Ready for work: Putting your best foot forward during an interview
It is really exciting when you are close to finishing your degree and you have just landed a job interview at a company where you would love to work. You have put in the effort, applied for the job and now your hard work has opened a door for you. However, despite the initial excitement, the job interview is still a nerve-racking experience for most people. The best way to overcome this is adequate preparation.
It is important to be aware that you will be competing with other strong candidates for the same position and you have to ensure that you stand out among them.
‘On the one hand you should present yourself in the best possible way, on the other hand you should also shift the spotlight from yourself towards the company and the job that you are keen to get,’ explains Dr Jana Slippers from the Communication Management Division at the University of Pretoria.
‘Employers are looking for employees with a specific skills set. There is a lot to learn from companies like Google – one of the most desirable employers to work for. A smart company will only be interested in employing the smartest people,’ Dr Slippers adds.
According to Google South Africa, interviewers will look for evidence that you are a leader who is self-motivated and can get things done. Your ability to work well in a team might also be tested, as teamwork forms an important part of the corporate environment.
A job interview offers a company the opportunity to determine if you are good fit for the position and what skills and benefits you would bring. Employers’ required skills for employees also change constantly, and you should be aware of what might be expected of you.
The other side of the coin is that this offers you an opportunity to establish whether you can associate with the potential employer. It is essential that you prepare questions that you would like to ask the interviewer. You might find that you have lost interest in the position after posing your questions, so finding a good fit is key in the interview process.
This puts the focus on other key abilities that will make you more sought-after in the workplace: making decisions and solving problems; communicating well verbally and in writing; planning, organising and prioritising work; obtaining and processing information; technical knowledge related to the job; and interpersonal effectiveness.
Dr Slippers gives the following advice to help you before, during and after the interview:
Before the interview
- Research the company to help you understand its history and what it stands for – its vision and mission, products, services, financial situation and culture. This will also help you decide on the appropriate level of formality during the interview.
- Get information about the job to understand the skills, experience and knowledge required. (You can expect to be tested on some of these skills.)
- Ask yourself why you want to work for the company and whether you fit into its corporate culture.
- List possible questions and prepare answers (but present your answers in a natural speaking style). The interview may include questions about your accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses; personal goals; ideal careers paths; problem-solving examples or situations; and (realistic) salary expectations.
- Know your CV, as you might be required to answer questions about specific details in it.
- Give yourself enough time to find the address and offices where the interview will take place – arriving late is not an option.
During the interview
- First impressions matter – approach the interviewer (or panel) energetically, be friendly and follow the interviewer’s lead.
- Sit upright in your chair to indicate interest and maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s), but also include other panel members. Your body language is as important (if not more so) than the words you use.
- Avoid yes/no answers. Back up answers with examples from experience, but be concise and keep to the point.
- Listen to the questions and make sure you answer them thoroughly – if necessary ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase a question.
- Do not lie or pretend – you can be honest about things that you still need to learn.
- Initiate questions when given the opportunity. This is also your chance to determine whether this is the right fit for you. Pose questions in such a way that the interviewer sees you as being interested and confident.
After the interview
- Thank the interviewer or panel for the invitation and their time.
- Enquire about the next step – who will you hear from and when?
- Follow up with a thank you letter or email reiterating your interest in the position.
- Let them know if you changed your mind or decided to take another job offer.
- Be patient – it is unlikely that you will be hired immediately, but do not be overbearing by following up on the outcome of the interview too frequently.
Register for the free online module in Introduction to Interview Skills as part of the Ready for Work campaign presented by Career Services in collaboration with Enterprises University of Pretoria launching in March or boost your communication and presentation skills today with the Professional Communication at Work workshop. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 (0)12 434 2500.
– Author Career Services and Enterprises UP