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Tammi-Leigh Erasmus - Interview Survival Kit

Prepare for the working world by acing your interviews. This guide will not only help you survive your next interview, but will ensure you excel in the experience.

Tammi-Leigh Erasmus | Freelance Journalist

Interviews are probably one of the most nerve-wrecking experiences, for most of us going into the workplace. Our intentions are to go in there, answer some strenuous questions and leave, leaving a lasting impression. But there is more to it than what we assume. The guidelines, outlined in this article, are to help and steer you through your next interview. And hopefully leave with a job to boot.

Research:

It is important to gather information about the company where you are being interviewed as it will give you a clear perspective about the business. Knowing what the company is about, what they produce, who their clients are (target market), what they plan to achieve, or what makes them so successful is a few of the basic points you need to know as an interviewee. The reason why this is so important is because, usually, at the eleventh hour, they might ask what it is that you know about the company, leaving you in an impromptu presentation, which is a great way to show your interest and enthusiasm. Do your homework. Besides, you need to know whether you want to work for them too.

“Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Author

Prepare:

It is much more calming to go through some possible questions the interviewer might ask, beforehand. Also, try interviewing your cousin, sister, brother or mother, and vice versa, asking basic interview questions – sit might help calm you down.

Copying someone else’s answers off the internet will not be a wise decision. Your answers will seem too rehearsed and you might walk straight into a wall when asked to elaborate on your answer that you have no knowledge about. Be yourself and engage in conversation, and don’t just answer questions without giving it some thought.

Make sure that what is typed on your CV is also typed into your brain. You do not want to forget or miss any information about yourself that the interviewer enquires about. Reading from your CV is also a no-go.

Never be late for an interview. Determine how long it would take you to get from your house to the venue and leave about half an hour earlier in case of traffic. Make sure that you have reliable transport to get you there 15-20 minutes early and ensure you have all the necessary and required documents. Get enough rest the night before so that you feel refreshed in the morning.

Dress appropriately:

Be interview-ready, and select your outfit the day before. Choosing an outfit early in the morning may not be as effective and you might regret your choice in the end. Formal wear is always preferred, but read up on the company before you decide.

It is preferred to always dress formal. If Dressing formally is a way of expressing your professionalism. Your outfit should be simple but stylish. Wearing something with too many prints or colours might distract the interviewer from listening to you and could affect their decision at the end of the day.

If it’s a more casual workplace go with smart, but simplistic. It’s always a win-win situation to wear a button shirt or a black dress. And, if you are in doubt, ask your interviewer about the dress code.

Keep yourself neat and clean throughout the interview as it will help make a good first impression.

Attitude:

Always be humble. Having a “you need me” attitude will not get you the job. Being positive and enthusiastic shows your high level of interest in the company and the position. Being negative might end on a bad note or stir up anger and a possible argument to follow. If you are a grumpy or moody person, make sure that you have breakfast before you leave and keep yourself hydrated. The best way to stay positive is to think positively. Find time to motivate yourself and have a “can-do” attitude.

Your positive attitude can be expressed mostly when asked to “tell us about yourself.” Do not reveal your deepest, darkest secrets. Inform the interviewer about positive characteristics and what you can contribute to certain situations, should they arise. 

If you do speak about your religion, make sure you do not bad-mouth or insult any of the others. Also, explain the reason why you mentioned your religion. E.g. you get along well with and understand different morals and values that your colleagues may have; you are not a discriminating person and you respect other people’s opinions and decisions.

First impression:

Now that you are dressed appropriately, prepared, on time, in a great and positive mood, calm and ready to answer any questions confidently, you are ready to make your first impression to your interviewer. With a smile on your face and a firm handshake, you would clearly introduce yourself.

Not only is your first impression based on your physical appearance, but on who you are as a person.

Let your confidence exude throughout the interview process. Take note of your tone of voice and pronunciation of words. Be clear – clarity compliments confidence. Communication is key in any situation and the way you present yourself verbally, indicates that you are informed, bold and self-assured.

“Almost everyone will make a good first impression, but only a few will make a good lasting impression.” – Sonya Parker, Author.

Always have a good posture when standing or sitting down.

Elaborating:

Refrain from only using  “yes” or “no” when answering questions. The interviewer does not want to keep asking questions because you keep giving short answers. Answer in full and make sure you are answering the question and not getting off topic. If you do not understand the question, ask the interviewer to please rephrase the question.

Furthermore, should you be questioned about anything on your CV, do not read from or tell the interviewer to refer to it. They have read and went through your CV, so use the opportunity to elaborate.

Avoid mockery, slandering or disrespectful comments about your previous employers. This will set an unpleasant mood.

Closing/ending questions: You have spent time, doing research about the company, and here is where it will come into play. The interviewer will ask “What do you know about the company?” and/or “Do you have any questions for us?”, and you will respond confidently. When asked these questions, do not answer or reply with “What can you tell me about the company?” or “I already know what I need to know.” But, rather opt for basic and not too complex questions about the company, unless you are fully prepared for what they might ask on top of that.

Your interviewer might ask about expected salary/wages. If the amount you mention is too high, the interviewer will assume that you might just be in it for the money. It is preferred to not put a number on the table – unless you state what you have earned in your previous position and company. The interviewer already knows what they will be paying you. It is better and safer to not put a price on yourself and rather trust that your salary will be competitive or meet with your experience, the type and amount of work you will have to do.

Thank you: At the end of every interview remember to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. Also, send an e-mail within 24 hours to thank them again.

Do not ask the question “So when can I start?” The interviewer will let you know if you were the perfect candidate and if they have decided to hire you. However, you may ask the interviewer if it will be okay for you to call back if you have not heard anything from them by a certain time.

In conclusion, interviews are not as devastating as they might be portrayed. It is all about presenting who you are in a positive way, to someone who does not know you. Practise makes perfect and with these guidelines, you are well on your way to acing your first interview. Good luck!