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Called for an interview? Here's what you can do
September 28, 2004
ou have been called for an interview. You need the job. You want to put your best foot forward. What do you do?
Here are some suggestions that should help.
Do some homework. Research the company and its position. If possible, research the people you will meet at the interview as well.
Review your work experience. Be ready to support past career accomplishments with specific information targeted toward the company's needs. Have your facts ready.
Begin role-playing (rehearsing) with a friend, relative or by yourself. Practise answering common questions that interviewers would ask. (Some examples would be 'Describe your job profile in your last company', 'What would you say are your goals?', 'What can you bring to this company?' etc).
Avoid negative comments about past employers.
Listen and adapt
Be sensitive to the style of the interviewer. Pay attention to details of dress, office furniture and general décor, which will afford helpful clues to assist you in tailoring your presentation.
Try to relate your answers to the interviewer and his/her company. Focus on achievements relevant to the position you are applying for.
Encourage the interviewer to share information about his or her company. Demonstrate your interest. Try to define your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to talk about your professional goals.
What you wear and your body language count during interviews.
Interviewers are regular people like the rest of us, easily impressed by good behaviour and just as easily offended by inappropriate behaviour. Here are some pointers:
1. Reread your CV before any interview. Chances are the interviewer will too and you must know what's in it.
2. Collect and arrange your important papers and work samples neatly in a briefcase or portfolio. This makes you look organised and professional.
3. Practise good hygiene. Comb or brush your hair and dress appropriately.
Even if you know the company dress is business casual, dress up anyway. It shows professionalism and respect. Dress conservatively and avoid bright, flashy colours. Avoid wearing strong perfume or cologne.
4. Unless otherwise instructed, arrive five to 10 minutes early for the interview. This shows you are eager and punctual.
Don't arrive more than 10 minutes early -- it might be inconvenient for your interviewers. Definitely do not be late.
5. Don't bring uninvited guests. Turn off your cell phone, pager or any other device that might interrupt your interview.
During the interview...
1. Smile, immediately offer a firm handshake, introduce yourself, and say something like, "I'm pleased to meet you" or "I've been looking forward to talking with you."
2. Read the mood. If the interviewer is formal, you probably should be, too. If the interviewer is casual, follow along, while remaining courteous and professional. In any case, appear to be relaxed, but not too relaxed.
3. Wait to be told to take a seat or ask if you may. Then say thank you.
4. Sit with a good posture. If you don't know what to do with your hands, keep them folded in your lap. Do not fidget.
5. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Avoid staring or you might make the interviewer uncomfortable. But don't look away too often either.
6. Don't eat, drink, chew gum or smoke or even ask if it is okay.
If the interviewer offers coffee or other beverages, it is okay to accept. It is probably better to say, 'No, thanks,' to snacks (unless you're at an interview meal).
7. It is okay to ask questions -- it helps you answer questions the interviewer asks you better.
But withhold the bulk of your questions until the interviewer asks if you have any, which is typically toward the end of the interview.
Avoid asking frivolous questions just because interviewers expect you to have questions. Ask about important matters, like job duties, management style and the financial health of the company.
It is not a good idea to ask questions about vacation, sick days, lunch breaks and so on. These can wait until follow-up interviews.
Typically, you will negotiate salary, benefits, perks and such in a follow-up interview. Regardless, don't bring it up until asked. But be ready to discuss it at any time.
After the interview...
1. Send a thank you letter immediately after you have finished to each of your interviewers.
To get their contact number, ask for business cards during interviews. Sending a thank-you letter is professional and courteous and will help make you stand out in the minds of your interviewers.
2. Be prepared to attend two or three interviews at the same company. If you are called for another interview, it means they are interested in you. But they are also narrowing the competition, so keep up the good work!
3. Be patient. It is not unusual for interviewers to take weeks to narrow the competition.
If you don't hear from them in about a week or 24 hours or so, don't call without permission. Interviewers might consider it rude of applicants to interrupt their workday with unsolicited calls.
What was your job interview like? How did you impress your interviewer? Let us know.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
Abha Kapoor is co-founder of K & J Search Consultants, a premier Mumbai placement agency.