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Career Building Series - Part 2: Top 10 tips to ace your next job interview

A piece by Venita Januarie – Stellenbosch, South Africa

According to LinkedIn, the majority of job seekers say the interview phase is "moderately to extremely challenging" for two reasons: uncertainty and lack of confidence. Being well prepared will ensure that you’re polished and confident, maximizing your chances of landing your dream job. Here are six tips to prepare for your next job interview.

Follow these tips to build your confidence and ace your next interview:

  1. Be on time

  2. Turn off your cell phone before you enter the interview room

  3. Dress for success

Many people disregard the old adage of first impressions matter. However, my first hiring manager once told me that she recommended me because I was the only one she interviewed that looked as if I am going to an interview. This might seem superficial, but your appearance will be the first and last thing your interviewers notice, so it is best to keep your fashion choices classic i.e. do not wear clothes that will distract the interviewer.

1. Research the company/organisation

Find as much information as you can on the company or organisation, and commit as much of it to memory as possible. If the job you are interviewing for requires knowledge in a certain field, do all of the learning and brushing up you can on information that will be relevant to your interview.

2. Prepare as much as possible

Reach out to people who worked in similar companies and positions as you are interviewing for and ask them about their interview experience. There are several online resources that list standard job interview questions, and these resources can educate you on how to approach your answers. For example, LinkedIn is launching a new tool where professional recruiters will walk people through what a strong response to any given question should look like. Technology won't write your answer for you, but it will help you understand what's really being asked and how to structure your response. 

You can also use tools like Glassdoor’s interview question database to lookup real interview questions and their answers. Many job interviewers will ask the same or similar questions, e.g.:” Tell me about a time where your problem-solving skills were on display. Describe a time where you encountered interpersonal conflict in the workplace.”. As an applicant, you can prepare answers for these standard questions well in advance by drawing from your past experiences to illustrate when and how you demonstrated desirable workplace behaviours.

3. Prepare for difficult questions

Do extra research on hard to answer questions, like "what is your biggest weakness," "have you ever been fired," "tell me about a challenge you faced with a coworker," or even just the ever-vague "tell me about yourself." Most of your answers will probably follow a specific pattern, so when in doubt, fall back on the STAR technique.

4. Interview Etiquette

It is not only the hiring manager who makes the decision on who to hire. Be polite and gracious to everyone you meet from the time you walk in the door to when you leave. The people you meet could be your future co-workers, so make the best impression on them that you can. When you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist. Make sure you know the interviewer's name and use it as soon as possible during the interview. If you are not sure of the name, call and ask prior to the interview. This demonstrates an effort on your part and ingratiates you to your interviewer.

5. Compare your skills and experience to the job description.

Job advertisements usually outline a set of skills and responsibilities that will the incumbent is expected to possess. Evaluate each component of the job description, brainstorm your relevant skills and experiences, and think critically about how you want to present them. If there is a preferred skill or experience you do not have, demonstrate how you will be competent without it using practical examples.

6. Prepare strong follow-up questions.

At the end of every interview, you may be asked if you have any follow-up questions. To wow your interviewer, avoid compensation-related themes and prepare two or three questions that focus on the position and how it fits into the organizational strategy. This will give the interviewer the impression that you are interested in learning about how you can contribute.

7. Take the Time to Follow-Up

After you have aced your interview, end the interview with a thank you to the interviewer, and reiterate your interest in the position. Then follow-up with a personal thank you note or email message restating your interest. This is an opportunity to remind the employer of your qualifications, and to include any details you forgot to mention in the interview.

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