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Interviewing 101: The Basics of Preparing For a Job Interview.

So, you have made it this far in the selection process. Your CV and Cover Letter had something that made them call you in. They are already interested in you! Now, let's master the basics of job interviewing.


Welcome to the basics of interviewing. Here, we will cover everything you need to know about what is expected from you before, during and after an interview, aside from the questions you will be expected to answer. Some say interviewing is an art; I like to think it is also a skill, and as such, it can be taught. Let's look at it in more detail.




What is an interview? When thinking about an interview, I would naturally think of the selection process for a job, but that is because I am involved in this kind of business. If you ask a TV reporter or a Policeman, they might tell you something almost entirely different. Yet they have something in common. Interviewing is the process of discovering something about someone through questions aimed at exposing both the verbal and nonverbal behaviours, competencies, attributes, or qualities of the interviewee, whomever they represent at that moment, whether it is themselves, a company or someone else.


Waiting for a Job Interview

In most interviews, there is an element of deception. This can be in the form of questions or the environment. A good interviewer usually tries to make you feel comfortable and at ease; they will try to give you a sense of security so you won't have to worry about your surroundings and can focus on answering their questions. Think about talk shows. Guests are never expected to sit in uncomfortable chairs; they always have these lovely couches, sofas, armchairs, etc. Their approach is to make the interviewee comfortable enough even in front of a large audience and cameras.


On the contrary, when you think about interview rooms at a police station or airport security, you imagine a bland room with no windows, no distractions, an iron chair and an iron table. Their approach is the opposite: the more uncomfortable, the quicker you will want to get out of there, hopefully by spilling the truth. Strangely, when thinking of job interviews, I think of both. In this case, the environment is dictated by what you are interviewing for and who you are interviewing with. The aim is the same in every scenario: they want to know about you and what you did until this point in your life, and they want the truth.



Job Interview Preparation


Since my expertise is within the job interviewing business, I will stick to that.


So, you have made it this far in the selection process. Your CV and Cover Letter had something that made them call you in. They are already interested in you! No one has the time to invite people to their workplace just for the sake of it. No one in their right mind, anyway. This is, however, where the most challenging part of the process begins.


You are probably starting to feel a confidence boost (rightfully) and can already visualise the job with you in it a bit more. Those are both great feelings, and you must hold on to them for as long as you can because when those fade away, a nastier emotion will emerge: nervousness.


Now, nervousness can be a good thing. Every recruiter or HR person knows that if you are nervous, it means that you care. But you do not want to risk it on the empathy of the interviewer. So, we will take some steps to help you overcome it. You should still be a bit nervous by the end of it, but it should not affect your performance once you are there. Here are some tips on what to do as soon as you get the invite.

  • Prepare yourself as much as you can. Research their neighbourhood, brand, product, company, past, present, and future. Rehearse your answers and revise your CV, figures, and goals. Take a look at this checklist to make sure you covered all your bases.

  • Dress to impress. The way I see it, wherever I go, I'd rather be overdressed. A tie may only sometimes be required, but you can rarely get it wrong with business attire or business casual.

  • Dress to impress YOURSELF. Wear something you are extremely comfortable and confident in. (Bonus Tip: this also applies if you have to deliver a speech or attend a networking event). How do you know you are on point? Looking at yourself in the mirror, you should aim for nothing less than a WOW, and none of it should hurt.

  • Choose the right colours. Different colours represent different personality traits. Check out this post on what to wear at job interviews.

  • Study your route to the meeting location as if your life depended on it. Ideally, get there the day before to familiarise yourself with the route and any disruptions you might encounter.

  • Suppose you are interviewing for a medium or large establishment such as a café, restaurant or shop. In that case, it might be a good idea to pop in for a coffee, a meal, or a stroll a few days before. I still haven't met an interviewer that wouldn't appreciate it. Just be careful not to look suspicious and get security called up on you.

  • Find the interviewer on LinkedIn and learn a few things about them. You may have a mutual acquaintance; you may have worked or studied in the same place. Anything more than this might cross over into the stalking zone.

  • Have a minimum of 3 copies of your CV neatly printed and filed tidily in a clean folder.

  • Stay sharp between your ears. Avoid going to sleep late the night before.


