How to Act in an Interview


how to act in an interview

Congratulations, you’ve finally been called in for an interview. The labour intensive part of the job search has been completed. Follow these tips to ensure that you are not overlooked as a candidate in this crucial part of the job application process.

Interviews have a certain vibe and you can walk away with a clear sense of how it went by the flow of the conversation and your feelings during the interview. After you’ve completed your interview preparation, this is what you do in the interview. These tips are designed to make the interview flow smoothly and leave both you and the interviewer with a good vibe. It’s like going on a first date the first impression is important and largely dependent on the atmosphere created by both parties.

 how to act in an interview
Position your chair

When you sit down to the interview make sure that your chair is in the correct position. Your chair should not be facing the interviewer head on. Facing the interviewer head on makes for a confrontational type conversation, which is not the vibe we want the interview to have. Placing your chair slightly askew or not sitting directly across the table from your interviewer will create a more conversational interview. (This is partly because you are less likely to view the interviewer as raging bull facing you head on). If you forgot this step don’t panic, you can always turn your body slightly sideways in the chair to have your chest facing away from the interviewer ever so slightly.

Speaking style

In your interview to be sure to describe concepts clearly and answer your questions in a comprehensive manner that leaves the interviewer with little to no questions about what you have just stated. Be sure to remove all if, buts and coconuts from your vocabulary. If you need time to think about your answer say: “Give me time to think abut that”. Do not fill your sentences with “uhms” “likes” and “uhs”.

Listen

Interviewers like to talk as much as any other person. There are times where you should quiet your mind and listen tentatively. Do not think about what it is that you would like to add in next. This tentative listening will enable you to ask the interviewer relevant questions later on when you need information about the position or the company.

Sometimes you’ll have to lead the interview

Most interviews’ bad vibes are created by bad interviewers. Some don’t ask the right questions to trigger important responses or don’t ask about your key accomplishments or why they should hire you above anyone else. It is up to you to make sure that these facts about you do not get overlooked. First, you need to know when you have a bad interviewer. Bad interviewers will be talking more than listening, they are incapable of leading the interview. A bad interviewer is evident in an interview with a lot of awkward silences or they will ask questions that evoke poor and non specific answers that do not target your unique attributes.

My tip is, if there is an awkward silence and the interviewer is looking down at his notes or your CV, say something like :”You will notice in my CV that…(I had my own company for a while which afforded me the opportunity to be in a position of high responsibility)” or “During my tenure at… (That Company I implemented employment wellness strategies)”. Keep your tone light and conversational, like you’re just trying to get to know each other better. These statements will prompt the interviewer to ask more questions in the relevant direction. (This will work in most cases. Some interviewers need to be spoon fed information about you).

Make sure that you know what you want

In order to make sure that you are not swayed into taking a position that you’re not interested in, you need to set your boundaries and standards before the interview. Some companies do not advertise how much they would like pay you each month. Some might hope that you’re willing to switch paths from your previous experience (administration to marketing or sales). With clear boundaries you won’t be taken off guard when someone offers you something contrary to what it is that you want. You would quite simply be able to say that you’re not interested.

So be sure to think about; Your acceptable salary range, the type of position you’re looking for and the environment you want to work in before you enter your interview. You would save yourself and the company a whole lot of effort by being clear about your wants.

Have you successfully created a good vibe in an interview before? Who has had some bad interviews before? I like reading your interview stories, please post them here.

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Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Common interview questions and how to answer them

I’ve written articles about interviews and how to prepare for them before. I think the reason why interviews get so much attention on this site is because they are door to your career and terrifying for most. I thought it would be helpful to give you some common interview questions and suggestions about answering them so that you can prepare your answers in advance and be a interview superstar.

The 5 common questions are:

Common interview questions

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

The common misconception candidates have about this question is that you’re supposed to give an answer that entails details about your personal self. This open ended question used to invoke the greatest fear in me straight after school. I have subsequently come to know that the question should actually be interpreted as: “What have you done with your life after school?”. Easier right? Less vague. You’re welcome.

Your answer should include a brief time line detailing your education, work experience and accomplishments. Also elaborate on the reasoning behind your comings and goings from employment, projects or contracts.

