Jobs are scarce. More so in the current distressed economic distress. Then there are, if not millions, at least hundreds of thousands of candidates after them. Most candidates possess the same skills as you. Sometimes even superior. So how do you stand out? As every resume is almost the same, where is your edge?
If you make it to the interview stage, then congratulations. But, don’t rest assured. There are still dozens of the top competitors having as great credentials as you have. The key is to sell yourself in the interview.
Like many other things, the interview process has gone online. It does not matter if the interview is offline or online. Basic thumb rules to crack it are the same.
Research the company, job and people
It is easier to have a conversation, if you know someone. Same applies to the interview. If you have researched the company, its businesses, its vision and mission statements, general policies, etc. you will be able to align your skills to company requirements. More specific research can also reveal detailed job requirements, the work culture and probably the interview panel itself. Knowing about their general likes and interests can help you navigate tricky questions.
Practice and Repeat
The more you perspire in peace, the less you bleed in war! This age-old saying never fails. Check for important interview questions on various online forums. Find trick questions - general and job specific. Write their answers, review them and practice them. You’ll have to own the answers to be able to reply under stress. Ask a friend or mentor to help you practice.
Your application, Resume, marksheets, degree & diploma certificates, industry certificates, references, academic and industrial project reports, photographs of models/projects undertaken. These are some important documents which you might need to show during an interview. If your file is cluttered, your documents may fall over, or you may fumble in locating them. So arrange all docs in most recent first order and remember their relative location or tag them.
Selecting an appropriate dress is very important. It will leave your first impression. It should be comfortable, well-fitted, ironed, and clean. Tie is not necessary but is recommended. Shoes must be formal and polished. Ladies shall avoid too many accessories or too loud prints or designs. Even for online interviews, you should not be in casuals. Dressing up will help you boost confidence as well as give a better impression about your professionalism.
For offline interviews, reach the venue at least 30 to 15 minutes in advance. You might need to fill-up some additional forms or undergo some security clearances. You may have traffic jams on the way. Try to recce the venue at least a few days beforehand, if in the same city.
For online interviews, set up the equipment and test the Internet connection at least 30 minutes and then again 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Download and test all required software. Find a secluded room with no distractions and noise. Choose a spot with proper lighting. Use earphones for better audio.
Solid references help
If you have any good references, you may list them on your resume. Check with your references, before you mention them. Your teachers who guided a project. Your supervisors at internships or summer jobs. Your manager at the NGO you volunteered at. These showcase you mean business. If they provide you with a recommendation letter, that’s much better. Sometimes, seniors can identify and convey those traits in you, which even you are not aware of.
Pay attention, Paraphrase and Ask questions
When you pay attention, you understand better. Still, there may be things or points that may skip you in the first go. Paraphrase to get them cleared up. You can use phrases like, ‘So you want to know “How the combustion of ...”’, or ‘to be clear about the objectives, you stated “We have to show empathy with the client while remaining professional”’. This subtly also shows-off your analytical skills, communication, hold on language and ability to ask even from superiors.
Interview is not a one-way street. It’s an exchange of ideas and views. So ask relevant questions. It’s better to ask question and give the correct reply, than to be overconfident and prove stupid. Probe politely to understand the critical aspects affecting your package, job role, expectations of you and your career path.
Think and remain calm
Responding to questions quickly is well regarded. but don’t jump the gun. Take a pause of 2-5 seconds before starting to reply. This gives you composure and a chance to organize your thoughts in a lucid manner. No one likes an excited person whose feathers can be ruffled easily. During your reply take very short pauses of not more than 3-5 seconds. This helps in gathering the thoughts mid-way.
Non-verbal communication matters
Body language, way of walking, gestures, posture, facial expressions and voice tone all affect your interview. More than the spoken word, sometimes. These can tell the panel if you are confident or under-prepared, calm or confused, balanced or ruffled. When you enter the room, greet everyone with a smile. Sit comfortably without making a fuss. Look directly at the person who’s asking the question. While replying make eye-contact with everyone on the panel. A little more with the one who put the question. Keep the tone balanced but assertive.
Show interest not desperation
Always show optimism in joining the organization. But don’t show desperation. It will reduce your negotiating power. Give them a realistic target and timeline. Don’t raise their expectations that you cannot meet. Nor agree to unrealistic demands to land the job at any cost. Both will affect your job-satisfaction and performance adversely in the long-term.
Express optimism in team, vision and your role in it
A new member is brought in to infuse new vision, ideas and hope to the team. As a prospective member, show your optimism. Discuss the outline of your contribution that you will make to the team. Align your skills with the team dynamics. Your research could help sell you how well suited are for the organization.
Don’t bad-mouth your previous employer
If you have been previously employed, then never bad-mouth about them. Even if the boss was horrible. Or the work environment was not so friendly. Or the policies were regressive. What you say is more about you and not about the others. If you were in a bad relationship then no one forced you to continue it. A new team is more interested in how you handled adverse situations. What steps did you take to bring to notice the wrongs and correct them? What positive policy changes you brought that made the workplace smarter and efficient? If you can narrate this with a positive outcome, you’ll come out as a changemaker.
Don’t stall, instead think aloud
Sometimes when we can't gather our thoughts, we stall. Or fumble. Or utter fillers like ‘umm’, ‘so...’, ‘I mean to say…’, etc. Never do that. Practice will come handy here. Start practicing thinking aloud. During the interview when you get stuck, think aloud, giving a piece of your mind to the panel. They’ll come to know your analysis process. How you put pieces together. And how do you involve team members in your thought process.
Tell stories but be brief
Everyone loves a story. It connects the dots. It is easy to understand, grasp and remember. This is not a fictional story. But a story like narration of real work and life experiences. The moral of the story should align with the skills you project. The story would be relatable only if it is true. Then, there should be a critical situation that you helped manage.
When the interview is over. Give a heartfelt thank you to the panel for the opportunity to present yourselves. It is courteous. Shows that you are calm and composed. A positive attitude and polite behaviour can go a long way in impressing people.
A follow-up can be in the form of a conventional thank-you card or an email. Show your gratitude to the people on panel. To the hiring manager, especially. Mention very politely and subtly how you’ll be a good fit for the team. This will refresh your interview in their minds and will solidify your position.