How to Have a Successful Job Interview

Job interviews are commonly regarded as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, especially that of a first-time job seeker’s. But job interviews don’t have to be near-hysterical, stressful events. By preparing yourself for a job interview, you should be able to manage most of the events which take place during the interview.
Job interviews are usually scheduled to take place after an employer has received all of the written applications for an available position. Curriculum vitae and application letters will be examined and from that a short-list of potential candidates will be drawn up. If you exaggerated or lied in your CV, there is a very strong chance that things will go very poorly during the interview, so don’t lie and make sure that you spend time preparing before you arrive for your interview.

There are several types of interviews which job seekers may have to tackle. But here are just two of the main ones with which you may have to deal:

  • A screening interview is exactly that – it is about screening. Employers can receive dozens of applications and in order to compile a short-list of suitable candidates, they may ask a recruitment agency or the company’s human resources manager to run screening interviews from applicants whose curriculum vitae they have short-listed. Screening interviews can be conducted over the telephone or they can be face-to-face ones. Irrespective of where they are conducted, the primary objective of the interview is for the recruiter or HR manager to get an idea in a short-space of time about whether or not you are what you claimed to be in your curriculum vitae. If so, then you may be asked to participate in a selection interview.
  • A selection interview is an interview designed for two decisions be made. The first decision, and the one most often discussed, is for the employer to determine if you will fit into the company or organisation at which the position is available. In larger organisation, it might be the case that you will be interviewed several times and by several people within the organisation. The type of people who may be present include the manager or director, the human resource manager, a trade union representative or even a person who is from the department or section in which you may be employed. It is usually the case that the people who will be interviewing you will have arranged a meeting before your interview begin to determine what types of questions they will ask you and the other candidates. Applicants are not always the only ones who are nervous during job interviews. Human resource managers have also sometimes said that they are nervous because it is their responsibility to find new employees! The second decision, unfortunately, is often not discussed enough with young people who are searching for jobs. A selection interview is not just about an employer deciding whether or not you should be hired. A critical and often neglected objective of the interview is for you to determine whether or not you can fit into the environment in which the job is available. A successful interview doesn’t necessarily mean that you get hired. A successful interview could also be one which leads you to the decision not to work at a company after meeting and talking to the manager or human resource manager. If you develop a sense during the interview that your principles and values differ significantly from those of the people interviewing you, then you need to think carefully about deciding to work there. Making that decision can be nerve-wracking, especially for someone who has never had a job and isn’t sure about whether or not another opportunity will come along. But if you feel that you are incompatible with the environment, then don’t accept the position.
Now that you know about the difference between a selection and a screening interview, here are some essential tips for helping you succeed at those interviews.
It is quite common for applicants to spend time worrying about what they should wear to an interview. Although we will discuss briefly the issue of clothing, we want to emphasise that there is a much more significant form of preparation which is required. But before discussing that, here are several tips about deciding what to wear:
  • The rule of thumb is to match your clothes to the type of job which you have applied for. Most people think of the banking or insurance sectors as conservative places to work and so, they opt to wear suits and ties to their interviews in that sector. Women might opt to wear trouser suits or skirt suits to their interviews, too. If you don’t have a suit, there is no problem with borrowing clothes from a friend or family member who is exactly the same size as you. One of the most ridiculous things which you can do is to buy clothing specifically for a job interview. That’s a waste of money and can get you into debt, so avoid it. But the thing to look out for is to see whether the borrowed item of clothing actually fits you properly. If it doesn’t fit, irrespective of how impressive it might be, don’t wear it.
  • A second thing to think about is to match your clothes to the type of company which you have applied to work at. If you have no idea about how employees dress, then a few days before the interview, pop into the reception area and introduce yourself to the receptionist and while you are doing that, look around you to see what the employees are wearing. Don’t become a stalker while doing that but do tell the receptionist that you just wanted to confirm that this was the physical address and that you would like to collect some company brochures so you can find out more about what the company does. If you can’t visit the company before hand, visit their website and look at photographs of employees on their company website. You will soon figure out whether or not this is a formal, smart casual or casual place!
