In a world where 51% of workers change jobs every one to five years and 82% of workers are open to new opportunities, the job market keeps on getting tighter and tighter. It’s not a numbers game, though; it’s a talent game where 45% of recruiters report having difficulty finding the right talents due to skill shortages.
With such tough competition, the ‘job interview’ still remains the first gateway through which you can showcase your skills and get the job of your dreams. In this article, we share with you nine years of experience’s worth of advice that can help you ace your next job interview.
Before the Interview
Let’s start with what happens before the interview. When you get that initial call and get all excited about the possibility of getting a new job that you love, pause and transform this excitement into action.
1. Research the Company
Who are they? Where do they stand in the market? What are their biggest successes? What are their biggest challenges? How can you help? Really, how can you help? They are going to ask you about it. Remember the classic interview question that goes, ‘what can you bring to our company?’. This is it. This is when you prepare for this question.
After all, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ ― Benjamin Franklin
2. Show up ‘on time’
You’ll think it’s ridiculous but I did get job candidates one and two hours late for their interviews. Seriously, not a good impression. What is even worse are the ‘no-shows’, the candidates who do not even show up and may not even call to apologize. Not only is this unprofessional, but it is insulting and a huge waste of time for the people waiting for you. Remember, you may not want the job, but it’s a small world and you definitely want your reputation. So, if you are no longer interested, give a call.
3. Dress for the occasion
Formal is best if it is the dress code of the organization you’re applying to. On the other hand, if it’s not their dress code, then semi-formal is the best way to go. Think pants or a skirt and a decent collared shirt. Sunglasses are a no-no ‘during’ the interview and a cool leather jacket may be great, but not for this occasion. For women, tone down the make-up and go for a more natural look. Also, if you are going to wear heels, wear ones that are going to make you feel confident and comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, it’ll be obvious and will not reflect well on you.
During the interview, it’s needless to say that you need to smile and maintain calm and eye contact with all your interviewers. But what some people get wrong is the answers to some common interview questions, so here are some of them, how to ace them, and how to avoid falling into the most common interview pitfalls.
1. Tell us about yourself.
The worst answer you could give is the ‘it’s all in the CV’ answer, or ‘you can check the CV’. The interviewer is not an idiot; they know the information is in the CV. What they want to do is fact-check that what you’re telling in the CV is true. They want to hear it from you to see if you can get it all right the way it is on paper.
There is something else; this is also your opportunity to say what you cannot say on paper. Don’t just spill out your job titles; instead talk about your responsibilities, promotions, and achievements.
2. Tell us about a time when you demonstrated great leadership, teamwork, etc.
Now, the above is just an example, but this is a question that is often asked in interviews with variations of the characteristic they are looking for. In this question, the worst you can do is jump to the conclusion that you don’t remember, comment that the question is strange or difficult, or keep beating around the bush by talking about what you ‘generally’ do instead of mentioning specific situations.
What you need to do is ‘take time to think’. One of the saddest behaviors I’ve observed in interviews is that candidates are under the impression that they must answer right away. On the contrary, taking time to think will most probably yield a more well-structured and suitable answer.
The best way to answer this question is to follow the ‘STAR’ model, which stands for ‘situation- task- action- result’. This means you should state what the ‘situation’ was, explain why this situation was challenging and, accordingly, what ‘task’ needed to be accomplished, then state what ‘action’ you took to resolve the situation and what the ‘results’, hopefully positive, of your actions were.
For example, when asked about a time when you demonstrated high teamwork skills, here are the different ways you can answer and the way the different answers would be rated:
- Low– ‘I usually have high teamwork skills. I like working in teams. They make us faster and produce better results. It also makes work much more fun. I don’t remember a situation now but everyone I know tells me that I’m a good team player.’
- Medium– ‘I remember a situation where I demonstrated high teamwork skills. There was an important company event that around 700 people were invited to. I was tasked with organizing the event, I gathered a team, we worked really well together, and the event was a success.’
- High– ‘I remember a situation where I demonstrated high teamwork skills. There was an important company event that around 700 people were invited to. I was given the responsibility of making all the arrangements. It was very challenging because it all happened in under a one-week notice. In one week, I had to book the hotel, prepare the event program agenda, coordinate it with all speakers, send out the 700 invites, confirm attendance, arrange the rooming preferences, handle the finances, and market for the event. I, instantly, knew that I could not do it all on my own, so I asked for the help of some of my co-workers, we established a team, and we distributed the tasks among us according to our strengths. I handled the preparation of the program agenda and the coordination with the speakers as these were the most critical tasks. Thankfully, we succeeded in pulling the event off on time. It was clear that most employees were happy about it and the post-event satisfaction surveys were above 90%. The CEO thanked me personally and I was even given an award of appreciation. I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t known the importance of a team.’
3. Tell us about your biggest weakness.
I know some people cringe at the sight of this question. It’s a cliche but it’s also a classic. Now, the worst way to answer this question is to say that you have no weaknesses, or that you don’t know them, or that others should tell you about them but you cannot discover them yourself. These answers do not make you look any good; on the contrary, they make you look like you have low self-awareness. Bad answers are also the ones that involve strengths disguised into weaknesses, like ‘I pay too much attention to details’ or ‘I put more hours in work than I should’. They are just not true; they present you as someone who is simply not trustworthy.
The best way to answer this question is to talk about a real weakness that you have. But what you need to pay attention to is that the weakness you mention should not directly affect performance on the job you’re applying to. When you think about it, we all have flaws. But it’s just a bad match to have an accountant with no attention to details or a customer service representative with bad communication skills. Your interviewer does not want to know you’re perfect; they want to know you’re a good match.
4. Why did you leave your previous job?
Be honest. The worst thing you can do is lie. If you do, you may be doing yourself an injustice of repeating a negative career choice again. If you have left your previous company because of a lack of career growth, mention it, so that if there’s no growth in the company you’re applying to, you’ll save yourself another year of working in a job that does not match your needs. If you have left because of a manager with an authoritarian style, say that, so that they would know if you are a good match with the kind of management they have.
However, no matter how honest, remember you still need to refrain from bad-mouthing anyone. Try to keep things generic and get your point across with diplomacy.
5. Why do you want to work here?
There must be a reason really. And it’s not ‘you need people, I need a job, so I applied’. In the end, work is something you’ll be doing eight hours a day, so you’d better believe in what you’re doing. Is there something about the company mission that is compelling to you? Does their vision strike a chord in your heart? Have you always dreamed of working in a culture like theirs? Is there something you’re looking forward to learning from them? Do you simply enjoy doing the work activities that the job requires?
Yes, we are all ‘passionate about not starving to death’. But what interviewers want to know is, beyond this primary motivation, if there is something else that will keep you going. The truth is money can guarantee job attendance, but only a higher purpose can guarantee job performance.
6. Do you have any questions for us?
At this point, think well, you should only ask if there is something you actually would like to know. Do not ask only for the sake of asking. On the other hand, a classic mistake that candidates do here is that they ask about the salary or the number of vacation days per year. Yes, it’s your right to know. It’s just not the right ‘timing’. These questions are better kept to when you actually get an offer. Then, you know that you’re accepted and it becomes the right time to ask these questions to be able to make an informed career decision.
I hope you find these pieces of advice helpful and I sincerely wish you land a job that you love. Remember, though, that no matter how well-prepared you are for a job interview, it won’t matter if you’re actually not prepared for the job. To make sure you have the skills needed to get the job of your dreams, visit our app https://knowledgeofficer.com, select your dream career, start learning, and, as you learn, start applying to the jobs we’ll be recommending you.
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