First impressions matter even if you have an impressive background
By EUGENE MAHALINGAM
While having years of experience or an impressive resume is an advantage, first impressions at a job interview also speaks volumes for the interviewer.
What you say or do could either make or break that interview. Here are some tips to consider that could potentially help you secure that job.
Do your homework
It helps if you let a prospective employer know that you have done your homework and are intimately familiar with what the company is – and what it does, says Heera Training and Management Consultancy principal consultant Heera Singh.
“For example, be sure to let the interviewer know that you are familiar with the company’s history or the latest product that has been launched, or its structure.
“Things like this serve to demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in the company and that you are serious about the job – which will most certainly impress the interviewer,” Heera says.
“Interviewers are usually guided by the maxim ‘How can a company be interested in you if you have not shown any interest in them.’ Hence always do some research before the interview and take every opportunity during the interview to demonstrate that knowledge.”
Before heading off to the interview, Leaderonomics chief executive officer Roshan Thiran advises that it would be best to find out as much about the culture, values and type of people in the organisation.
“If you understand what those factors are, you are then able to adapt yourself better to the questions that will be posed. Also, always arrive early at the interview, not because that is expected of you but also to observe how things work there. You will meet a few people and see the notices/posters in the office and this could also help you gauge the climate/culture and work styles in the organisation. By understanding this, you will be better equipped to align the interviewer’s expectations with your answers.”
Got to want it
According to New York-based editor and writer Kathryn Tuggle in her article, “10 Things You Absolutely Need to Say in a First Interview,” first ask the hiring manager what you need to do to get the job, and how you can be successful in the position.
Then, tell the interviewer that you want it, she says, citing a Philadelphia-based talent director.
“Not only does this show initiative and confidence, it will leave you with a better understanding of the objectives against which you will be measured. Ask about their expectations for you in the first 90 days, six months and a year and, equally, ask about hiring managers’ priorities for this same timeframe, so you know what the larger goals of the organization are. Knowing how the company defines success will help you to determine where your role fits in the equation.”
Explain why you deserve the job
Citing a recruitment expert from a business solutions provider, Tuggle says you should explain why you are the best person for the job.
“Review the job description and take notes on what the company is looking for in this position. It’s important to express the reasons why you should be hired.
“Reiterate not only what the company is looking for, but also how your abilities, experience and dedication fit the position and will help the company succeed. This helps an applicant stand out from the others as a hiring manager narrows down the list of potential candidates.”
The 30/2 rule
Citing something he learned from Ignite Global chief executive officer Kim Smith, the “30/2 rule” dictates how long (or short) you should keep your answers at the interview, says Roshan.
“This is to ensure your answer are not too long-winded and out of focus and not specific. The 30/2 rule states that you should try to answer questions posed to you within 30 seconds to two minutes. Do take maybe 10 to 15 seconds to quickly think about answers and then be specific, simple and clear in your answers. Interviewers may follow-up and ask deeper questions to probe further, which is fine. Again, the 30/2 rule applies.”
Heera notes that companies today require individuals to constantly work within a team environment and are constantly looking for employees that are cooperative, as well as able to get along well with other employees.
“Getting across this message that you are a team player directly or indirectly in an interview is crucial so as to allow the prospective employer to know that you can work effectively under stressful team situations.
“The last thing employers want is a talented and highly experienced worker who cannot interact and work effectively with other employees. You can always get this message of being a team player across by making statements like, ‘I like working with other people’, ‘I am comfortable working in a team’, or ‘I think I am a very good team player’.”
It’s important to ask questions too
According to Roshan, the interviewee should also make the effort to ask questions.
“Research indicates that questions posed by interviewees can be equally important in establishing a positive first impression. Your questions help interviewers assess the quality of your thought process and discerning skills, creating an impression that you are a proactive, intelligent and confident person.
“Most of us subscribe to the belief that the hiring manager should be asking the questions, but we can have a lot of influence in the outcome of the interview by changing the session from an interrogation into a dialogue. And you can only do that through the confident questions you ask.”
By posing a few poignant questions of your own during the interview, Roshan believes that the job applicant would be able to showcase their ability to think on their feet, analyse information and respond to changing situations appropriately.
“Asking the right questions will also allow you to get a better sense of work at the company.
“Most importantly, if you ask questions correctly, it reinforces in the mind of your interviewer that you are not “desperate” to land a job and may have other choices, forcing them to do “sell” and convince you to take the role.”
While it is good to know that you should also ask questions during an interview, the main issue will be – what questions should you ask?
“Questions about salary and payment early in the interview process reinforce your motivation—and in this case, it showcases your primary motivation is money and not growth, development or learning. Never discuss money issues. It will be brought up later,” says Roshan.
While it helps to prepare questions in advance, Roshan nevertheless says the best interviews are when candidates ask questions throughout the course of the interview.
“I find the best way to have interactive discussions is to be observant while you wait for your turn to be interviewed. Don’t focus your questions solely on the role you are interviewing for. Involve the interviewer and personalise questions by asking the interviewer about their own experiences with the company. Interviewers love to speak.”
Nevertheless, one must not fall into the trap of turning the interview around, he cautions.
“Do not submit your interviewer to another interview. This is not an interrogation, for either the interviewer or yourself. Remember, your goal is to make the interview a conversation – be positive and allow interaction from both sides.
“And if the interviewer keeps looking at her watch or is bored, you may be asking too many questions,” Roshan says.
Smile and say thank you
It’s simple to do – and it helps, says Roshan.
“Always smile and be cheerful at the start of the interview (except when the interviewer probes into a difficult part of your past history and then be as authentic as possible as you answer it). But smiling at the start of the interview immediately creates a feel good factor.”
Tuggle notes that saying thank you “can go a long way.”
“Hiring managers will remember the prospective employee who lacked manners.”
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 March 2015