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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Interview for a Job: How to Handle (Part - II)

It is often noticed that in spite of having the right set of qualifications, technical skills and experience, candidates fail to impress the interviewer. The reasons could be many, but a proper preparation for the interview is sure to help a candidate to impress the employer better. Some of the key approaches that enable a candidate to fare better at the interview are:

Learn About the Company Beforehand
It is desirable to know about a company and its operating practices well before attending the interview. A visit to its website coupled with a little bit of market research gives an overview of a company’s activities, its financial muscle, and status in the market. But the most desirable approach is to have a dialog with its current employees, for they are the most reliable source of information. A friendly chat with them helps
  • One know their opinion about the company.
  • Two, it enables one to know its cultural ethos. 
  • Three, one could make a reasonable guess as to what kind of people the company might be looking for.
Pay Due Attention to the Application Form/CV

Application form—still in vogue in traditional establishments—or CV is a marketing tool that summarizes one’s employment qualifications. It is indeed the very first instrument that enables an employer to shortlist the candidates. Some applicants tend to treat the application/CV cavalierly . But in simple terms, a CV must demonstrate that the applicant not only knows what he/she wants in a job but that one has also taken time to learn what the employer wants from the candidate. 

Here it is important to know the difference between a resume and a CV:
  • A resume is a one or two page document that gives a brief narration about one’s education and experience. It must be written in such a way that it should advertise everything of a candidate that is salable. 
  • A CV, on the other hand, includes over and above what is furnished in a resume, one’s teaching and research experience, publications, research grants/fellowships obtained, professional affiliations, awards and all other information relevant to the job for which an application is being made.        
By all means, generality must be avoided. Remember, it is the application/resume/CV that sets the tone and direction of the interview. Hence, it deserves the utmost attention of every seeker of employment.

Personal Presentation

An interview is a means to check mutual suitability for a job. So, as one enters the interview room, one should
  •  walk forward confidently, 
  •  body straight, and 
  •   head up.
Smile and be prepared to shake hands briefly, but positively, if the interviewer offers to shake. Sit straight, but in a relaxed comfortable position, hands preferably on one’s lap.

It merits dressing up normally and formally, but not unusually, for any extraordinary attempt tends to make one feel uncomfortable. In an interview, one has to be at ease to attentively listen and respond to the questions intelligently, and for this to happen, it is critical that one has to dress up normally.

As soon as one is settled in the chair, he/she shall maintain good eye contact with the interviewers. Secondly, it is desirable to always remain calm and collected. If the candidate is seen as going to pieces, there is every likelihood of the interviewer’s thinking that he/she cannot handle stress. 

Be an Early Bird

To be late to the interview is the sure way of mucking up the interview, for a latecomer is viewed as either a careless candidate or a poor planner. And both are equally damaging for the candidate’s interest. Secondly, by being late to the interview one gets tensed up and obviously cannot give his best at the interview. 

Anticipate Questions and Plan Answers

The questions that are usually asked at an interview can be grouped into:
  • one, questions meant for testing one’s conceptual skills; 
  •  two, questions that are asked to evaluate functional competency; and 
  •  three, questions designed to test the personality of the candidate.           
And looking at the kind of job that one has come to give interview, it is possible to visualize the kind of questions that can be asked and to list them down for planning answers and their style of articulation. And importantly, what one must remember while preparing for any interview is: the interviewer is not interested in knowing the candidate’s professional knowledge or what he read about, but is more concerned about knowing whether the candidate has the wherewithal to execute the job better.

Similarly, when it comes to internal promotions in traditional establishments, or for that matter even in modern establishments, what the interviewer would be interested to assess is:
·         not the candidate’s past performance but
·         how suitable he/she is to handle the responsibilities of the new/higher post. 
So, obviously, the questions would focus more on the macro-environment/macro-vision of the discipline that he/she is being picked up to head—say for instance, if it is to head a research division/establishment, questions tend to stay focused on current lines of research in the major globally acclaimed research institutes, the future direction, mentoring domestic scholars towards that kind of research, constraints, if any, for pursuing research in those lines and how to overcome them, etc., plus assessing one’s ability to adapt to the new role of leading professional teams, inspiring them to aim high and the ability to initiate and manage change. Any preparation worked out on these lines is more likely to ensure that the candidate is not surprised by unexpected questions—at least they can be minimized.

The Most and the Commonest Tricky Question

“Tell us about yourself” is the obvious opening question for all kinds of interviews. It is perhaps the trickiest question that even an experienced candidate finds hard to answer. Remember that this question needs to be answered with an element of sincerity. It should go beyond what is already written in the CV. One way of responding to these questions could be: “My name is ‘…, I have done my ‘MBA’ in ‘Finance’ from ‘University of Delhi’ in ‘2004’. Presently, I’m working as ‘Assistant Vice-President’ at ‘ICICI Bank’, where, since my last promotion, I have been successfully handling the credit portfolio of the branch which is about Rs 900 million … As a person, I am cheerful, friendly and self-motivated, and like to enjoy my work and after-work life equally.”

Prepare to Face the Commonest Questions 

One often encounters questions such as:
  • How did you come to apply for this job?
  • Why have you applied for this job?
  • Why do you want to leave your present job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What is your objective in life?
  • Where do you want to see yourself after 5-10 years from now?
  •  Are you ready to be relocated?
  • Who is your role model in life?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
These questions sound pretty ordinary but answers to them are to be really labored out. Secondly, the impression created by the answers to these questions almost decides the selection or otherwise.

