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Kung fu style career advice
A job interview is much like a first date.
Every little step is agonised over -- your wardrobe, conversation, body language -- and analysed and even the smallest misstep could result in disaster. While this does sound a bit dramatic, if you look back at the various interviews you've had over the years, chances are you'll agree.
But please note: it's not just the interview that needs to be nailed, folks!
There's a lot that goes into the interview process much before you and your interviewer actually meet face to face. There's the call that the recruiter makes showing interest in your CV and profile, there's the actual setting up of the interview, e-mail exchanges organising the interview, the interview itself and the post interview follow-up.
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Along the way you've got to ensure that you put your best foot forward at every step. So, to help you along the pitted path to job hunting success, here are some pointers on bloopers you should avoid:
~ Once you get the interview call, fix a time and date and that's all! Restrict the conversation to the essentials -- date, time, address, name and designation of the interviewer and their contact number. Do not chat about the weather, or your current job (the details of which should be on your CV anyway) or never about your compensation expectations or asking about the salary being offered (save this for the interview or chat with HR). Don't be shy to ask for directions either; it'll save you an embarrassing explanation later on why you showed up late.
~ Even though you might be in frequent contact with the recruiter, make sure you continue to maintain a certain level of formality in your interactions. Do not be attempt to be chatty or friendly by asking about the recruiter's experience with the company (a definite no-no) or other details that are not directly relevant to your interview. This extends to SMS as well. Do not take the liberty of sending text messages or calling your recruiter or interviewer on his/her cell unless specifically asked to.
~In e-mails with your prospective recruiter be formal in the language you use. Spell out all the words and DO NOT use emoticons or texting short forms in an e-mail or innappropriate or impolite language like -- 'gimme the details'.
Puja Singha*, a recruiter with an IT firm company in Bangalore, recalls this particular candidate: "She was running late for the interview and sent me a an SMS that went: 'Hi Puja, m rng lt. bad traffc. :-( will b ter in 30 mins'. Not only was it inappropriate to be so casual, it was quite irritating. It immediately created a negative impression even before we had met."
~ If you are setting up a meeting by e-mail, make sure you clearly mention what the e-mail is about in the subject line. Something like 'Re: Application for job opening with XYZ Co' is more likely to get read than a vague 'My profile' or 'My CV'. The e-mail should be brief and to-the-point: the position you are interested in, how you heard about the vacancy, a date and time for the interview, your contact details and CV attached. Do not waste time describing how much you respect the organisation (the interviewer does not have the time to read through unimportant information) or your current job profile (the relevant details will be in your CV anyway).
Anil Mehta*, an HR professional working with a web solutions compnay in Mumbai, cites this example: "I once received a letter saying: 'Respected Sir, I am desirous of gaining employment in your esteemed orgainsation. I have for many years followed the developments and advancements your company has made and having heard of the vacancy of Sales Manager, I am hopeful of joining your company. I have attached my biodata herewith for your kind perusal.' I mean who talks like that anymore!"
"All I really want is a line stating the position being applied to and the CV. It can be very frustrating wading through piles and piles of long, super-formal applications that actually convey nothing at all," says Anil.
~ When setting up the interview, do not ask for an interview via e-mail or over the telephone. There is a lot that an interviewer can tell from the personal interview, which is why they are 'one-on-one' in the first place. The fact that you ask for either an e-mail or phone interview might suggest that you have something to hide or worse, that you think that your time is too precious to 'waste' on travelling to the interviewer's office.
~ If you need to cancel an appointment call the interviewer, apologise for the inconvenience caused and simply state that you will not be able to make it at the specified time. Either ask for another appointment or say that you will call back when you are sure of when you can re-schedule -- that is all the information an interviewer is looking for. No long explanations about how the alarm didn't go off or how your dog suddenly took ill. You will need to give an explanation though and if it is one of the above or something similarly irrelevant, avoid mentioning it. Do not cite reasons that might give your interviewer the impression that this job is unimportant to you.
~ Once the appointment is fixed, be on time! Nothing makes a worse impression than showing up late. Before leaving for the interview double check that you have the interviewer's contact number, address and directions and the contact number of the person who set up the interview. If you are on you way and certain of being late, call immediately to inform them. Again, apologise and offer a 'relevant' explanation -- bad traffic, bad weather, getting delayed at your current employer. Now we're not encouraging you to lie, but the fact that you are late is bad enough without you offering silly reasons like you forgot it was Thursday or you lost the directions.
~Reserve time for an interview. Don't appear to be in a hurry. If you have come for a job interview and look like need to dash away at the earliest a recruiter or interviewer will assume you are not really interested in the job.
~ After the interview, ask any questions you might have about the job or company, thank the interviewer for his/her time and leave. If you happened to show up late, you might want to apologise once again. Do not attempt to make small talk, the interviewer most probably has other people to meet and other things to do.
~ It's usually a good idea to follow up an interview with an e-mail thanking him/her. Again, be brief and try not to come off like you are trying to score brownie points. A line of thanks and another saying you hope they will be in touch regarding the job should suffice. Be careful not assume the position is already yours no matter how well the interview went until you get a formal offer. Do not go overboard describing how privileged you feel that you met or how you have always dreamed of working at XYZ Co, not only will this be a waste of the person's time, it will also probably irritate him/her and cost you some points. Again, do not abbreviate words as you might in an SMS to a friend and no emoticons.
~ Post-interview etiquette also does not permit 'adding' your recruiter or interviewer to your social networking list of friends or sending 'e-mail forwards' to the person's official (or unofficial for that matter) e-mail address. It is important to maintain a certain distance and respect for the fact that the person is your interviewer and not a college pal. Committing this blooper almost certainly conveys a certain immaturity on your part, which is not something you would want.
The purpose of the whole interview process is to make a good impression on the interviewer or recruiter not by trying to ingratiate yourself using flattery or flowery language but by being brief, relevant and respectful.
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