Day 4 – Preparing for an interview and the type of behaviour and questions to expect

Interview Preparations

Here we look at how to engage professionally and with confidence

9 Job Interview Tips

You have to have a great cover letter and a world class CV, then successfully master the job application process, and soon you will enter the interview stage, but don’t worry here are 9 interview tips to help guide you through this maze filled with conundrums and intimidating faces.

1. Research

the Company that will be interviewing you, don’t just read the about us page, read everything you can find, including their financials if they are available to the public. Also, insure that you familiarise yourself with the nitty-gritties of the role you are being interviewed for. Do not forget to be well versed on the Company culture as most companies rank culture fit almost as high as skills and other competencies.

2. Be Prepared

and ensure you are well dressed, rather be formal even though it is a casual environment, be careful not to go overboard with make-up, perfume or cologne. Try to strike a healthy balance between conservative and confident. Fresh breath is crucial make sure that you carry mints.

3. Background Checks

if you know the names of your interviewer(s), google them and see if you can find their pictures or public profiles and familiarise yourself with their faces, this will help a lot during the interview as knowing a bit about them will help ease your nerves and make your interviewers seem a little less intimidating.

4. Practice

you need to have a good handshake, and practice how to look people in the eye but in a gentle confident manor, review possible questions that maybe asked and answer them out loud. If you have kids use them, let them interview you and you might be surprised at how useful the feedback from these honest little people can be. If you don’t have kids, worry not partners/friends are great too. Don’t forget to practise to correctly pronounce your interviewer(s) names.

5. Arrive Early

and if you get there too early, meditate in your car while you wait and visualise yourself blowing everyone’s socks off. Be sure to announce your arrival at reception at least 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

6. Breath…

Be positive, smile and do a quick internal affirmation.

7. Carry a Pen and Paper

and first write down the names of the interviewer(s) and refer to them by name when addressing them. Write down all the key information, including questions you think of while the interviewer is talking.

8. Don’t

be cocky, too familiar, talk too much, use inappropriate language, flirt, appear desperate or interrupt when the interviewer is talking.

9. Ask Questions

and prepare some of those questions upfront, like what type of candidate are they looking for and how long will it approximately take to make a decision on a candidate. If you don’t have job related questions, ask the interviewer questions such as what in their personal experience are the highs and lows of working for the company and what their advice for the successful candidate would be in order to have a rewarding experience in that environment. It’s always great to show a little interest in people but be careful to not get too personal.

10 Important Interview Questions

1. Tell us more about yourself?

What not to say:

When answering this question, it’s important not to undersell yourself by responding to the question with a simple answer like “I am Joe Soup, married with 2 kids and living in Johannesburg”.

What to say:

Because this question is usually asked first, it is an opportunity for you to set the tone of the interview by selling yourself to your interviewer. If you have a great cover letter, I’d recommend memorising it so you can say it in your own words and with passion. Remember a great cover letter describes who you are in a summarised manner, your mission, vision, goals, strengths, achievements and all the things that make you a great candidate for the job.

2. What are your short-term goals?

What not to say:

When you hear this question include the word “career” within the statement. An interview is not a confession booth, and neither is it a social gathering. It is a meeting relating to matching a candidate to a job/task. So, in most cases I advise that you do not answer this question with an unrelated career or work passion such as clubbing, hunting even travelling, these could potentially showcase you as an opposite character to what they want.

What to say:

The best way to answer this question is to relate it to your career or the role you are being interviewed for e.g. I want to improve my current knowledge of (project management, marketing, online platform, etc.) or I want to see myself as part of a strong team that will help me to grow. Something down these lines, you get the picture, right?

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

What not to say:

Again, this question also refers to your career and not your family or social life unless specifically asked. So, do not answer this question by mentioning things like, I want to be living in a different city/country or touring the world. This only shows that you are not going to be dedicated to the job.

What to say:

Relate to your career or role, and improve something within that regard, such as “I want to be a director, manager, or supervisor” aim for a higher position or improve a skills but, it has to be something that positively impacts the current role you are being interviewed for.

4. What do you know about our company?

This question is very common, and it is surprising how many people come unprepared for it. This is the one question that tells the interviewer if the candidate is interested in working for the company or is just looking for the next paying job.

What not to say:

I don’t know, I quickly browsed the website and I think …,

What to say:

Recite and relate to the company mission and vision, highlight competitors and what makes this company good and where it can improve. There is no short cut to this question, you need to do as much research as possible, with adequate information comes informed questions.

5. Why should we hire you?

What not to say:

Because I am hard working or because I have the required qualifications and experience.

