On to the next level: basics to master in preparing for an interview

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Samuel Agyeman-Prempeh

The ultimate way to a successful job acquisition is making a good impression during an interview. I would describe an interview as an opportunity given to a prospective employee by an employer to show why they should be hired. In an interview session, there is a need to see oneself as a product and an excellent marketer in order to successfully convince a panel to have one as part of a company.

From the very moment you submit your CV, either in person or via an online portal, a sort of assessment has begun for you. Your preparation for an interview should start the moment you think of applying for a job; hence, ensuring every form of readiness to ace the interview is essential.

Society has created the illusion of a brilliant candidate always being the right fit for the role. However, an individual can be a ‘whiz-kid’ and fail woefully in an interview. If you are a young graduate, then an interview session is your first practical test outside school. Here, you answer questions which are not sourced from lecturers or school authorities but prominent people you need to convince. Even for employed persons who wish to assume higher roles, some form of discipline, diligence and visibility is expected.

Preparing for an interview might feel intimidating, and convincing someone requires a lot of confidence, knowledge and a sharp mind. These are very unique and essential tips for excelling in an interview.

You must know what time it is

For your own nerves, and a relaxed atmosphere for the interview, be on time. If you have the opportunity to schedule your interview, choose a date and time you can honour and also likely to fit an organisation’s optimal period for such an exercise. If not, be sure to be at least 45 minutes early to get settled in at the venue. You may well be lucky and get viewed favourably, as sticking to time portrays respect for your would-be employers.

On the flipside, being late for whatever reason at all creates a negative bias with the panellists you may never recover from. You may go blank when asked a question, as you may not be in the right frame of mind to answer coherently or correctly.

Even though your CV was compelling enough to get you an interview, you may ultimately be caught delivering a poor performance because of the ripple-effect lateness has on your posture, attitude and even the sound of your voice. Tardiness is an almost unforgivable trait to show a potential employer, and so as much as possible stick to given time-lines.

Get your ‘swag’ on

Good physical appearance is always a confidence-booster. Those pristine shirts or moderate heels you’ve been shelving for a big day – an interview for an entrance level job or even one in a managerial position if you are already employed qualifies as one of those days, so rock them with pride.

Appear clean and shaven (men) or with a moderate make-up and nice ponytail hairstyle (women, optional, as long as you are comfortable), wearing a bright smile. There is no way you can appear before an interview panel and be very timid or shy. Once this is detected, the panel tends to intimidate you and eventually ‘flaw’ you out of the interview. You need to be very graceful during such sessions, and this will be determined through your presentation, good composure, eye contact and audible speech.

It is quite expected you’ll be tense prior to the interview; nonetheless, try to shake it off as this can easily prevent you from bagging the job. You can get rid of such nerves by constantly practicing before you go for the interview. I would advise having some mock interviews to prepare you and psyche your mind. Find a buddy or coach to ask you potential questions and respond to them as though in a real-life session.

Keep very good composure, gesture and nod if you have to – but look out for excesses and steer clear of them and practice your walk-in posture. Also, do well by keeping good eye-contact with the panel. Avoid speaking without directly looking at them, smile when you should and make sure you are very relaxed. Make sure your articulation is very clear and you are well-heard. Talk within the standard pace; avoid speaking too fast or too slow. Keep extra copies of your CV just in case a panel member may for some reason to need one.

The past is not the present

You may have left a previous employment to apply for this new role, and may be asked why you made that move. You will need to answer this carefully so as not to paint a negative perception about your previous employer, as this may cast a shadow on your good inputs made at the interview so far.

Also, focus your panels’ attention on your strengths and why you are the best candidate for the job. Avoid sob-stories on your weaknesses – portray them as things that you need to improve on to increase your productivity. For example, you may want state that you find it necessary at every given moment to take notes when instructions are given, so that you give your best without missing any details.

A ‘weakness’ presented like that looks more of a good thing rather than sounding sloppy. This may put you miles ahead of other candidates for that same position. Make use of percentages when giving illustrations as to how you increased profitability or delivered results on a project. People relate better when you are concise in your answers.

What do you know?

You need to increase your knowledge-scope before going for an interview. Learn a lot about the company and other current affairs. Be determined to answer every question correctly, leaving your best impression behind. Be knowledgeable about the position you are applying for.

Take advantage of the Internet to carefully research the company as well as the available role. Be very much abreast with a lot of information about the company. This helps in answering questions and also allows you to ask questions; never leave an interview without any question for the panel.

Asking reasonable and intelligent questions specific to the role gives you an upper-hand and obviously shows that you have done a thorough background check on the company. If your interview was devoid of a discussion concerning salary, hold on till you get the offer and negotiate from there rather than using your time for questions to probe about it; because ideally, you should have read about it to have a fair range of how much people are getting paid in the role you want to assume.

Show ‘we’ something small

People in the corporate ambience are expected to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers. The university system is structured such that young people complete with a mature mind and are ready to go to corporate institutions and aid in problem-solving.

Hence, an interviewee is expected to exude such quality. You are required to think on your feet in an interview session. Be open to answer any question and express your views and opinions on any issues given. During this engagement, do well to be succinct and quick in thought. Avoid beating about the bush or completely digressing from the subject matter. There is nothing like a difficult question or a perfect answer during an interview; they are all strategies to test the size of your knowledge and pragmatic intelligence.

Therefore, when these come up, do well to think thoroughly and quickly in order to deliver rightly. Be confident in your delivery and refrain from acting unconvincingly. Ensure you answer every question and leave no stone unturned.  Do well by thanking the panellists for their time at the end of the session.

Now, you will slay giants at your next job interview. You will convince the panel why you are the preferred candidate among thousands of applicants.

>>>the writer is a corporate trainer and professional ghost-writer assisting busy executives to write and publish their books, articles and speeches. He has served as Head of Protocol at a diplomatic mission, Corporate Affairs Officer at a French multinational agribusiness and as Events and Media Correspondent for a digital ad agency. You can contact the author via: [email protected] or [email protected]

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