Now you are all set; the big day is getting nearer. You should feel super confident and supercharged. It's the night before. You have your WOW costume ready, dry cleaned, ironed, perfumed, perfect. The day has arrived. Get up early, have a light breakfast and leave your house with plenty of time to spare. If you get there too early, go to a nearby café and get some tea or water. Do some power poses in their bathroom. It's time to go. From the moment you walk into the building, you must think and act as if you are under strict surveillance. Now, think about the very nature of the service industry; the key quality of those who work in it must be a particular inclination towards dealing with people. If you don't, then you might want to ask yourself what you are doing there. So, remember that everyone you talk to, interact or cross paths with may have a say; never leave anything to chance.



DOs

  • Acknowledge every staff member you meet, whether they are dressed as cleaners, they are behind the reception desk, or just standing there.

  • Be polite, friendly, charming and smile to everyone you interact with.

  • Act, talk, and behave professionally.

  • Announce yourself to make sure the interviewer is informed that you have arrived.

  • Keep an eye on the person you spoke to; the interviewer will likely ask them to point at you once they arrive, so you will be aware when they do.

  • While you wait, positively look around to familiarise yourself with the environment while maintaining a confident posture and find something to compliment them for.

  • Get out of your coat and place it neatly somewhere it doesn't bother anyone.

  • Strike up a conversation with someone working there; it will help you relax your nerves and look friendly.


DONTs

  • Walk in like a mess; fix yourself before entering the building.

  • Do power poses in the middle of their lobby.

  • Be intrusive by interrupting people or using a loud tone of voice in a quiet environment (AKA the bull in a china shop, basically).

  • Treat people with superiority no matter what the position you are interviewing for is.

  • Play on your phone while you wait.

  • Be late or too early.

  • Drink coffee, smoke, or ingest anything heavy on your breath.

  • No chewing gums!

  • Ask for a drink unless you are asked to (you should bring some water while you wait). If offered a drink, water or a green/herbal tea should be your only choices.

  • Flirt with the receptionist.

  • Lay back or down on the chair.

  • Bring in a friend or family member unless you have a good reason to.

  • Make sure you don't have greasy hands; no creams or gels.


Waiting for a job interview


They are coming to pick you up; you have made eye contact with them since before they even spotted you (you know exactly what they look like because you have seen their picture on LinkedIn, remember?). So, you will do the following ten things:

  1. Stand up as if you had springs under your bottom.

  2. Keep eye contact; only lift it to thank the person who pointed them toward you with a nod.

  3. Prompt a firm but gentle handshake. You don't want to break their knuckles but want them to feel your hand.

  4. Good morning/afternoon/evening; thank you for inviting me over. It is such a pleasure to meet you finally.

  5. Let them lead the way, but walk next to them. Allow them to open doors for you; give them a sense that they are in control.

  6. Be mindful of staff members and other people; make sure you respect their space and operations. Hold doors for them.

  7. Greet and smile to everyone that makes eye contact with you.

  8. This is the only time you are allowed to initiate small talk.

  9. If you are wearing a blazer, do not take it off. Nor should you roll up your sleeves.

  10. Do not let your guard down.

Great, you have made an impression so far, but now more than ever, you should not relax. You are at the table (or anywhere your interview is taking place). You are still expected to maintain the high standards you have displayed. We will go through each interview type in other modules, but in general, here are some rules you must follow if you want to have a shot at this.

Whilst being asked a question:

  1. Do not space out and stop listening, not even for a moment.

  2. Positively nod to show you are engaged and understand.

  3. If you do not understand, ask them to repeat

  4. Do not interrupt.

  5. Always stay aware of your body language (back straight, chin up, smile and nod appropriately).

  6. Always keep eye contact (if you are dealing with more than one interviewer, shift your eyesight from one to the other)

When it's time to answer

  1. Take a moment to think of what you are going to say.

  2. Maintain an open and positive body language.

  3. Stick with answering their question and stay within the lines.

  4. Do not try too hard to humour them; always read the room first.

  5. Be aware of what you are doing with your hands, and use them to reinforce your openness, attentiveness, and positivity.

  6. Be truthful.

  7. Be confident.

  8. Be yourself.

Bonus tips:

  1. Let them lead the conversation.

  2. Do not overdo it with the jokes, but laugh at theirs'.

  3. Ask what is going to happen next.

  4. Ask smart questions.

  5. Thank everyone you interacted with on your way out.

Interviewing 101: The Basics of Preparing For a Job Interview.

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