What to say:

Be confident and ready to sell yourself, this is an opportunity for you to reassure the interviewer that you are the perfect candidate. Don’t recite the whole interview, think of highlights, focus on one or two points that make you especially well suited to the position. You can mention a few of your strength and how you would make a difference.

6. What are your biggest weaknesses?

What not to say:

Never say you don’t have any weakness or that you don’t know, that will portray you as a “perfectionist”. It’s important not to come across as arrogant or dishonest by claiming that you don’t have any weaknesses.

What to say:

Your answer should be framed around the positive aspect of your skills and abilities as a professional. Mention skills that are not critical for the job, discuss skills you have improved on, or turn a negative into a positive.

7. Describe your dream job?

What not to say:

Do not mention another company.

What to say:

Rather say a place where I can be part of a strong team that allows you to grow.

8. What are your strongest qualities?

What not to say:

Do not mention qualities that are not relevant to the position.

What to say:

Come very prepared for this question. Go through the job spec and learn as much as you can about the company. Use what you have read to identify the relevant qualities and how it will allow you to contribute. Mention your key competencies that are aligned to the role.

9. What are your salary expectations?

What not to say:

As much as you might be desperate for the position, be careful not to over-exaggerate or undervalue yourself.

What to say:

Do your calculations and have facts, its very important that you are well aware of the market trends, how the job demands, and how much people in similar roles get paid. When stating your desired salary, be clear and precise. It’s always best to indicate it in a range rather than a specific denomination. A range will allow more room for negotiation. Justify your salary expectations with your experiences, projects accomplished, achievements and skills gained that will benefit the company.

10. Why do you want to leave your current job?

What not to say:

Don’t bad mouth your ex job, you will be seen as petty, or even worse, a risky hire.

What to say:

Give diplomatic responses about your past employers, even if your tenure at a former job ended badly. Try to find something positive you can say about every past work experience on your CV and then pivot to the skills you have gained along the way that will benefit your next employer.

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5 Steps to help you recover after missing an interview

There a very few things in life that are more daunting or as devastating as realising you were supposed to be in an interview and it completely slipped your mind or heavens forbid, you overslept. Whatever the reason, be it your alarm clock hates you or you prepared so late into the night that waking up in the morning was as hard as life without internet, the situation is not completely unsalvageable.

Here are some tips to help you recover.

1. Gather yourself

Before making a breathless and panicked phone call to your interviewer and begging for mercy, take a moment and think of your options. Admittedly, accidentally missing an interview does not reflect well on you so it is critical that you don’t compound the issue by making an emotional and disorganized appeal.

Do your best to formulate a game plan, which should certainly include a reasonable explanation for your absence (more on that below). However, you should try and reach out as soon as possible as the longer you wait, the less credible you may sound. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue.

2. Show remorse

Make no mistake about it: this is 100% your fault and you should be clear about taking ownership. Without assigning any blame to outside parties, you need to offer your sincere apologies and assurances that this type of behaviour is extremely uncharacteristic.

If you come across as trying to deflect responsibility, it will reflect poorly on you and make the interviewer feel even more distrusting. It may certainly hurt your pride to apologise so profusely but it may just be your one saving grace.

3. Be pro-active

Rather than passively hoping the interviewer will forgive you and reschedule the meeting, take pro-active measures to ensure that you can get your foot back in the door. You should follow up all verbal communications with an email (and vice versa).

You should also offer additional insights into your candidacy for further proof of your seriousness; for example, I would suggest providing additional references or offering to perform additional interview steps as a means of demonstrating that you are dependable and industrious.

Let’s face it, you are now going to have work harder than any other candidate to convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.

4. Work on your excuse

I’m going to be honest: it is extremely hard for a recruiter to forgive a candidate who misses an interview. (Of course, if you endured a personal emergency or something wholly unforeseen, most interviewers should certainly be sympathetic.) In all likelihood, though, you will certainly have an uphill battle on your hands – especially if you have a weak excuse.

If the interviewer demands an explanation, you are going to need to provide something quite compelling to get yourself back in the running. So, if you missed the interview because you overslept or forgot to put the interview in your calendar, do yourself a favour and come up with something better. This is a rare instance where telling the truth may not be in your best interest.

5. Remain professional

Look, it may be that you have simply blown this opportunity. Regardless of your efforts, the interviewer may no longer be interested in your candidacy. While this is regrettable, it isn’t hard to understand why. In such a case, I would advise you to pick up your pieces and move on. Don’t lash out at the interviewer and do not take to social media to voice your displeasure.

You should retain a strong sense of professional decorum and remain contrite in your communications. You never know when another opportunity may arise so keep all your options open by keeping your emotions in check.

Having said that,

there are few meetings that are as crucial to your career growth as a job interview so make every effort to show up prepared and on time.

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