Overview of Interviews: Part I

In the first year of this column, I explored some of the introductory stages of the career management process including: knowing yourself and your skills, researching companies, and creating effective résumés. This year, I’ll be continuing on to the next logical stage: job interviews. Because this is such an important topic, I’ll be devoting several issues to it.

Job interviews can be quite stressful for many people. It may be impossible to eliminate all the stress, but through careful preparation, you can minimize it.

In the days before your interview, learn as much as you can about the position and the company. Study the company’s official website, but also try to get additional information through other media sources, as well as through friends and contacts.

Try to anticipate the company’s documentation requirements. Using your résumé and the job description as a guidelines, plan how you will relate your previous experience and current skills to the needs of the company and the position. For example, you may have experience working with certain software or managing specific kinds of documents. You need to “tie in” these things to the job requirements to clearly demonstrate that you are the perfect match for this position.

Generally, companies are looking for workers who:

  • are quick learners and “team players”
  • are flexible and adaptable
  • work well under pressure
  • can handle a wide variety of projects
  • can add value and lower costs

Carefully plan how you will show the interviewer that you are this type of worker, using specific and quantifiable examples. Companies will assume that how you have worked in the past indicates how you will work for them.

Practice the interview with another person. Anticipate the kinds of questions you will be asked, and rehearse your general responses to them. I will be covering specific interview questions over the next few issues, but most career management books will have good sample questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want to work here?”

In addition, you must plan and rehearse the questions that you are going to ask the interviewer, such as:

  • What are your greatest documentation challenges?
  • What kinds of documents and tools do you have?
  • How frequently is your documentation updated?
  • Who is involved in the development and review of documentation?

At least one day before your interview, ensure that you have everything ready. Do not wait until the day of the interview! This includes:

  • your clothing
  • your portfolio, printed or on a CD
  • a leather folder, notepad and a good pen for taking notes
  • extra copies of your résumé
  • directions to the interview (call to confirm if you are unsure!)

Note that first impression are critical: studies show that people will formulate an opinion of a person within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. Your physical appearance, therefore, is crucial.

The following advice may sound “preachy”, but it is a fact that you will be judged on your physical appearance as well as your technical abilities.

Your hair and clothing must be clean and neat. Conservative dress is best: wear a simple, neutrally-coloured dark suit, such as grey, charcoal or navy. Men should wear a long-sleeved solid white shirt, freshly pressed, and a silk tie with a subtle pattern. Women should wear a pale-coloured blouse that goes with the suit. Shoes and belts should match. Keep jewelry simple and to a minimum: a high quality analogue watch and no more than one ring.

If you have not purchased a outfit in several years, now is the time to make the investment. If you’re not sure what to get, ask the salesperson for advice! Don’t be shy about explaining that you are going to an interview and must look professional.

To sum up: the more you can prepare for an interview, the greater your chances of success, and the lower your stress level will be. No one goes to an interview planning to fail; they usually fail to plan.

I will continue with the topic of interviews in the next issue.

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