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How to ACE your job interview
Disha Pinge
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July 30, 2007

Does the thought of going for an interview, make you break into a cold sweat? Most people do badly at job interviews not because they are incompetent but simply because they are just plain nervous.

Job interviews usually have two parts -- technical and HR. While the technical interview deals with your knowledge in the field, HR tests your personality and presence of mind. Here are a few tips on how to make a good impression at your job interview:

Dinesh Samtani, Divya Pinge and Srilaxmi Pai have only recently started working and are fresh on the job market. Here are some tips they had on how tackle difficult interview questions:

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: This is possibly the most common question asked; it is the answer to this question that gives your prospective employer the supremely important first impression. Most people tend to talk about their family -- what their parents do for a living and what their siblings are doing at the moment. This is NOT what the interviewer is interested in. Talk mostly about yourself -- your education, previous jobs, achievements, interests and strong points of your personality. Once you're done, give a very brief description of your family.

Q: What are your weaknesses? Or what would you like to change about yourself?

A: Although being honest is always better, make sure that your answer does not project you in a bad light. Saying things like "bad at decision making" or "not punctual" go against you. Always say things that can be converted into a positive. For instance: "I am forgetful but I am now trying to get over my weakness by keeping reminders on my phone and writing what I might forget"; You could even say: "I used to be disorganised but now I carry an electronic organiser to keep my phone numbers, deadlines etc". Never say things like "I don't see any weakness in myself", you might just end up annoying the interviewer.

Q: What are your strengths?

A: Some people might get carried away here and end up boasting. The interviewer is looking for skills that will benefit the company, so base your answer on what the company might want. Being a good team player, leadership qualities, analytical skills are among common virtues employers are looking for. Never lie about your virtues, it will catch up with you sooner or later. As always, honesty is the best policy.

Q: What is the one thing you would like to change about your college/ previous office?

A: Always say things that are not too negative. Complaining about your prior bosses or professors shows you in a bad light. Talk of things that are small but not inconsequential. Srilaxmi, for instance, said that she wanted the library timings to be extended.

Q: What would your prior boss/ professor have to say about you?

A:  It is good to be prepared for this question. Ask your professor or boss to write a recommendation letter for you if possible. This is useful to present to the interviewer. State what the person would say and then present the letter as proof. This gives the impression of a well-prepared and confident person.

Q: What do you know about our company?

A: Make sure you do your homework before you appear for an interview. Read up on the company's history, progress report and statistics. A small margin is permissible while stating figures but it is best avoided.

Q: Why should I hire you?

A: It's a safe bet to say that you are the best person for the job. But don't sound boastful or pompous. Base your claims with solid results, tell the interviewer why you stand out among all the others and give examples of your expertise.

Q: Name one thing you want to change about yourself.

A: Here, the interviewer will tempt you to sound negative. Never say that you are perfect but at the same time, touch upon you weaknesses in such a way that they seem insignificant. Name an incident in the past that you faltered in, then show that you have now improved.

Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

A: It's good to talk of your progress with respect to the company. The interviewer needs to understand that you are not just job-hopping. Things like you see yourself at a much higher post that the one you are applying for, will work in your favour. Tell them that you hope that this job will make you a better professional than you already are and you will also help the company to improve in the department you are going to be working. Then go on to show by your examples what you are doing to reach your goals and objectives.

Q: Do you think your qualifications make you eligible for this job? What has the course taught you?

A: The interviewer probably knows all about your course pattern and has probably studied it himself/ herself. There is no point in discussing it academically; use a more behavioural approach. Your education has made your basics are clear, you have a strong foundation on which to build a career, it has not only taught you the technical aspects of the job you are about to take up but also made you a better professional are all good responses.

Q: Would you call yourself a team player?

A: The obvious answer to this answer is yes. But the way you support this answer is what makes all the difference. Always keep a few instances of when you showed team spirit in mind. It helps to display your ability. Another way in which this question can be asked is by giving you an actual case. The interviewer puts you in a situation and asks what you will do. It is important to think quick and come up with answers showing that you can bring out the best in others and yourself, believe in organisation, communication and delegation of tasks etc.

The following questions test not your character but your presence of mind. It is important to be alert when faced with these questions, don't take too long to answer:

Q: What part of your body would you hide if you were on the street completely naked?

A: My face, obviously, so no one would know it's me.

Q: What is the colour of the wall behind you?

A: The same as the colour of the wall in front of me. Never turn back and answer this! There is a possibility that the colour might be different but most rooms are painted the same colour. Looking at the interiors of the room you can gauge whether it has a feature (differently coloured) wall or not.

Q: Suppose you have a brother. You go home and open the door and there he is totally naked in front of you. What would you do?

A: I'd pick him up and go put his nappies on him. No one told you your brother's age!

Q: Why are manhole covers round and not square?

A: Because the square cover can fall down if kept vertically along the diagonal.

Q: What is the fastest thing on earth? Why?

A: The mind is the fastest thing. It can be at two places at once and can travel continents in a matter of seconds.

Q: If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?

A: The last thing you want to do here is say any random colour that comes to your head and then give a justification. Think about your best quality, and then associate it with an appropriate colour. For example: "I think I would be blue because I'm very calm and composed at all times. I can keep my head cool in the most stressful situation and take difficult decisions."

These questions are tough but are not really a deciding factor in the interview. Your overall personality and disposition can always convince the interviewer to consider you for the post despite whatever happens in the interview. Calm your nerves and think clearly. Honesty and clarity can impress the employer but a know-it-all attitude is career suicide. Keep these simple tips in mind and you should sail through those nerve-racking interviews!

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