My answer will go something like this: ” After completing my senior certificate at Windsor House Academy based in Kempton Park, I decided to study Psychology at University of Pretoria, after two years I had decided to study through correspondence with UNISA to build up work experience whilst studying. My first position was as a data capturer at an office automation company. My position ensured that customers were billed for copy charges made on printing machines at their premises, thus generating revenue for the service department. The contract expired after 6 months as I was hired as a temp whilst an employee was on maternity leave. There were no other vacancies within the company so I had to move on. I then decided to purchase a pie company situated in Greenstone mall with money that I had inherited years before…”

But let me not bore you with details of my employment history. I’m sure you get what I mean by brief but detailed by the example above.

2. “What are your strengths?”

Yet again its best to keep to your work related strengths. Try stay away from the usual buzz words, because they make interviewers tune out. Using buzz words is the equivalent of not answering the question at all. Using buzz words only speak to the fact that you have no real strengths and are fairly unimaginative. An example of a bad set of strengths would be: Person orientated, friendly, organized and good telephone communication skills.

Try tailor your answer to things that you feel might make you different from the other candidates that they have seen. Think of times that you have problem solved in the past. Maybe you have the ability to appease difficult customers, keeping to deadlines with a sense of urgency, the ability to brainstorm a variety of new ideas, networking capabilities or maybe you have existing relationships with key role players that might be of interest to the new company. Don’t be shy to elaborate by providing examples of where you have been awesome in the past.

3. “What are your weaknesses?”

This too, is a trick question, as I have mentioned in a previous article, it is not your job to point out your flaws to the hiring company. You are advertising yourself and pointing out flaws is not what you are there to do. (Ever heard of pleading the 5th?) The best way to answer this question is by looking at your weaknesses and turning them into something completely redundant and insignificant so that the weakness does not influence your likelihood of being hired.

For example, a good answer would be something like “I get annoyed with people who do not do tasks as and when they promise, because it interferes with my work flow and deadlines but I manage it by following up with friendly reminders of reports or documentation due via e-mail or telephone.” So by answering in this way, your weakness is something that you can acknowledge and know how to manage and it isn’t a deal breaker for the interviewers.

An example of an answer to stay away from is something like: “I have serious anger issues but i’m working on it” . When working on your answers during your preparation for an interview, keep in mind that you don’t want your prospective employer to think that you are erratic or unpredictable in any way. You should be the drama free and mature candidate, which will make you the obvious choice.

4. “Why should we hire you?”

An interviewer who asks you this question is trying to see what it is that makes you stand out from the rest. Some candidates think that this calls for a comparison but my advice is as follows; Beware not to put any other candidates down by saying that you are better than them in some way. I find this question is best answered if you combine your strengths with the requirements of the job and state how these strengths can benefit the company. A good answer (by using the strengths as mentioned above) would be: “By approaching the tasks I do with a sense of urgency I can assure you that I will get my work done in time without neglecting quality of work. My relationships with government officials can give this company a step up in the market. I will definitely handle all customers from this company with dignity and work my charm to retain customers as best I can.”

5. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

The nice thing about this question is that you do not have to be specific, in fact it is best not to be specific (It’s very tempting to answer “I see myself living on a beach drinking cocktails and living off the land”). If you are in an interview for a sales position and say you see yourself as the Human Resource manager in 5 years the interviewer might question your career choices and wonder why you are applying for a position in sales. It could also make them fear for their job if they are the human resource manager at the moment. Make sure that your 5 year goal is easily obtainable but not where you are right now and also include the fact that you see yourself at the company that you are applying for a position with now.

Answer this question by drawing a broad overview of where you would like to be. For example, you could mention that you’d like to be a valuable employee in this company in a position with a high level of responsibility where you get to work in a team. This is a broad goal that is obtainable and isn’t specific as to which department you would have to work for.

So those are the big five interview questions that I have come across. I hope you found this helpful.

The more time you spend on preparing your interview questions, the better your answers will be and the more confident you will be in the interview.

Which interview questions have you come across that were hard to answer? Maybe I can give you tips and we can share notes. Have you got interview tips for me? Please leave your responses in the comment section below.