  • A second rule of thumb is to opt for an understated set of clothes for an interview. Simple, neat, well-fitting clothes will help communicate an impression that you care about what you look like and will be presentable to clients. Another big reason for opting for understated clothes is that they won’t introduce any unusual tics into your body language. Imagine if you opted to wear expensive, stiletto heels to an interview and then found out that you had to take a tour through a greasy factory floor! You might end up hopping from one patch to another to avoid getting grease on your shoes!
Finding out about the company or organisation which you have applied to is critically important. This cannot be emphasised enough and is one of the main things which first-time job seekers fail to do. It is also not enough just to find out about the organisation, you also need to know something about the sector in which that company works. Here is an example: Imagine that you have applied to work at SUV International, a company which makes sports utility vehicles, as a salesperson. Before applying for the job, the first time you heard about SUV International was when they placed an advert in the newspaper calling for applications.
What you have to do is to find out about SUV International and about the motor industry. You can do this in several ways:
  • Visit the company’s website and find out more about them. Definitely look for information about what they do or sell – i.e. their products and services – and who their customers or clients are. Pay particular attention to whether or not they are a local or an international company; the size of the organisation; how many employees it has; where the company’s office is based; what the company’s vision is; and who is competitors are.
  • Take time to go to the company’s office a few days before your interview and ask the receptionist for any brochures which you can have and read about the company. Explain that you have applied for a job and want to find out more. Most receptionists will willingly provide you with brochures which you can read.
  • Read the newspapers to find out what is happening in the motor industry. The business sections of most daily newspapers will provide you with some information. Try to find out whether or not the sector is growing or in recession. If it is in recession, then you know that you will have many challenges in your job as a salesperson. Also try to find out about whether or not there have been labour disputes in the sector over the last few months. If there have been, then you will know that labour relations in the workplace between management and labourers might be strained and could be contributing to stress among employees.
  • If you know someone who works at the company or who works at a competitor company, you can always chat to them to find out their opinions about the state of the industry or sector.
  • Read job advertisements in newspapers and on websites to find our what the typical salary range is for people in similar positions for which you would be applying. It’s a very good idea to find out this information as you might be asked to indicate what salary you want to earn during your interview.
All of this will help you to show to the people who will interview you that you are aware of who they are and what their company is about.
Another important step in the process of preparing for an interview is to think about the questions which you will be asked. Get a friend or family member to role-play the role of a potential employer and practice answering the types of questions which usually crop up in typical job interviews.
There are some very common questions which get asked and there are also some completely unexpected ones. Here are just a few examples:
  • "Tell us about yourself". This is an open-ended question and is usually aimed at determining whether or not you are articulate, confident and self-aware. How you choose to answer this question is critical. Don’t ever answer this question with the response "Well, what do you want to know?" This suggests that you are either unprepared or unsure of yourself. Spend time thinking beforehand how you would answer this question and getting comfortable with describing who you are.
  • "Why do you want to work for us?" The answer to this question will tell a potential employer straight away about whether or not you did some background research on the company before you arrived at the interview. You also need to think about why you want to work for the company and you need to give a convincing, honest reason for why. In simple and clear language, you need to explain why you regard the company as the perfect place for you to work. Some of the reasons which could contribute to why you wish to work there could be factors such as it is a market leader in the sector or it has really shown commitment to corporate social responsibility or it is widely regarded as a company which cares for its employees.
  • "Tell us about your strengths and weaknesses". This question is designed to see if you are confident, honest and self-aware. If you only mention your strengths, you might end up looking arrogant. If you mention only your weaknesses, you might end up sounding insecure. Before the interview, draw up a list of 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses. Then spend time thinking about how you could describe these to someone who has never met you without sound like you are a sociopath or a narcissist. Some people choose to identify characteristics about themselves which are both weaknesses and strengths. Here is an example: "I am a good listener but it can be a drawback because a few people can abuse that by always demanding that I listen to their problems. So I take care to listen but to let someone know when he or she is taking advantage of my time".
  • "What do you think your salary should be". This question is aimed at determining several things. Firstly, whether or not you have done background research on what the typical salary is for the type of position in the industry. Secondly, it lets an employer know whether or not you have over-estimated your potential earnings. As we mentioned earlier, you need to know what the typical salary is for similar positions to the one you have applied for. So a suitable response might be one which says something about the range of lowest to highest salaries for the position across the industry.
