My job interview
Preparation of your job interview
However individual an interview may seem, there are certain topics common to them all. The applicant introduces himself, the company introduces itself, questions are asked of the applicant and the applicant puts questions to the company. All of these elements can be practised with a friend or acquaintance. Firstly, this forces you to firmly compose your thoughts and responses. Secondly, you get to experience what an interview is like in advance, which will serve to lower the amount of stress you will feel during an actual interview. Your "interviewer" can then give you tips on where you can improve and also provide you with an assessment of how you performed in certain areas.
An increasing number of companies now carry out a pre-selection telephone interview. So, if you get a call to do a telephone interview, that's a good thing: You've cleared the first hurdle and are now through to the next (and more selective) round of applicants.
A telephone interview can cover the entire canon of questions you're likely to face in a traditional face-to-face interview. Only technical issues tend to play a secondary role. The roles between the participants also tend to be more pronounced, because a telephone interview has a stronger structure: The company representative asks the questions and you answer.
Most telephone interviews last about 30-40 minutes. Some are longer. You normally won't be asked to engage in a spontaneous telephone interview. Most companies will propose a date for the interview before calling. You should have the job ad, application, information about the company and something to write with at hand and take the telephone interview just as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview.
When you take part in an interview, you're acting as an ambassador for your own interests. Therefore, you should and must present yourself in your best light. After the initial greetings and short round of small talk, you're interviewer will ask you to introduce yourself. You should then outline your career path to date, what motivated you at the various points along the way and why you believe you are the right person to work for their company. Especially in larger companies, interviews are handled in a very structured way. This will be evident by your interviewer making notes after each of your responses. Traditional questions will address your strengths and weaknesses, why you're wanting to change jobs, what attracted you to this new position as well as tricky situations you've successfully overcome in recent years (and how you accomplished them). This will be followed by your interviewer introducing the company and the vacancy requirements.
Topics such as pay or your earliest possible starting date will be taken up towards the end of the interview. A well-prepared interviewer will also give you feedback on your interview. If not, you can politely request feedback ("What sort of impression of me will you take away from our meeting?") and ask when you might expect a response from the company. If your interviewer doesn't address the conditions of employment, you can always ask.
If you are offered an opportunity to take a tour through the company, you should definitely accept it. Firstly, it shows you are truly interested in the job and secondly, you can gain an initial insight into what it's like to work there: Do the employees interact well with each other? Is there an eerie silence in the office or do you see people laughing at times? Do the offices or equipment seem old or run-down? There's also no reason why you shouldn't politely ask your interviewer for a short tour should no invitation be immediately forthcoming.
At some companies you'll sit opposite more than one interviewer: someone from the personnel department and someone from the department where the vacancy exists. Be sure to make eye contact with both parties when answering questions. If you're invited to a second interview where a new interviewer is present, don't assume this person will be informed and up-to-date on everything you said in your initial interview. Do, however, make notes of what you were told during your previous interview for just such an event!
Make sure you arrive on time – that is, about 10 minutes before your interview appointment. You should also be dressed in a way that is appropriate for your hopefully future job. Try to remain authentic in spite of your nervousness. Look your interviewer in the eye when you speak to him. A firm handshake and a smile can work wonders. Do not be afraid to bring notes you've prepared in advance to your job interview. You will come across as well prepared and professional.
Applicants for a trainee programme or for a team leader position with a large company will most likely go through an assessment centre. Here, your prospective employer will simulate real-world work situations and will attempt to find out how applicants behave in their everyday work. An assessment centre will usually extend over one to three days and consists of various exercises in which the participants are confronted with a variety of tasks and problems. The participants are observed by several members of the company's management team, who will also then give them feedback in private: Is an applicant listened to within his group? Does he value the opinions of others? Can he cooperate with others? How does he react in stressful situations? How well committed / effective is he? How quickly does he become frustrated? Is he relaxed and authentic? Humorous without being childish?
At the end of the day, only one person will get the job. It's not always easy getting a company to tell you why you've been rejected for a particular job role. Firstly, due to workload the HR department is usually not able to give a detailed answer to such a question. Secondly, companies must also avoid a number of legal pitfalls in such situations and so, will often not provide any justification for a rejection letter. One exception, however, might be when you are one of the last three candidates for a role or when your application was handled via a recruitment agency and you at least were able to speak with the customer.
Should you find that you've been turned down for a number of jobs after going to interview, but don't know the reason why, you might want to consider discussing your situation with a coach or recruitment consultant. Having a view from the outside will help you to fundamentally re-evaluate your situation. But remember: Companies themselves are now finding they have to actively seek out new employees, so it's all a matter of reciprocity.
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