By Devashish Chakravarty
Economic Times Wealth, August 16, 2017 —
The thought of a job interview is bound to make you anxious or at least a little concerned.
Though you are professionally competent and experienced, your exposure to job interviews is only a fraction of your total work life. With lack of expertise and your future at stake, every interview seems to be a daunting exercise. Channel your stress to work on the right approach and gain confidence in acing that interview.
Own the interview
Know the complete interview environment as if you are the interviewer and decision-maker. Ask open-ended questions from the recruitment consultant or internal talent manager about the time, location, interview format and interview panel. They will appreciate your preparation and keenness because it reduces their anxiety about you and makes them look good with the line managers.
Ask about questions or tests you can expect to focus on your preparation. If you have a choice of time slots, avoid the beginning or end of day, where the interviewer is either worried about his day or is exhausted.
Think like a hiring manager
Most professionals focus on themselves while preparing for an interview. Be smart and put yourself in the shoes of your interviewer. Interviews are a painful chore where he is concerned about your skills and fit with the team. In his position, what would you look for? How would a great candidate project himself as the best solution? Your answers help create an interview plan.
Tailor your responses to the hiring manager’s profile. For instance, older interviewers often seek longevity, while younger managers are influenced by flexibility and creativity.
No amount of preparation is enough, so focus on the most critical requirements. Firstly, re-read the job description for the role and identify skills and traits required. Next, research the company and industry. The company website, annual reports, news articles, LinkedIn profiles of interviewers and future team members are part of your homework. The better your preparation, the higher will be your confidence in facing the interview.
Talk it out
Research is only half the effort. You also need dress rehearsals to be at your best. Enroll your friends and trusted advisers to conduct serious, full-length mock interviews. Give them a long list of interview questions curated from the Internet, including those generated from your homework. Supplement mock interviews with solo mirror practice. Listen to your answers. Reframe your responses till you get them right. Keep the interview format and length in mind while structuring answers.
Coming to specific interview formats, know that most employers use telephonic interviews for initial screening. For the interview, find a quiet location free from distractions. Dress up as you would for a physical interview to get into a formal mood. Keep a printout of your resume, along with condensed interview notes and questions you plan to ask. Smile during the interview to change the quality of your voice and convey positivity. Listen to each question carefully and rephrase and play it back for confirmation, if required. Jot down sub-parts of a question to make sure your response is complete.
At junior levels and where there are multiple vacancies, some employers use the group interview technique to efficiently shortlist people for the next round. Reach the venue early and speak to other candidates to establish a working comfort before the the process begins. Keep a short and engaging personal introduction ready for the actual interview. Where possible, have relevant, prepared questions to ask the interviewers if the opportunity arises. During the interview, contribute significantly and politely.
In a competency or skill-based interview, a situation is offered and your response enables the interviewer to gauge your skills. The skills typically judged for include leadership, communication, ability to work in a team, ownership of outcomes, focus on goal, analytical thinking and conflict resolution. For instance, “How would you handle an angry customer?” or “Share an event where you disagreed with your team”. Frame your reply using the S.T.A.R approach: Situation, Task, Action and Result.
This is an unstructured and a common interview experience, where the interviewer takes cues from your responses and asks linked questions. A common opening question is to describe yourself. Start with your work experience in reverse chronological order, focusing on recent achievements, and then move to academics and other activities. Use your answers to draw the interviewer to your area of expertise. “I received the employee of the year award,” invites a question on related achievements. Prepare for commonly asked questions on weaknesses, reasons for changing jobs and future goals.
These are unusual questions designed to throw you off your preparation to gauge how you think on your feet. There is no perfect way to prepare, but it helps to practice unrelated questions so that you can master smiling, replaying the question to buy time and speaking while you are formulating an answer. Questions range from “What do you think of the latest movie?” to “Describe our company in three words”. Focus on demonstrating logical thinking and coherent communication with perhaps a touch of humour.
At the end of the interview, be prepared to pose questions to the panel, if invited. Your questions reflect your research and interest. “Given the latest government ruling, how is the company planning to change its market positioning?” or “What kind of targets can I expect to be responsible for?” are good examples. Follow up with a ‘thank you’ e-mail after the interview, where possible. Finally, connect with the recruitment consultant or talent manager for feedback after a few days.