Well done! You have an interview. Now make sure you are ready.
Prepare by researching the sector and company (corporate brochures, websites, and industry magazines are starting points).
Prepare for questions. Recruiters use stock questions. These include “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “there are 10 applicants, so why should I select you?” They may also throw in oddball questions. Write down possible questions and ask a friend or relative to engage in role-play, firing the queries at you. Avoid monosyllabic responses. For instance, if asked if you are punctual, don’t just say “Yes”, but provide a tidbit of information to prove the point, such as “Yes, I irritate my boyfriend by always turning up 10 minutes early.” At the interview, expect some questions for which you did not prepare. Be honest. Be yourself. Be relaxed.
Prepare your own questions. When asked if you have any queries, preface your question with an item of information which shows you know something of the company and industry. The structure, “it’s my understanding that…” is the usual way of framing this lead-in. You might like clarity on the company’s management style and expansion plans. You also need to know exactly what is required of you.
Two Way Street
In a proper interview both sides stand to gain. Realise that the interview is a joint enterprise. Your interviewer may be leading, but she or he needs you and your active input. Your gain is that by asking questions you get the information you need to make an informed decision. Some questions, however, are better left unasked.
You may, or should ask (unless already answered in the interview):
- What will you have to do? What is expected in this particular position?
- What about particular tasks and the amount of time spent on them?
- What qualities are they looking for in candidates for this position? Then discuss with the interviewer the ways your capabilities and experience relate to those qualities.
- Questions about regular working hours and conditions and the occurrence of overtime.
- Is this a new job? How does it fit into the overall structure of the department or company?
- Questions about the normal channels for advancement in the company. Do not forget to ask about career possibilities, and if you are a woman don’t forget to ask about promotion opportunities. If you don’t your (male) interviewer may think you will be happy in a dead-end job.
- Is it a staff or a line function? Staff people provide advice and support for the line: they do accounting, planning and administration. Therefore ask: what position can this job lead to?
- Does the company provide training, on the job or external training?
- Are periodic performance evaluations and pay reviews the rule? How will you be rated?
- Ask about salary only if you are reasonably sure you are a strong contender for the position and if the interviewer does not mention the subject. You should let the employer name a figure first – if for no other reason than that the employer’s figure may be higher than yours. If the interviewer does not mention money, at the end of the interview you might raise the topic, inquiring about the ‘range’ of the salary.
- At the end: ask what to expect, any next step in the process? And when?
You Should Avoid Asking:
- Questions that sound as if you are interviewing the interviewer. You want to pose questions to find out about the job and the organisation, not the person behind the desk.
- Personal questions about the interviewers educational background or career. This is where the interview is a one-way street, as you can and may certainly be asked about your background.
- Questions that may get the interviewer in trouble, like what are the best and worst aspects of the job? Is his department considered strong? Is she or he a nice boss?
- “What do you do here?” That is one question guaranteed to turn off interviewers. You should have done your homework.
- “Who had this position before you?”
- Questions that imply you already have the job, i.e. where is my workplace?
- Questions about fringe benefits – at least not in the beginning of the interview. You have every right to know the answers to these, but save them until after you are offered the job.