t panic! Take a deep breath, you’re not alone. Remember, there are a number of achievements that brought you there. You got your degree, you’ve done your homework as mentioned in Part I of this series, you wanted to be invited to your first job interview and you got it. This is already a great achievement. But now, there are some additional hints that I want to convey to you in order to maximize your chances of getting hired. So, better spend your energies on how best getting at the meeting “enthusiastically focused”, i.e. once again, being well prepared for that.
Step 1 – Managing the stress
Job interviews can be stressful for first-time job seekers. Generally you are are unsure of what to wear, how early to arrive, and what questions to ask, and more importantly what answer to give. We will address all these topics with an initial goal: managing your emotions which will end-up in increasing the self confidence and managing the stress. It’s now time to go back to your selected list of companies and review the information about the specific company inviting you to interview. Going through that paper will refresh your mind on the motivating factors matching your ambitions with your personal skills. This is crucial and you must probably read it again and again before leaving for the meeting. For this company you should have your “company sheet” ready to use at your hands. Upgrade it with the latest news/facts you discovered that happened in the period between your application post and the date of the interview. Being up to date regarding the company you’re applying for, is a great sign of interest and additionally demonstrates your motivation for getting the job. Note down some question you may wish to ask during the interview on company life, for example:
“I noticed you’ve decided to enter the XY market, “I’ve read that you’re about to terminate the AA product sales, why?”, “I’ve learned that you are diversifying your geographic market by including CC regions…what’s the rationale for that”,” “You communicated in a recent press release that you are opening a brand new business unit in Malaysia, is this a clear intention of entering the Asian market?”,etc” , In general terms you may always ask : “why that, for which reason, when will you start these changes, what are the expected benefits?”
Practice and run rehearsal sessions – anticipating tricky questions
I suppose you’ve never been interviewed for a job, or probably you’ve not done so for a while. Get ready by practicing with a friend, parent, or mentor. You have to do so in order to get ready to easily answer some of the typical questions that may be posed to you, these may include:
“Why did your decide to study Economics, Biology, Engineering, Philosophy, Architecture, etc.”. These are quite simple questions to answer as they related to your own interests. But there are other more nasty one that you need to prepare for as they relate more to your personality and ambitions rather than on technicalities, and they are regularly asked to check your areas of vulnerability or robustness and suitability for internal training programs and developments. Actually they want to ascertain if you’re worth their investment… They want to know about yourself and as such, hence there are no real tricky questions but rather typical questions that do very little relate to your academic background, for example:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
- “Where do you hope to be in five years?”
- “Why should we hire you?”
- “Why do you want to work for our bank and not for another one?”
- “Why did you leave basket competition team?”
Be careful, any of these question is aimed at getting a bit more insight on your personality and aspirations. As said, you should not be worry about provided you do not show any surprise or assume a reluctant attitude in answering them. It’s all about preparation. the more accurately you prepare for that, the more confident you will be the date of the interview. Hence, mount for “your show” and repeatedly practice question & answers session at home. If you have the possibility, record this rehearsal and review it as this will let you to correct, intervene on and improve the fluidity of your own answers and will dramatically decrease the pressure you felt at the beginning of this step. Don’t forget to smile while rehearsing your answers.
Step 2 – A very first good impression
Relevance of the dress – the very good first impression
You have to dress for success. You have to wear appropriately for the job and in almost 100% of the cases, for the very first interview, that means wearing a business suit. This, even if you know the company has a casual environment – high tech, start-ups, art designers, marketing & communication, etc. – dressing up for your interview sends the message you respect the company and you are very serious about your career and the expected job. But do not put yourself in uncomfortable situations neither. If you are a girl, try to avoid wearing for the first time very high heels, or if you’re a young man, don’t wear a tie if this keeps you from moving in an appropriated manner. People will observe you including how spontaneous you are in wearing and moving. Avoid branded wears/clothes/watches as these give an impression of ostentatious wealth, which is not bad at all but at the beginning of your career it could sound a bit provocative. Being neat, clean, well mannered and professional goes a long way toward making the first impression a very good one.
When to arrive
Of course you’ll say: on time! But that’s not always the case. Actually, one of the greatest mistakes you could do is to arrive later to your interview. No matter the reason, heavy traffic, bad weather, strikes, got stuck behind a school bus, broken down car, etc. these are simply unaccepted excuses.
