Job Interview Techniques

You've sent your CV for the job that you know will be perfect for you, and the employer has called you back to arrange an interview. What now?

The keys to a successful interview are preparation and follow-up. In this, it is a very good idea to bear in mind what the employer will be looking for from you. Simply put, the employer will be trying to establish that you have both the skills and the desire to do the job well. This will dictate not only the questions you may expect, but often enough, the kind(s) of interview as well. However, regardless of what the employer may choose to throw at you, your first step in the way of preparation is research.

You can be certain that some of the first things an employer will ask you are, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why do you want to work with us?”. Having a good idea of the employer's past performance and future plans can help you answer these questions, and put you at advantage in the competition for the job. Check the organisation's website. Do not be afraid to call ahead to clarify details of the position for which you are applying, or to solicit company literature. It may prove profitable to search the Web for news articles pertaining to the organisation. The biggest advantage of all this is that it allows you to more accurately envision how your skills and talents can benefit the employer, allowing you to navigate the course of the interview more agilely.

It is always a good idea to practise ahead of the interview. Call on a friend to help you in this, if you can. Try to cover the most common questions. It is not a bad idea to record your responses and review them afterwards. Try as well to anticipate questions that may be specific to the position. Many interviews will be competency-based: you may wish to consider ahead of time your replies to questions that request you detail specific incidents during past employment that demonstrate the skills, attitudes, and knowledge required for the position in question – it should be possible to anticipate the likeliest questions.

You may find yourself called on to participate in a telephone interview, which is frequently used to screen candidates. Indeed, for certain kinds of work dealing with the public by phone, this may prove to be the main interview. You do have an advantage here in that you can keep written notes on hand to aid you, but, as the interviewer is in effect entering into your space, it is a very good idea to make preparations ahead of time to ensure that extraneous noise doesn't intrude into the conversation.

The day of the interview, do make it a point to be, if anything, early. Make it a point to know (and use) the interviewer's name. Have extra copies of your CV and references on hand. Dress appropriately. You may call ahead to ascertain the dress code, but err on the side of conservatism: conservative cut, sober colours, and minimal accessories are all good ideas.

During the interview itself, cultivate calmness: remember that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification when you have not fully grasped a question, and it is equally acceptable to take a moment to compose your thoughts so as to reply fully. If you are required to recount specific achievements and incidents from your past, remain crisp and to the point: do not allow yourself to meander. Don't be afraid to ask questions about policies relevant to the position, the work environment, working hours and other matters that might not have been well covered by the job description you've received. Not only is the employer assessing you for fit, the reverse is true. “Do you have any further questions?” is not a formality.

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and restate your interest in the position; you'll want to follow up with a thank-you note doing the same, usually between 24 and 48 hours after the interview. This latter can sometimes be the deciding factor when an employer is presented with candidates of roughly equal qualifications.