By Chidi Aja
The MUST-DOs before a job interview…
Good preparation before the job interview is essential so that you can confidently walk in the room knowing what you have to offer to the company and why they should hire you. I describe the essential steps for preparation below. Sadly, jobseekers frequently neglect this advice and it causes irritation and frustration with many interviewers -surely you don’t want this be the case with the person interviewing you! Therefore, I cannot emphasise this enough: to make a good first impression and perform well in a job interview you ABSOLUTELY MUST research the company beforehand, know your strengths and weaknesses, have questions prepared for the interviewer, pay attention to what you wear, and get there on time with the required documentation.
Research the company
Doing a background research about the company before the interview is essential –failure to do this will be picked up by the interviewer very early on during the interview and you will immediately reduce (or even lose) your chances of securing the job.
Research the company website and any other materials available to gain understanding about their core business. This is to ensure that you can have a well-informed conversation about the company during the interview, especially when the classic questions “Why do you want to work for us” and “What do you know about our company” pop up.
A good starting point is to look at the “About” page on the website. Here you will find information about the company’s vision and mission, that is, what their business is all about, what they are trying to achieve and what values they hold. It is also useful to read about company history to understand how long the company has been around, how it has developed and what their current position in the industry is. On the website you will also find information about the company’s products and services. familiarise yourself with these so that you can have
If the company does not have a website, do a Google search for the company as they may be listed in one of the business directories in Nigeria or Yellow Pages. Check the listing if there is a description about the company and their products and services. Speak to people who know the company as employees or customers to get insight on the business.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Interview is all about assessing your suitability for the position you have applied for. As the assessment is largely based on how you present yourself during the interview it is essential that you are fully aware how you can contribute to the success of the business. You must be able to explain how your strengths relate to the company’s goals -if you don’t know this the interviewer will not be likely to bother figuring it out either. It is surprising how many candidates come to a job interview unprepared to answer the most basic interview questions such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses” and “Why do you think you are the right candidate for this position”.
Start with reading the job description and person specification if they are available. Think of what specific examples you can give from your previous experience to demonstrate that you have the skills and competencies required for successful performance in this job role. Include concrete, measurable data -general statements will not convince your interviewer. For example, if you claim to be a great team player give an example of a situation in which you displayed this competency. Don’t go to extensive depth though -keep your answers brief and concise. Unless asked to give more details, limit your answers to two to three minutes per question. To practice you can tape yourself and see how long it takes you to fully answer a question.
It is also a good practice to prepare a Self-Selling Sales Pitch. An interviewer wants to know what sets you aside from the lengthy list of other capable candidates. Practice a thirty second sales pitch about who you are, what makes you unique and what strengths you possess that makes you ideal to fill the position.
Prepare questions to ask in the interview
It is extremely important that you prepare few questions that you can ask during the interview. This demonstrates enthusiasm, credibility and interest for the job and the company. In contrast, failure to ask any questions will be likely to make you lose points. The types of questions you ask and the way you ask them can make a tremendous impression on the interviewer. Good questions relate to career development and training opportunities, how the role relates to the overall structure of the organisation and in what way is performance measured and reviewed. Do not ask about benefits or salary as this gives an impression that you are only interested in monetary rewards.
What to wear
Always apply a simple rule: rather be overdressed for a job interview than under-dressed. Although you want to achieve a smart and sophisticated look you also want to avoid looking too rigid and unapproachable to the interviewer. Try to stick to classic styles and colours without overcomplicating things with distracting accessories or excessive make-up. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed. Ladies should remember not to have their cleavage exposed as this gives unprofessional impression. If you smoke you may want to refrain from having a cigarette a few hours before the interview -trust me, mints don’t work
How to get there and on time
There are no excuses of getting late to the interview. No matter how good you think the reason for running late is the interviewer may not agree with you. If you are unsure check the route beforehand so that you have a realistic estimate of the time it takes to get there. Delays with public transport or traffic jam are unacceptable excuses as this is something you can prepare for. In fact, transport problems immediately trigger a red flag with the interviewer as s/he will be thinking whether lateness would be a problem if you were offered the job.
If you are running late even for five minutes call the company to inform them about this. In fact, you should aim to arrive 30 minutes early so that you have time to catch your breath and go through your pitch in your mind.
What to bring with you
To save time and to display your enthusiasm and attention to detail, take along all of the necessary documentation that the interviewer might ask for. Remember to bring along relevant certificates and qualifications, and referees’ contact details.