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How to Succeed in Any Job Interview

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Published September 8th 2012
Don't mess with the rest - be the best
The interview

Every type of interview demands preparation, preparation, and more preparation. Image from wikimedia commons

Now that you've learned how to find you dream job, it's time to move on to the interview.

For some, this can be the most nerve-wracking part of the whole process. Given that much of this fear is founded on uncertainty, it's imperative that you do as much preparation as possible before the day. Look at the company's website particularly their company goals or mission statement. Ask yourself what appeals to you and why. Also, it's an age-old piece of advice but it works write down all the possible questions they may ask you, and think of answers for them. This helps a lot, and during the interview don't be afraid to pause and think about your answer before you give it this shows that you are giving a measured and intelligent response. Gather your thoughts and remember to consider their perspective: they want to know about your workplace style, so give clear and relevant examples. If you need to, clarify the question. This shows that you are willing to ask intelligent questions when you don't fully understand something, rather than forging on with an irrelevant answer that will only demonstrate that you missed the point.

Where possible, know who will be interviewing you. Know their role within the company (HR, senior manager etc) and if you can, try to get a sense of their personality through the tone of their communication either to you or on sites such as LinkedIn.

Appropriate attire for a job interview will depend on the industry, but there are a few ground rules to observe. Keep visible flesh to a minimum; pants, never shorts, for men, and generally speaking long rather than short-sleeved shirts will be appropriate. Similarly, ladies' skirts should touch the tip of the kneecap. Toes and shoulders ought to be covered and denim is a big no-no. Tone down piercings and jewellery, and hide tattoos. Some people advocate for no jewellery or tattoos whatsoever, but if this is an extreme deviation from the way you usually present yourself, I'd wonder if the company culture is really the right one for you. After all, to some extent you're sussing them out just as much as they're sussing you out, and there's no point putting a huge amount of effort into gaining a job you won't be comfortable in. Finally, ladies, no cleavage. Unless showing it is an implicit part of the contract you are hoping to attain there is absolutely no reason why you should show it during an interview. Similarly, if you are going to wear heels keep them low. There's a large and very important difference between 'looking good' for a night on the town and looking good for an interview, so keep it classy.

When you're in the interview, remember that body language yells where words only whisper. Watch for non-verbal cues. At what points in the conversation does the interviewer appear particularly interested in your answer? Are they nodding eagerly, or gazing over your shoulder waiting for you to finish talking? You should also be aware of your own body language; there's no point reciting your relevant experience or giving an eloquent answer to a difficult question if you are slouching back with your arms crossed. The interviewer won't even listen to your voice they're too busy listening to the disinterested or defensive image you're putting across. Sit up straight, and let your poses and gestures loosely mimic the other person's. People like those who are similar to them, so at the risk of making unfounded judgements try to find a profile picture of your interviewer from which you can get a sense of their character. Are they outgoing and creative, or measured and academic? I've even gone so far as to deliberately wear my glasses to an interview, knowing that my potential employer is also bespectacled. You're quietly saying "I am similar to you. I will fit in here." I doubt my myopia was the catalyst of their decision, but yes I got the job.

When you leave as when you entered a handshake is usually appropriate, even for women. Don't go for any closer contact! Thank them for their time but don't loiter; your interview is over and they've got a working day to get on with. Oh and never, ever be late.

The group interview.

business group
Interviewers will be looking for how you work with others - not against them. Image source wikimedia commons

For the jobseeker, this is the scourge of all interview processes. How do you stand out from the crowd without trampling down others? How do you make an impression without being domineering or rude? When you enter a group interview you will typically find chairs arranged in a circle, or in rows facing the front of the room. If the latter, park yourself front and centre, or close enough to it. It's a great non-verbal, non-aggressive way to say "I'm here, I'm interested".

Remember, just because the interviewer hasn't walked into the room it doesn't mean the interview hasn't yet begun. In a group interview I attended last year, eight of us, all applicants, sat around the foyer waiting to be called into the main meeting room. After ten minutes, the receptionist or so we had thought walked out from behind the desk and began the interview process. It was a face-to-face sales role, and she had been watching to see who naturally took to talking and socialising, and who sat in the corner, avoiding eye contact and playing with their mobile phone. You can guess who got through to the next round. Although you may feel tempted to consider other applicants as your competition which, in some sense they are don't lose sight of your main goal, which is to showcase your own best abilities and experience. If you're right for the role, they'll see it and if you're anti-social and overly competitive they'll see that too.

The follow-up
For most applications a short follow-up email later that day, or the following day, makes for a nice touch. Something along the lines of "Dear Mr X, Thank you for meeting with me recently, I enjoyed learning more about your company and look forward to hearing the result of my application in the near future. Sincerely, Ms Y" Especially in cases where there have been a large volume of applicants or you were part of a group interview, this reminds them who you are and will keep your name in the forefront of their minds when choosing the person for the role.

Congratulations - there's nothing left after that but to sit and wait, and know that you have done everything you can.
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Your Comment
Thanks, I'll be putting your tips to the test in an interview tomorrow :)
by Hayley (score: 3|1016) 2595 days ago
if you dont have anything better, create a gmail or hotmail account for your resume but NEVER give an email address such as hotmama@ - this is a true example of one applicant we had. needless to say they didnt get past to the interview stage
by thoma (score: 1|15) 2592 days ago
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