How to Prepare for an Interview

How to prepare for an interview

I’ve been on both sides of an interview table and I think it’s safe to assume that no one likes interviews. The interviewer has seen about 5 candidates today, all of which don’t feel like the right fit for the position. Some candidates don’t answer questions directly, avoid them by giving irrelevant answers or (my favourite) answer questions with questions. In my experience, sometimes getting information out of a candidate is like trying to squeeze water out of a rock.

As the candidate, interviews suck because you’re sitting opposite a panel of people staring at you bright eyed in anticipation waiting for you to sell yourself. I bet our “favourite” part is the fact that there are no practice rounds to meet with the people who could change your life forever.

Here are my tips on what to do before an interview to ensure a successful interview:

 How to prepare for an interview
1.     Do Your Research

It’s helpful to view your interview as an exam, you are being tested after all. You wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into an exam unprepared now would you? Take time to prepare answers for the common interview questions. Write your answers down and study them. Yes, there might be some questions that you wouldn’t know to prepare for but at least you will have some “go to” sentences floating around at the time of your interview for you to grab at with ease.

I remember an interview where someone had asked what my likes and dislikes are. Even though I am in-some-sort-of touch with myself and will usually know what it is that I like and dislike, the question threw me off because I hadn’t prepared for it (I was so nervous I couldn’t tell my left from my right). I sat there, blank faced, digging into the darkest corners of my soul to find some resemblance of an answer. “Food, I like food… I think.” The next step in your preparation will involve Google (AKA my best friend, tutor and study partner), so hop on there and research the company that called you in for an interview. You should be looking for an outline of the services they offer, mission statements, mottoes and values. Knowledge is power and the more you know about the company and what they value, the more you can be sure to include mutual interests in your interview answers. For instance, if you look on-line and see the company’s website have words that emphasizes a “person orientated” approach to business, you will be sure to mention that you are good at working with people, tending to their needs and you’d mold some of your answers that you’ve prepare in advance to include things relevant to the “person orientated” approach. Similarly, knowing what services the company offers shows the interviewer that you show interest in the company and what they do. This makes you a better candidate because it creates the impression that you’ve done your homework and that you are not just looking for a company to pay you money regardless of what they do.

 2.     Create Practice Opportunities

Nervousness can cloud even the brightest of minds and my remedy for nervousness is practice. My theory is that; if you’ve successfully participated in one interview you’ll be more confident in the next. Applying for jobs that are in a lower salary bracket or that require less experience than you actually have can give you an opportunity to practice your interview skills in an environment where you don’t have your dream job on the line. You can also go home after these interviews and analyse what contributed to their outcomes. Ask yourself questions like: Did you talk to much? Did you go off topic? Which answers really impressed the interviewers? Did they ask any questions that you didn’t prepare for before hand?

3.      Work on Your Confidence

Confidence is a big factor in an interview because you are selling yourself to the company. You’re essentially trying to make it viable for them to spend their money on your salary month after month. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you aren’t giving them the opportunity to have confidence in you. Just as a sales person, you won’t be highlighting your (the product’s) faults, it’s not your job to highlight where your shortfalls are. You are there to promote what you can do, you in all your glory. Please believe that anything you can’t do right now isn’t a barrier, it’s just something that you can’t do YET. We all have the capability to learn. Job seekers need to know that the interviewers are looking for the best fit, not the perfect fit. Often times interviewers do not know what the best fit is going to look like, so it could easily by you. Don’t try to hard to be what you think they want. If you do not get the job, you would’ve failed pretending to be the person you thought they want, when the actual you would’ve been the best candidate. Another mind blowing revelation that came to light this past month, through conversations with a friend, is that companies hire people. They do not hire a skill or a qualification. They are looking for a person, a personality. So your best chance is to bring your personality with when you go to your interview. Maybe you are quirky, sarcastic, straight forward, a bit of a ditz or clown, bring that with you, it has it’s place too because it is naturally you. Personality, potential and capability will beat skills and qualification hands down most of the time. You wouldn’t want to be working with people who don’t appreciate or respect your personality anyway. With preparation, practice and confidence on your side you will go anywhere you want to go. Preparation is the polish that will allow your diamond to shine (Corny thought of the day). Remember, you are the best you there is, you need to get to the comfortable enough so that you can optimally display who you are and create an awesome first impression. What are your preparations tips and tricks? Please share them below, I like hearing from you.