Even though it’s not your fault, arriving late sends a very bad message to your prospective employer, and it puts extra stress and time constraints on everyone involved. If you are going to be late, if you are in emergency, call as soon as you know.
We leave in the era of communication, hence let’s use it appropriately when needed. Likewise, don’t arrive too early either. Enter the lobby about 10-15 minutes before your meeting so you can relax and study the atmosphere while being noticed by internal people. Arriving a bit earlier is a very good sign of seriousness about the job you want.
Capturing the atmosphere – snapshots of corporate culture on the fly
You’ll learn a lot as you progress in your career regarding companies corporate culture and values, but you also already did your investigations regarding the corporate culture of this company you’re visiting. Let’s try to get also some useful signs about the internal organization climate on the fly. You could gather them by chatting with the receptionist and see if why he or she likes working at the company and since how long he or she is being there. Also when walking in the corridors, to and from your interview, look at the way employees are dressed, their age range, how they are behaving. Here too, it is important your observing attitude as you may notice if they tend being laughter and smiling, which is always a good sing of a positive environment, and if it appears to be a conservative or creative environment. In other words, this could give you an indication for envisioning yourself working there.
What else to do when waiting for being called in
Keep yourself busy is a good way to keep relaxed and focused at the same time. Read again your resumé and cover letter. These are the two only papers that have brought you there, and will be the starting points of your interviewer(s) as well. Go over your accomplishments, skills, traits, aspirations and make sure you know the content and dates so you can effectively answer questions without referring to your copy. Refresh your mind on the open questions we used to prepare your rehearsal sessions. If you’ve had intern experiences, refresh the dates and lesson learned in that occasions, as well as if your were involved in the creative industry or in architecture, refresh your portfolio and be ready to show visual examples of jobs/projects completed.
Step 3 – In the interview session
Relevance of firm handshaking and smiling
Ok, the show started. Now is the moment to to put your best foot – and hand – forward. A firm handshake to both men and women is crucial at the very beginning and at end of the meeting. Smile, make eye contact, and greet the interviewer by name – remember the names and use them every time you address the person. Keep a positive and enthusiastic attitude all over the meeting and be prepared to make small talk – especially during walks to and from interviews. During the meeting, stress accomplishments, but don’t talk about yourself for long periods of time and try to relax. Take a breath in between. Be engaging and confident but humble in all your interactions. Don’t be reluctant to take notes, this shows interest and consideration for your interviewers and for the corporation. These notes will help you a lot later on when you’ll be in private supporting your internal interview assessment.
First listen, then answer
It may appear obvious. But you have to listen carefully and attentively to any thought of your interviewer(s) and don’t be ashamed of asking for clarification if you don’t understand a question being asked. Be honest, concise and specially don’t be vague or try to bluff your way out of a question. If you need more time to respond or to provide additional information, don’t hesitate to state that. People will appreciate. Ask the interviewer insightful questions, the ones you’ve prepared and rehearsed, and the new ones arising from the discussion but don’t pose off-the-wall, lengthy, or hypothetical questions. You should have prepared at least three follow-up questions to ask of your prospective employer that will provide more information about the job, the culture, the joining path, the training program for working at the company. Not only will that help you evaluate the opportunity, but it will also show you are an engaged and interested candidate.
Concluding the interview, final greetings
Positively closing an interview is also very important as it will contribute to establish further steps in the interviewer(s) agenda. At the end, be cordial and thank the interviewer(s) for his or her time. Be direct in asking what the next steps are in the hiring process. This, again, witnesses your motivation and shows that you’re an action driven candidate. If appropriate, ask if you can check back with him or her on how you did. Agree on a potential date of a phone call, if possible. Try to get the opportunity/need to re-get in touch soon, and find a way to complete your documentation set, if required, within a given date. Also agree on the way these integrations are handed over, preferably in person. Make sure you express and restate your interest in the company and the position. The only time you shouldn’t do this is if you are 100 percent sure you don’t want to work there. If that’s the case, it is better to say nothing. Also, never ask about benefits or vacation time (save that for later in the negotiation process). Most companies have competitive offerings and by asking too early, you show you are more interested in the benefits than the work itself. Don’t forget to firmly handshake your interviewer(s) and definitely leave the room with a smile. They’ll surely remember you.
Staying Tuned !