How to prepare for a successful job interview

I have been interviewing candidates for 15 years now and I think that there is definitely much experience here that I would like to share with all those who plan to appear for any job interview. In the rush of giving as many job interviews in as short a time as possible, candidates often forget the very basics, making them appear casual and cavalier about the whole thing. So, here are some tips that candidates could follow to achieve interview success.

1. Preliminaries

Write a good resume outlining everything clearly and in good order. There are many good references on how to write a good resume and also many books (yes those things made of paper).

Check your resume for spelling and grammatical errors. The word processor spell checker may be OK but its will not check contextual errors even if the spelling is correct.

Check your grammar. If the grammar is poor, your resume may not even be considered. If you are unsure of your command of the language, get the resume reviewed from anyone who has a good command of the language of your resume.

If you are applying for a very specialized position, you may have to rewrite your resume to emphasize the skills required for that position. There is no “one resume fits all” solution. Be prepared to make the necessary edits if required.

All resumes should be at the most 2 pages long unless you have many projects you need to highlight. In this case, try to reduce excessive details.

Make sure your email address and phone numbers are current. I am appalled by the number of resumes we get with incorrect email IDs and disconnected phone numbers.

Unless you look like a Greek God, movie star or are exceptionally photogenic or handsome, do not attach a photograph with your resume unless explicitly asked for. This may sound very rude or biased but unfortunately true. And before you accuse me of anything, I would never attach a photo even if asked.

2. The Job Application

It begins from the moment you decide to apply for a job. Read the job advertisement carefully. Make sure it REALLY matches your skills. Try to understand what the employer is looking for. You can get good insights by checking the industry the company works for, understand their business and then evaluate your experience against this. Many jobs look the same but are really very diverse. Often your skills may be excellent but your experience is not relevant to the industry in which the company operates. Also, applying to dozens of companies, just because your job site offers tools to shoot off 100 applications at the click of  a button, is a very bad idea.

3. The Call

If you are looking for a job and have been applying for advertised positions, you could be getting a call at any time from your dream company. Unless you actually get a call out of the blue, when you do get the call and they have told you their name, do not sound surprised as if you have heard it for the first time. Nothing puts off a caller than to realize you have made dozens of applications and have no idea where you have actually applied (except if you are a much sought after entity who is being called by recruiters without having made any applications at all). Be sure to remember the companies you are applying for. It makes you look very serious and the caller will get the positive impression that you have researched the job position before applying.

When you get the call, make sure you observe the following:

i. Be realistic about whatever is asked, eg. current salary. Do not quote fiction. You will be asked to produce proof.

ii.  If you are asked for a convenient time, take a moment to think and then give the date and time.

iii. If you cannot make it on the date and time, call in advance and request a reschedule.

iv. If you do not want to appear for the interview, say so clearly. Do not give an appointment and then refuse to show up. You applied for the job so have some common decency about these matters.

v. Talk in a clear and audible tone from a quiet area. If you are not comfortable, ask if you can call back at a mutually convenient time. Make the call at the designated time, even if it is to decline the interview.

vi. If you need more information about the venue, directions, or any other preparatory queries, feel free to ask. Most interviewers will be happy to provide you as much information to help you prepare.

vii. Obviously, don’t forget your phone manners.

viii. If the caller intends to take a telephonic interview, make an appointment for a later date and time so that you can be in a comfortable place and you will get some time to prepare mentally. Giving telephonic interviews from wherever you happen to be at the moment is a very bad idea. Of course, if you are comfortable, and the interview can be conducted without any disturbances, by all means go ahead.

4 . The Preparation

So you have made the applications and have also got the appointment for the interview.  The battle is only half won so don’t get cocky. There is still work ahead.

i. Read the job description again. I know this sounds silly, but a revisit will often make you aware of things you missed during your first read.

ii. Visit the company’s web site. Almost all companies have a web site so here is where you start learning as much as possible about your prospective employer. If the company does not have its own web site, Google for information about the company. There is sure to be at least some information you can glean from other sites and portals.

iii.  Try to assess how your resume might be seen by the employer as suitable. After all they did call you isn’t it? What have you done as experience, that could be in line with the company’s line of business? If some of that work was in the past, read up on anything you might have forgotten. Refresh your technical knowledge in relevance to that project or the experience you think is relevant.

iv. Understand that the company wants to hire you but they are not going to make it easy. It is your job to show them how you are suitable for the position they seek to fill. Revision will go a long way in making the actual interview smoother and favorable to you. Do not ignore the fundamentals of your industry. You should be prepared to answer the most basic questions related to your education, profession, experience and skills.

v. Read your own resume. Make sure you can explain all the work you have stated as experience. Having done something 3 -5 years ago is not excuse to say “I’m sorry it was very long ago. I don’t remember anything.” Call old colleagues if you don’t remember all details of the project that you did say 3 years ago. Same goes for your education. If you did a degree in Physics and are seeking a programing job, don’t discount the physics degree or anything related to physics. If its in your resume, you can and will be asked questions about it. After all, you are writing things in your resume which you are hoping will ADD to your value, isn’t it?

Next comes the actual interview and we will get to that in some other article. As a parting nugget, remember that the employer needs you as much as you need the job. So it is always a balance. Be confident and prepared. Best of Luck.

Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

Image courtsey:  Glasbergen Cartoons


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