You have managed to leap off the pages of your curriculum vitae and cover letter and have been invited to a job interview for a prospective job role.
Of course, you are stressing out, yes you are one step closer to grabbing that dream but the pressure is mounting and you have to prove yourself one more time (and now there is no paper to hide behind!).
How do you ensure that you are successful in your next job interview?
Prepare and prepare and prepare
Preparation is your friend and is going to ensure your success. One of the first steps should be to find out from your future employer if there is anything you can prepare ahead of the interview.
If they are obliging, you could go further to find out the format of the interview and who will be on the interview panel. This is something you can (and should) also find out from current employees.
Read over your curriculum vitae and cover letter, be familiar enough with them so that you can address any questions on them. Know why you included specific details – what were you trying to get across about yourself?
If this is the first time you are applying for a job, make sure you are able to highlight how your background has equipped you for this position. The same goes for a position you are applying for within the same sector as you are currently employed.
If you are looking at branching out from what you have previously done then it is necessary to be able to illustrate how your skills are transferable.
For example, if you all your experience is limited to corporate and now you intend on moving to a government department, detail skills you acquired during your corporate experience and how these could be applied in your new setting.
Preparing for this pre-empts the inevitable question about why you are making a change and goes one step further in showing that you have thought about how your past experience, although different, translates.
You could go about practicing by either going through a mock interview or even more informally just chatting through some questions. This is a must in ensuring that the actual interview is not daunting.
Work through some basic questions such as personal background to start off with. Then move on to specific experience and education. Make sure you can also address questions about the new position and company.
Would you be able to answer why you are leaving your current position? Or some of the more sticky questions such as what makes you different; what is the biggest challenge you have faced and what is one quality you would change about yourself.
Make sure that you do not over-practice, you do not want to come across as rehearsed during the actual interview. So walk that fine line between practicing and coming across as rehearsed!
During the latter part of an interview, it is inevitable that you will be asked whether you have any questions for your prospective employers. It is imperative to ask questions and in order to be able to do so, you need to factor this into your preparation.
Questions can relate to the working environment; the type of clients and if you are aware of who the interview panel will be ahead of time – questions can then be addressed to specific people.
For example, if you know the head of the department will be part of the interview, try to research some of the work she or he has recently been a part of so you can ask a more detailed question.
Remember, inasmuch as an interview is about you being judged, it is also your opportunity to assess whether this position is the best fit for you. So if work/life balance is integral to your happiness then be sure to ask about this in the interview.
Try to connect with current employees. They can assist in shedding light on what the work environment is like and what the position you are applying for entails. A good starting point for connecting is LinkedIn.
More often than not you will have connections in common, which makes connecting a lot easier.
They can also help you figure out if the position advertised is really what is described or in substance is something else. Current employees can be a great resource for understanding our potential work environment and role.
Outcome of the Interview
Before you leave the interview, be sure to find out how the communication following the interview will go and who you can contact if you would like feedback.
Whether you secure the position or not, feedback is key. You have an idea of how you would like to come across but did that materialize and is there anything you could have done better?
Of course, these are more critical to know if you did not secure the position. So often when we fail we want to forget about the experience entirely. But knowing what did not work will put you one step ahead in terms of preparing for the next interview.
Do not read notes up until the last moment before you enter the interview. Take some time before to try to relax! It is really difficult to do, especially when you know you need to ace the interview, but having that sense of calm will translate when you go into the interview.
Small things like speaking slowly are also important and are sure to ask for a minute to think something over if you are unsure – there is no need to answer immediately!
And lastly but most importantly, be yourself and do your best.
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