For my INK 226 students...
Ace that interview
By CHRISTINE JALLEH
There are several things you can do to create a good impression during a job interview.
WOULD you be free for an interview next week?” Congratulations if you have just received such a phone call. For the job-seeker or the student applying for a scholarship, this is an important stage towards achieving your goal.
Now that you’ve got your foot in the door to the application process, your next step would be to convince the interviewer or interviewers that you are the candidate they are looking for.
Before you put on your colour-coordinated suit and shiny shoes, be sure that you are prepared for the interview ahead.
What is an interview?
Bruce Elder, the author of Communication Skills, defines an interview as “a meeting of persons face to face for a particular purpose in which one asks questions that the other is expected to answer.”
While interviews are still conducted to get answers to questions, today’s interviews can range from the one-to-one, panel, face-to-face, telephone to even an online chat or Starbucks café interview!
Whichever the situation, always remember that the interviewer(s) have arranged to talk with you because they like what they see on your cover letter and resume. Now, they would like to get to know you better.
Be confident: Always remember that the interviewer has arranged to talk with you because she likes what she sees on your cover letter and resume.
The first impression
The interview begins the moment you step into the room even if no questions have been asked.
Everyone gets a first glimpse of you and immediately, a first impression is formed.
Here are some common positive and negative comments after meeting a candidate:
“I think she forgot to iron her shirt!”
“Is he auditioning for American Idol? I thought we were looking for an accounts executive, not a rock star.”
“She looks so worried! I’m worried if she can do the job.”
“He looks friendlier in person. He looks so serious in his photo.”
“She looks so confident. I like her.”
Some of the comments may seem unkind but that’s the reality of first impressions.
Put your best foot forward by appearing friendly, calm and confident. Remember your parents’ advice: smile and sit up straight!
Before going to the most important part of the interview, the interviewer(s) would introduce themselves and their roles in the organisation.
Then, they will ask a few questions to put you at ease:
“Have you had your lunch?”
“So ... you’re from Penang. What are your favourite hawker foods?”
“How did you come here? Could you easily find our office?”
“You have such an unusual name. Is it a Malay name?”
Relax and answer the questions as briefly and as best as you can.
Even if these are casual questions, take note that the interviewer(s) are evaluating you and your answers.
Now is not the time to share your gastroenteritis problem or your dislike for hawker food (unless you can recommend other appetising alternatives).
Questions and answers
After the introductions, the interview will begin in full swing.
The interview is your chance to demonstrate how capable, intelligent and dedicated you are while the interviewers want to see if you’re a good fit or representative for their organisation.
Most of the questions will seek to discover your abilities, past experiences and your approach to people, tasks, responsibilities and most importantly, dealing with difficult situations.
Interview questions can be neutral:
1. Tell us about yourself.
2. What do you know about us?
3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
4. Who has influenced your life and why?
They can also be questions inviting positive answers:
5. Why do you think you are the right candidate for this position or scholarship?
6. Tell us about a personal achievement that makes you proud.
7. What are your strengths?
But they can also be questions inviting negative answers:
8. What are your weaknesses?
9. Tell us about a mistake that you made and what you learned from it.
10. It’s very difficult to work with different types of people. Describe an experience where you had a conflict with someone and the results of the situation.
It’s easy to look your best when you answer the neutral and positive questions but the negative questions can be the deciding factor that differentiates you from the rest.
More and more organisations are looking for people who can handle both pleasant and painful situations.
Be prepared for such questions and think it through before you give your best answer of how you positively handled that prickly situation.
Don’t forget to dazzle them with your charming personality – show them that friendly, kind or funny person your family and friends know you as.
Here are some links to:
Job interview questions and answers
http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interview questionsanswers/a/interviewquest.htm 50 common job interview questions and answers
Sample scholarship interview questions and answers
One vs many
The one-to-one interview is still quite common but the more popular practice is the panel interview.
Even if you are expecting a one-to-one interview, be prepared to speak with a group of three or even five people.
One of my first job interviews involved talking to four people who were seated in chairs scattered across the room – thankfully, I remembered my manners and greeted each person individually. I also took care to remember each person’s name and looked at everyone when I answered their questions. Needless to say, I was hired!
You may also be interviewed in groups of three or four by a panel of interviewers. Even if you need to stand out from the other people you are interviewed with, you can still be cordial and courteous with each other.
The final flourish
The interviewer or interviewers will signal the end of the interview by asking if you have any questions.
“Does my work experience fit into the needs of the organisation at this time?”, “Are my qualifications and skills suitable for the position?” and “Is there anything I could do to improve my chances for this position?” are some questions recommended in the book Communication Skills.
Other useful questions include, “What is a typical day/week like for this position?”, “When can I expect to hear from you?”, “Will travel be required for this position?”, “Will training be provided for this position?”
In most cases, you will be asked about your expected salary and given a summary of staff benefits. Do hold off these questions until you are offered the job.
Here is a link to other suitable questions to ask during a job interview:
Remember to thank the interviewers for their time and follow up with a phone call or an e-mail to find out the outcome of the discussion. All the best!
Christine Jalleh is a communications specialist with a Master’s degree in English Language Studies. She blogs about communications, culture and travel at http://christinejalleh.com