The interview

The interview

PREPARATORY WORK

A successful interview in the process of job seeking can to a large extent be attributed to thorough preparatory work.  Before entering a job interview situation, you would probably have dealt with the paper work (CV,  résumé and covering letter) successfully. The interview more than often logically flows from these documents.  It is therefore imperative that you are sure of every detail contained in these documents.

It is furthermore important to do research on the company you are approaching which will enable you to deal with anticipated questions in this regard.

Documentation and research does however form only part of being prepared. We shall therefore give you further guidelines regarding the interview as it relates to the willingness to listen to the interviewer, presenting yourself adequately, anticipating questions by the interviewer or selection panel and formulating questions you genuinely need to have answered.

ARRIVING AS RELAXED AS POSSIBLE

In order to avoid a stressful arrival, you should know exactly where to go (where the interview will take place) and at what time you need to be there.   It is also suggested that you should confirm the appointment, the time at which it will take place and by whom it will be conducted, the day before it actually happens.

Candidates are often advised to take a test drive a day or two before the actual interview and to acquaint themselves with the traffic conditions in order to arrive in time for the interview (say ten minutes before it starts).

Although a measure of tension -which is positive- is normal given any interview situation, it is essential that anxiety will be contained to avoid the potential negative effects.

Presenting yourself: 

Much has been written about interview techniques and advice in this regard is easily accessible. The difficulty with such advice is that it could result in superficial behaviour based on techniques and gimmicks rather than getting to know somebody better. A few fundamental remarks in this respect seem to be appropriate:

Listen:
Many candidates are so much aware of themselves and their body language as well as the answers they think they should give, that they forget or neglect to listen to the questions of the interviewer.  It is imperative for the candidate to listen and grasp the essence of each question.

Answers: 
Keep your answers formal, brief and to the point. Address the essence of what was asked and answer clearly and effectively within the given time constraints. Try not to exceed two minutes, unless the question justifies more.

Be yourself:
The interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your positive qualities which you should do. It is important though to be truthful to yourself, to your own identity, to the person you are. Emphasize the positives, but be prepared to acknowledge shortcomings and weaknesses if asked to do so.

Avoid defensive behaviour:
Candidates should be aware of the fact that some questions could be experienced as -or indeed may be- provocative. Answer these questions as clinically and objectively as possible and be clear about differences of opinion without being emotional.

Be positive: 
Employers hold positive attitudes in high regard as it does add value to business activities and initiatives. It serves no purpose to be negative about your previous positions and employers, although you might be prompted to do so. Rather refer to previous situations as learning experiences.

Appearance and body language:   
You would obviously dress appropriately, be well groomed and behave appropriately. As far as body language is concerned, it is important to make eye contact, to sit up straight and lean forward at times. According to the literature leaning forward suggests sincere interest, enthusiasm and motivation.  If you have decided to have the interview for the right reasons, you will genuinely be interested and motivated and this will in any case be apparent.

SENSITIVE AREAS

Usually matters such as service conditions and remuneration packages will be dealt with once the employer has decided to make you an offer with a view to appointing you. The best strategy in this respect is probably to leave these matters aside unless the situation develops in such a way that it should be addressed.

ANTICIPATING QUESTIONS

A number of general questions are often asked during interviews. Examples of such typically asked questions and how they could be dealt with is briefly mentioned.

Why have you applied for this position?
The interviewer probably needs to find out how much you know about the company and its future development potential.  The best way of dealing with this matter is to do research about the company before you enter the interview situation. Try to be as realistic and positive as possible avoiding smooth talk and flattery

What qualifies you for this position?
Clearly describe your core competence, qualifications, achievements and experience as it relates to the job requirements. Again be positive about your strengths and qualities while keeping realism in mind.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Prepare to deal with your strengths as mentioned above.  The question regarding weaknesses is probably asked to find out whether you are able to identify your weaknesses as it relates to the job you have applied for. Furthermore it is important to know how you deal with your weaknesses and whether you are able to transform a weakness towards a positive change.

Why are you prepared to resign from your present position?
Be prepared to share your thoughts on your own career development. Do not be negative, hostile or insulting regarding your previous work place. Rather give a positive future perspective on your personal and career planning.

How do you deal with stress?
This question is directed at your ability to deal with stressful conflicts and pressures at work. Be prepared to share your thoughts on causes of conflict and the reality thereof. The bottom line is to communicate respect in interpersonal relationships and problem solving.

PREPARING YOUR OWN QUESTIONS

Candidates are often given the opportunity to pose questions they may have at the end of the interview.  This opportunity should be used economically and sensibly. If you do have a few questions (probably not more than four)  that you need to ask, do so without hesitation.  Examples of questions are:

  • Could you give me an organisation chart of the company so that I can orientate myself within the context of the company?
  • What does the future hold for the company in a constantly changing environment?
  • Does the company use a performance management system?
  • What do you expect me to accomplish in this company if I were to be appointed?

Recommended reading:
Joubert, D.  2009: Write the winning CV. Zebra Press: Cape Town.