Be Alert

It is good to bear in mind that a candidate is interviewed right from the minute one enters the employer’s premises. Anything one says or does at the premises of the prospective employer is factored into the decision. Secondly, to be alert means, paying attention to what is being asked by the interviewer. And good listening indicates the respect that the candidate has for the interview panel. Impatience to listen, on the other hand, becomes visible by itself and this is certain to offend the interviewer. Thirdly, being alert helps to structure one’s answers crisply, confining it to the question raised—neither more nor less.

Steer the Interview

An interviewee can also steer the interview towards his area of strengths provided he is alert and agile. It is to be borne in mind that it is the answer to the previous question that gives a cue to the interviewer for raising the next question. Therefore, a candidate must answer the question put to him in such a way that it gives him a right cue for the next question which tends to be in your areas of strength, which one can answer with confidence. Most successful candidates in an interview often end up claiming to have succeeded in steering the interview in their favor. 

Take Time to Think Through

It is not necessary that one should answer every question as fast as the question is asked. It is nothing wrong to ask for time to synthesize one’s thoughts and structure answers properly. It is always better to seek time and reply cogently than shoot out an irrelevant reply. But do not slip into a Samadhi. For, prolonged silence sends the interviewers into jittery.

Do Not Bluff

However diligently one might have prepared, there might be occasions where one might get a question for which he had not prepared, not had any experience to answer, or had no knowledge of it. In such a situation, it is perfectly alright to admit one’s ignorance rather than bluffing. Most of the interviewers appreciate honesty. 

Do Not Tweet “Sorry, Sorry”

A candidate must exhibit poise and confidence at the interview. It doesn’t however mean that one should be aggressive, and at the same time one must not be apologetic of one’s performance. One must learn to be assertive in handling the cards that he has been dealt with well. 

Ask Questions
Most of the interviewers give an opportunity to a candidate to ask questions or seek clarifications. This has to be used to one’s advantage by asking relevant questions about the company’s policies, scope for learning in the job, etc. One should bear in mind that the kind of questions that a candidate puts across speaks volumes about his/her personality. 

At the same time, it makes sense not to raise sensitive questions that are more likely to embarrass the interviewers. Similarly, it is not right to ask questions about salary or other benefits until one is offered the job, for the interviewer will be inclined to think that you are more interested in the money than in the position. 

Observe Common Courtesies

It is often found that candidates do not observe even the elementary courtesies, perhaps being tense of the interview. Of course, no interviewer is going to write off a candidate merely because he has not greeted him, but observing basic courtesies underscores one’s presence well. On the other hand, if the job is more about managing a project involving scores of people, then these things do matter a lot. 

Managing the ‘Interview-Anxiety’

All of us are afflicted with fear, anxiety, nervousness or worry many times in our lives. For instance, while sitting in the hall waiting for one’s turn for the interviewer’s call, some are prone to be tensed up—anxious of what would happen. Anxiety before interview is normal—even experienced people face it. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as: “A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event, or something with an uncertain outcome.” In the instant case, it is the fear of failure in the interview, or the self-evaluation that indicated failure, or the very fear of the unknown might be some of the common causes for anxiety. 

Now, the question is: How to handle it? One proven way of handling anxiety of interview is: build confidence through preparation and practice—rehearsing answers to the anticipated questions with a friend or by undergoing a mock interview through some career services agency. It alone enables one to realistically approach the interview. 

The other way to overcome the interview blues is to practice “visualizing success at the interview and developing a positive psyche” which can maximize one’s performance at the interview. Remember, anxiety is caused by what one initially told himself/herself—”The interviewer will ask me questions that expose my ignorance”, etc. 

So, while preparing for the interview one should not allow one’s mind to be fed with images of failure, instead it must be fed with a software that feeds one with scrolls: “I have conducted thorough research about the company, its requirements, the likely questions and reviewed my answers to them, I am prepared to face any reasonable question”; “Yes, I feel tensed up, but I am sure I can cope with this and I will not let this tension get the best of me”, etc. Such auto-feedback strengthens one mentally and finally enables one to manage the anxiety reasonably well. 

One should learn to accept oneself and failures are not an end in themselves. All cannot succeed all the time. One should therefore learn to accept realities and be ready with contingency plans to overcome failures by constantly working to improve oneself. It is only through cultivation of such habits, anxiety can be better managed. 


It pays dividends if one avoids the temptation to memorize or script one’s answers/conversations with the interviewers, for you tend to sound as too rehearsed, which can prompt an interviewer to throw at you an out-of-the-blue question which may simply derail you. Therefore, participate in the conversation enthusiastically and contribute to its smooth sailing knowledgeably. 

It is often found that candidates do a lot of talking in an interview but never seem to reach the point of the answer, which is sure to annoy a recruiter. Secondly, it leaves an impression that the candidate is not an effective communicator. Either way it is against the interests of the candidate. So, the rule of the game is: be succinct and specific and ask if they need further details so as to avoid flooding them with unnecessary information that may at times unwittingly expose the candidate’s hollowness. 

So, the key for winning in an interview is to be positive, professional, and authentic and demonstrate how one can contribute to the job by using concrete examples from one’s past.

Courtesy: IUP Journal of Management Research


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