Not all interviews include being asked only standard questions. Sometimes, an interviewer could throw a completely unusual question at you in order to see how you perform when asked something completely out of the ordinary. Here is an example: "If you were a book, what book would you be?" If you get this type of question, don’t panic and respond with "I don’t have a clue!" Rather respond by asking for a few moments to think about your response and while doing that, take a few deep breaths. After a handful of seconds, you should have been able to get your shock or surprise sufficiently under control in order to come up with a response.
As we all know, interviews are about questions but it is not just about questions which you have to answer. Think about what questions you want to ask your potential employers. Here are some suggestions about the types of questions to ask:
  • What types of training and support are available for new employees?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • How will my performance in my job be evaluated and who will do it?
  • What is involved in a typical day at the office in this company and how is it different from a competitor company?
  • Who are the people in the team or department which you hope to join and how long have they worked at the company?
  • How has the company been affected by changes taking place in the sector or industry?
One of the main topics which you will see missing from the above list is the question about salary and benefits. On this topic, opinion is divided. There are some people who think that you should never ask this question in an interview but there are others who think that you should. If you do ask about salary and benefits, it’s a good idea not to ask that as your first question. In most instances, though, a potential employer will tell you about salary and benefits without you even having to ask.
As part of your preparation, you should also pay attention to getting comfortable with speaking. Make sure that you sound naturally confident and self-assured but don’t try to recall responses with perfect recall. That will make you sound insincere and affected. If you do sound a bit nervous, don’t worry too much as most people appreciate that it is a nerve-wracking experience.
Some other tips on how to behave during an interview are:
  • Don’t rush your responses. If you are asked a question, you don’t have to answer immediately. If you need time to think about a response, say so. There is absolutely nothing wrong with there being a few moments of silence before answering as this will create the impression that you are thinking about your answer. If you cannot think of a suitable response, you could always ask for the interviewer to proceed to the next question and to re-ask the one which you missed a bit later in the interview.
  • Sitting up straight and keeping eye contact is important. As uncomfortable as it may feel, eye contact is essential as is good posture. Practice this at home during your role-play.
  • Shaking hands during the introduction is important and it is not something which only men do. Even if you are a woman, it is a good idea to shake hands with your interviewer. Shake firmly and quickly and then wait to be told to sit down. Don’t just sit down without being invited to do so or told where to sit.
  • Make sure you know exactly where your interview is. Do not leave it to the day of your interview to find out where the location is.
  • Arrive 10 minutes before the interview commences. The rule of thumb here is that 10 minutes before tells the potential employer that you are interested and prompt. Arriving late is an absolute "no-no" and arriving too early could suggest you have too much time on your hands.
  • If you have a cellular or mobile telephone with you, turn it off as soon as you walk in the company’s front door. Never let your phone ring, beep or vibrate during an interview. If you do, that immediately says to the potential employer that you are more interested in your telephone than you are in the job.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewers when they ask questions.
  • Avoid verbal tics such as ‘um’ or ‘ah’ or ‘uh’ when giving a response.
  • Don’t answer with only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers but try to give a complete answer to the question.
  • If, for whatever reason, you do not hear or understand a question asked of you, then ask the interviewer to repeat it or to rephrase the question. Listen carefully to the question asked because you may end up responding to something which you weren’t asked. And if that happens, it could suggest that you don’t listen carefully or could make you look like a fool.
  • Thank the interviewer after the interview is over for the opportunity and their time. Also remember to find out from him or her when you can expect to find out about whether or not you will get the job.
  • Sometimes an interviewer may walk with you to the front door once the interview is over. This is usually a chance for them to find out how accomplished you are at small talk. Try to avoid personal questions or riffling through your wallet or purse for pictures of your family which you want him or her to see. Rather ask a question about the building such as "this is a very beautiful office, when was it built?" or try something like "I see that you haven’t opted for open-plan offices. Do you think that open-plan offices increase or decrease productivity?"
A job interview starts from the moment you walk through the door. If you look disorganised or are impolite to a receptionist and people waiting in the waiting room, that will definitely create the impression that you are abrupt, rude and insincere.
With better preparation before the interview takes place, you can be sure that it will go much more smoothly and you may even end up enjoying the experience, irrespective of whether or not you decide to take the position offered to you!

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Cambodia Jobs: How to Have a Successful Job Interview
How to Have a Successful Job Interview
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