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New Year, New Career. 10 Tips for Job Interview Success

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Just as businesses are having to reassess their positions in the new year, so many of us will end up applying for new positions as the changing economic landscape takes shape. There are some steps that all of us can take to make sure that we are at the top of the recruitment pile. Here are a few pointers.

1. Read your application again
If you have been invited for an interview, the recruiters have already read your CV and have been impressed enough to want to meet you in person. So read through the application you sent them, taking note of the attributes you listed that will be the best fit for the position to which you applied. If you did tell any white lies, start figuring out how you will be able to back up your assertations should you be asked to. The last thing you need is to be caught off guard when the interview itself happens.

2. Become a corporate spy
Learn as much about the company as possible. If they have been in the press, read up on the latest stories, both good and bad. If there are any other issues in the news that might affect the company, read those as well and see whether you could mention them in your interview. See if you can cajole a receptionist or a secretary into revealing the names and positions of the people who are most likely to be interviewing you. Research them too. You don’t need to give them a breakdown of their achievements since leaving primary school, but if they have received any awards or industry plaudits, they will love being reminded of their moment of glory. Showing that you have taken an interest in the company lets managers know that you have not simply sent your CV out to anything that looks promising, and also demonstrates a degree of commitment on your part.

3. Decide why you want the job
Even if the only reason you have applied is because this job offers more money and will enable to you finally get some chrome rims for your car, you still need to show some interest and passion for the position available. Whether it be Formula 1 test driver or loss adjustor, all bosses want to believe that their employees are turning up voluntarily. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to draft a soliloquy on the joys of double-entry bookkeeping, but you should at least be able to refrain from rolling your eyes and mumbling platitudes about how you’re willing to work your way to the top and give your all in service to Mammon.

4. Become a company drone
No, don’t turn up at the company’s offices and comandeer a desk. That is stalking, and a little creepy. Instead, take a day to see what time their employees turn up to work, and what time they leave. Do they all take a lunch break at the same time, or do they seem to be tied to their desks? What are they wearing? This last point is very important, as it allows you to plan what to wear to the interview. Also make a note of how long it takes for you to get from your house to the offices. You want to be able to turn up punctually and fit in, rather than be an overdressed misfit who is always late.

5. Think about the things that you want to know
Yes, you’re going to be asked questions at the interview, but I’m sure that you have things that you want to know yourself. Think again about why you applied for this job and consider what you hope to gain (apart from those chrome rims) from the position. You may be hoping for additional training, or the opportunity to go to industry conferences. Rather than having a list of demands, come up with questions that you’d like to ask at the interview, to determine whether the position is the right one for you.

6. Don’t overdo the personal hygiene
Yes, you do need to make sure that you are freshly showered and moisturised, and you shouldn’t bite your nails or start playing with your hair while you’re being interviewed. But that doesn’t mean that you should wear a gallon of aftershave or perfume. For men, I can only advise you to avoid Farenheit by Christian Dior. Ladies, Angel by Theirry Mugler has the same effect. Personal fragrance should be an enhancement, not a cloak. Also bear in mind that some people may have allergies, and you wouldn’t want to set those off in your interviewer, would you?

7. Be the better you
I get it, job interviews can be stressful. But you’re not agoraphobic (you’re leaving the house, aren’t you?) and you’ve obviously managed to reach this stage in your life without major mishap, so why give a bad impression now? Be clear, calm, concise and direct when answering any questions. Do not fidget. Look your interviewers in the eye and actually answer the questions put to you, not the questions that you wish had been asked. Imagine the you that would be interviewed on Larry King Live or on Oprah’s show. The brilliant, confident, successful you. People like and respect that you. Now become that version of you, because they are the ones who are likely to succeed at interview. (Note: if you are already an arrogant gasbag with little or no self-awareness, you should disregard this tip)

8. Have your stock responses ready
If you’ve applied for any international companies, you will know that there is always a question on the application form that asks you to describe a situation where you have “demonstrated leadership.” Normally, applicants will trot out the usual tired cliches about their scout troops, being a prefect at school, heading the first aid team at a rugby match or some such triteness. You might be asked the same question again at interview. If you already described something on your application form, recount it, and have a backup scenario ready if you receive the dreaded response of “Anything else?” If you are asked for the first time at the interview, don’t be afraid to bring up something unexpected. Family issues are novel and something that everyone can relate to. Situations where a number of conflicting viewpoints need to be reconciled are always useful. Just don’t make anything up; you will be found out.

9. Watch the body language
You want to be open and approachable. You want the interviewers to believe that not only could they work with you, but that they want to. Avoid crossing your arms defensively, or pointing at them when making a point. Smile, and if you do need to gesticulate, use open upwards-facing palms. These are much more conciliatory, and invite collaboration, rather than conflict. There is a raft of body language information on the internet, far more than I can go through here. If you’re worried about messing up, have a brief read-through and keep the most salient tips in mind.

10. Be honest
Naturally, you’re not going to apply for a pilot’s position when you’re blind without your glasses and are a functioning alcoholic. But you may have applied for a senior programmer’s position despite the fact that you’ve only just mastered CSS and believe that Java is a type of coffee. Not cool. If, during the course of the interview, it becomes apparent that the job description is a little beyond your current capabilities, don’t attempt to bluff your way through. You don’t need to beat your breast and declare yourself to be a useful idiot; try a phrase along the lines of “I’m not terribly familiar with X, but having dealt with Y, and I don’t think it will be too much of a challenge.” Better that you buy yourself some breathing space now than start a new job and immediately need to be rescued.

And finally, if all of that seems too complicated: be yourself. They like you enough to invite you to interview, don’t they? So don’t tie yourself in knots trying to be the next Donald Trump.

[Image by Gcoldironjr2003]

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