3 Things Being Retrenched Taught Me

retrenched

So earlier this month I was called into my boss’ office and told that there was “very very bad news”. Our regional branch office (the one I’m employed with) is closing down and that I, along with my other colleague, should start looking for other employment immediately as the office will stop operating on the 31st of January 2015. So at first I thought: “Wow universe, first Monday of the year and you kick me in the face. Thanks.”

Upon sitting down at my desk, after a conversation filled with motivational words with my other half, I looked up at my hand written pink post-it note on my cubicle wall that reads:”Do what you love and the rest will follow”. This post-it was written by me a couple of months ago to remind myself that just because I’m not paid for doing what I love shouldn’t stop me from doing it on my own time. This sentence has led me to start this blog and inspired some changes within myself.

So here is what being retrenched taught me:

3 things being retrenched taught me

1     This retrenchment is getting you out of comfort zone

So looking up that post-it note I mentioned earlier, I told myself: “Myself,  if you really believe that practicing what you love will make everything fall into place, now is the time to test it”. Please understand that I loved what I do as Office Manager, even with the little career growth opportunity. In hindsight I would’ve started stagnating (scratching at increases year after year).

Loving what you do and doing what you love are two different concepts, the one calls for you to love your job, the other (doing what you love) is answering your to your vocation. That is what this blog is for.  I love sharing experiences,motivating people and perhaps help others learn or think differently about things. I would like to help people see that life is not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Essentially a retrenchment can act as an opportunity to change your trajectory, an opportunity to seek growth, development and a company that values people outside of what they mean to the company (or whatever it is you wish the retrenching company did for you that they didn’t). You’ve lost your anchor, you’re free to explore new things.

So now instead of grabbing at any job that provides a stable income, I invite you to find your fit. Take time to look around and get a job in a field you’d enjoy, even if you thought that you would never succeed by doing what you like or love. Yes, some of us do not have the luxury of being picky but I urge you to look after yourself in the best way you can given the time an opportunities available to you. Move to that country, open that business and apply for that position.

2   Your company does not have your best interest at heart

This is pretty self explanatory but might come as a shock to some. Most companies that are retrenching will not go the extra mile for you. Harsh i know, but no matter how nice your boss is, he will probably not give you more than the bare minimum in terms of notice or severance. The company is in a difficult spot and management has their interest at heart, that is how businesses are (there are exceptions but they are few and far between). Therefore it is very important for you to look out for yourself and stand up for what is yours.

You do this by looking at your employment contract and making sure that the company is acting in accordance to this. Have they adhered to the governing labour law in terms of notice and severance payment? If not, you have to bring it to your immediate superior, HR or IR department’s attention. These contracts and laws are there to protect your best interest so make sure you use them.

Have they formally communicated with you in writing about the reasons for your retrenchment? Do you have a definite date at which your employment expires? You would need this information to start your job search and to claim from salary protection policies. There is a certain process that companies have to follow, these processes are put in place to ensure that your retrenchment is not surrounded with uncertainty and will enable to move on from this job speedily and with the least amount of mess.

3     Get yourself out there ASAP

Whatever your plans are for the future or whether you have no clue where to go, you need to start getting yourself out there before the dust settles. Update your CV’s and on-line profiles to include your current employment. Give your CV a spring clean by taking off irrelevant positions (Like that baby sitting job you had for 6 months in high school. It’s not going to help your case if you’re looking for a career in the banking industry).

Start thinking about issues such as, what salary bracket you fall in now with your extra experience. Maybe you were due to receive an increase soon, had lunch support and a fuel allowance? Add this up so that you know you’re not selling yourself short when you start talking numbers with possible employers.

So now it’s back to the job hunt and swimming in the shark tank with other hungry candidates, awkward interviews and dodgy offices. Yes this is not the optimum situation. What i’d like you take away from this post is you are free to go anywhere, just make sure you look out for you, because it is no one else’s responsibility to make sure that you get the best deal.

Have you been retrenched or fired? What did you learn? Please let me know in the comment section.