Interview Tips!

Author: Ngeow Yeok Meng
Date: 10-May-2004

In most interviews, knowing what the interviewer is looking for means you have won half of the battle. The other half of the battle: be prepared to show your knowledge about the organisation, ask tactful questions about the job, and give a good impression that you can do better than others, if you are offered the job.

The interviewer has two methods of judging your suitability for the job. First, by questioning you and evaluating the things about you and your experience, based on what you tell him. Second, by observing person-to-person how you handle the interview.

If you have obviously planned your interview well, for example by showing that you are knowledgeable about the organisation, the interviewer will assume that you are also capable of planning and making a good job of your tasks. The converse is also true – a bad performance at interview could mean an unsatisfactory performance at the job.

If you have the experience and ability to do the job, make sure that you do not let your interview performance let you down. Since in most cases, the interviewer has no prior knowledge of the candidates except their letter of application, the first impression you give is extremely important. If you are of average intelligence or have few qualifications, do not despair. The most important factor is your actual achievements and the positive way in which you put these over to the interviewer.

Here are five areas that help the interviewer select the right person for the right job: intelligence, qualification, adjustment, impact on others, motivation and achievements.

Intelligence means your cognitive powers to take in and interpret information. You should be quick in understanding all questions posed by the interviewer, and providing simple and concise answers to them. Nevertheless, a person who is too intelligent, by giving complicated answers to simple questions, may give an impression that he is a thinker not a doer.

Qualifications is necessary for certain professional jobs. So make sure you possess the formal qualifications required or the experience needed when applying for that particular position. It is important to show your knowledge and interest of the relevant professional institution in your field of work, as this will also reflect your enthusiasm towards the profession.

Adjustment means adaptation to life in general and work in particular. The interviewer would like to know whether you have a good capacity to withstand stress, whether you are always in control even in the most unfavourable situations, whether you are emotionally stable, and whether you can do things on your own initiative. Most important of all, your friendly or hostile relationship with the people around you. Impact on others means anything from the use of simple language, the way you speak, the way you dress, to your physical appearance throughout the interview. If you can talk from your own personal experience using real life situations, make sense of things happen around you, think in terms of things and not people, you are more likely to give an impression of a mature person and a problem-solver much in demand by any employer.

Motivation and achievement are two important indicators of your general attitudes toward work and career. Assessment will be based on the following:

- Can you motivate yourself and work on your own initiative?
- Do you set yourself goals and achievements?
- Can you get things done even when faced with difficulties?
- Are you a dreamer or an action-driven person?
- Have you long term career objectives?
- Have you reached the level one would expect for your age or qualifications?
- Which kind of work or activity has given you the most satisfaction?
- Are you a person who can deliver on time and meet deadlines?
- Do you present your boss with problems or solutions?
- Do you have initiative to finish work?
- Do you pay attention to detail?
- Do you perform well when the going get tough?
- Are you good at problem solving?

The interviewer will not ask the above questions directly as the answers should come from what you have accomplished, not what you plan to do in future. The interviewer will skillfully find out the answers by asking what you have been involved in, your interests, your strengths, your weaknesses, the challenges in your pursuit of knowledge or previous work, your perception of yourself, your dreams and objectives in life.

If you are honest with yourself in the interview, you can avoid being worried about inconsistency in your answers. Never mind if the first impression you give is imperfect to the interviewer. The worst thing that could happen is when you lie about yourself, and have the
interviewer sense it before the end of the interview session.

How to ace a tele-interview when it counts
Author: Koon Mei Ching
Date: 10-May-2004

Trying to prove your mettle during a 30-minute interview is hard enough as we well know. Trying to achieve the same effect over a 30 minute telephone interview is another ballgame altogether.

The advantages you can leverage through a freshly pressed suit, a brilliant Colgate smile or a firm handshake are no longer available. You are now challenged to convey the very same effects via the tone of your voice, content of your speech and the cadence of your answers. No mean feat.

Having the opportunity to carry out a considerable number of tele-interviews over the past few weeks, a number of glaring interview mistakes came to my attention as I attempted to screen for successful candidates. This is my advice…

Loud and clear
Nearly a forgone conclusion, but here we go: speak up! Pronounce your words clearly and speak confidently. The qualities of an impressive candidate must be conveyed through verbal aptitude. If you mess up this first criterion, it will adversely affect the praises detailed in your resume. In the end, the interview is about verifying your lofty claims made out in the CV - unless you speak up, we might never get that far.

Remember your interview appointment
Being greeted by an “erm…who is this again, ah?” response to my introduction is most definitely an impression-breaker. Your aim is to impress us…not to make us cringe.

Grab a quiet corner somewhere
We don’t care where you find it, just do it. I just held an interview this afternoon where the candidate told us that he was not free to take the call at the moment (a scheduled one at that), and suggested we call back later. Upon granting him that grace, he proceeded to conduct the interview whilst taking the time to have casual chats with passing friends or stifle a guffaw at what was perceived to be a joke whispered to him. If the recruiters don’t get to enjoy the joke, it certainly won’t help you.

Have your resume ready
The interviewer will most likely be basing the interview upon your submitted resume, so it would help to have the same materials ready before you for reference should questions be raised about its content. Hesitating or saying, “I don’t think I remember,” is not an option you should use.

When taking the time to think, share it with us
There may come moments of “blank canvas” when you need some time to unearth an appropriate answer from the recesses of your mind. If you were at a physical interview, we would be able to read your body language and understand that you are thinking. When you do the same thing on the other end of a phone line, it just translates into silence … usually a strange atmosphere for the “blind” interviewer. Hence, take the time to share with him/her that you need some time to think about it, so they patiently know what to expect.

Don’t assume anything and no exclamations of “What?!”
Although the advances in telephony have been great, the clarity of a speakerphone can be distorted. When you are unclear of what was said, you should neither pretend you heard the question, nor make reflex exclamations of “ha?” or “what?” This certainly jolted me at a recent interview and made a very bad impression on the professional etiquette of the candidate. Manners have never been more important than on the telephone. Use them.

Ask intelligent questions
Okay, so this applies whether or not you sit in a physical interview or in the comforts of your own home. Nonetheless, the interviewer will use any opportunity gauge your intelligence, thought process and potential for success. Usually, well thought out questions aimed at the interviewer shows preparation, research, interest in the company and ultimately, a brain. Ask about the company, graduate programmes, development opportunities, the economic impact on the company etc. Even surprise questions can work to your benefit if they display intelligent inquisitiveness. I was asked today why the company was hiring external consultants to conduct the screening interviews. That question threw me, but we liked being thrown.

Always bow out gracefully
With no eye contact and a good grip to seal the end of the interview, your last impression will hinge upon the end of the phone call. Be courteous, thank the interviewers and express your gratitude for the opportunity.

Although not entirely common, the tele-interview may occur especially if you are applying for a position in another city or country. In some ways, it is less nerve wracking than the physical event, but its importance to your application is not diminished by any degree. Make the effort … even if you are sitting there in your pajamas. Ultimately, the interviewers want to grab you as much as you want to convince them. So, help them and you help yourself.

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