Have a successful job interview and land your dream job!
After much work you have finally found the perfect job. You fit all the criteria and you just know you would be perfect for it. You update your CV, write a cover letter that highlights your key strengths and send everything off. The only thing left to do is to keep a keen eye on your mobile and wait for it to buzz.
Or is it? In this article you can read up on what an HR Manager’s tips are for ensuring that you are fully prepared for that grand day: the job interview.
Before the interview
Olof Tydén, pictured on the left, works as Head of Recruiting and HR for a mid-size company. His work profile includes every aspect of employee recruitment and relations, from working with interns all the way up to top management recruitment. Olof’s real-world experience has shown him that job candidates who are really interested in a job can stand out by contacting the prospective employer to get more relevant information for a job before sending out a job application.
"Call them and present yourself. Politely ask if you can take a few minutes of their time to ask some general questions, such as: What types of employees are you looking for? What kind of challenges would employees face in the prospective job? Is there particular skill-set or type of work experience that the employer sees as necessary to excelling in the job? What is the company's outlook for the future?"
The best case scenario is that making contact allows you to produce a tailor-made CV for the employer based on what you learned, which concretely shows how you are the best fit for the company’s needs and challenges. In the worst case scenario, you will gain a more in-depth picture of the position and find out that the job isn’t a good match for your needs and life situation. "Then you will be free to look elsewhere", says Olof.
What’s the best way to prepare for the best possible outcome in the interview?
Prepare 2 presentations about yourself; a shorter and longer one. Some questions to answer are: Who are you? Where are you coming from academically and professionally? What do you do? Explain why you have applied for this job and tie this in with how your life story/work background is tangibly relevant for the job on offer. Make sure that you practise answering these questions and develop answers that sound convincing, though not rehearsed. In the second, longer presentation you should be able to provide more in-depth answers.
Study and find out as much as you can on the company, the job on offer and maybe look up a few key staff members. This could include someone who you know will be interviewing you, or perhaps the top management that run the company. The easiest way to do this is by visiting the company website, learning more about their field of operations, the company history, and their presence today. If possible, try and discover the areas handled by the department in which you will possibly be working. But make sure you also formulate your own list of questions and bring them to the interview. It's important to know that that it's ok to ask questions relating to the job you will potentially be doing.
Dress for the job you want
"Dress in a way that you think will fit the company’s business environment. It’s never good to arrive to a work interview with inappropriate clothing, and being over-dressed can be as dangerous as being sloppy or under-dressed", says Olof.
"Last but not least, be certain to arrive on time to the interview. Don't arrive too early and obviously not too late either. Arriving just about 5 minutes early is perfect. 20 minutes is too much. If you are 20 minutes early perhaps you can walk around the block and review what you have learned about the company in preparation for the interview".
What should you focus on while the interview is taking place?
"First impressions are crucial. Upon meeting the interviewer, firmly shake their hand and hold eye contact. You should try to feel relaxed and keep up a bit of light talk. It’s the responsibility for the interviewer to create a pleasant environment for the interviewee while the interview is taking place, so don't put too much pressure on yourself to 'create the right vibe'. Show genuine interest, be receptive and believe in yourself", Olof adds.
Another piece of advice is to be receptive to the hints that the recruiter gives in regards to the interview schedule. The interviewer is the one leading the interview, so don't give answers that are too long or drawn out. Also, try as much as you can to just be yourself. Being natural is important, so that your personality and skill shines through in how you answer questions, and not just the content of what you say. Your answers should help the interviewer draw up a picture of you that will continue to become more complete as the interview goes forward. Clear and straightforward answers will show the interviewer that you have what it takes to fill the position. Honesty is important!
"If you are not sure about certain questions or what answers to provide, make sure to ask the interviewer to repeat the question or explain the question to you. Could you explain? Was this enough to answer your question? Were you thinking of something else? are all legitimate questions to ask. It's also fine to to take brief breaks during the interview to think about the best answers to give to some of the more difficult questions. A few moments of silence while you think carefully about what you're saying are nothing to be afraid of", advises Olof.
What should happen after the interview?
It can be a good idea to show your intent and professionalism by sending a quick post-interview message to the interviewer, thanking them for taking the time to meet you. If your interest in the company has grown since the interview, you should mention this in the message. "Be cordial but not too pushy", says Olof. "You want to sound like you are genuinely grateful for the opportunity you have been given... but not desperate!".
Practise answering these questions before the interview:
1. Who are you?
Prepare a short, about 3-5 minute presentation about yourself, and another longer, roughly 10 minute version. In this longer version you can mention your background, including your educational experience and employment history. Always have an updated version of your CV to hand, too.
2. What do you know about our company?
Do some research and make sure you know the basics of what the company does and where they are looking to go in the future.
3. What do you know about our company’s field of operations?
Read up on the company's area of operation, their position on the market and their biggest competitors.
4. Why are you applying for this exact work position?
What excites you about the position on offer? How can you excel in the role, making a positive contribution to the organisation while developing as an individual?
5. What are your strengths? Name at least 3.
What would your current and former colleagues say about you? What are your key qualities? How do these help you excel in the workplace?
6. What are your development areas? Name at least 3.
Think about areas in which you can realistically improve. Again, ask those who are close to you - friends, family members, former employers - to truthfully tell you what parts of your personality or work attitude you could work on to be even better at what you do.
7. What will we get if we hire you?
Why are you the right fit for the job and the wider company? Explain what you are prepared to do to get the job and how you will benefit the organisation once you are settled in the role.
8. What are your future plans?
Where do you see yourself in the short-, medium- and long-term future? What are your ultimate career ambitions and how does the position on offer slot perfectly into your career progression plans?