How to prepare for an interview is a top priority for many prospective job applicants, especially as recruitment activity and business confidence return to pre-coronavirus levels globally following the pandemic-induced slowdown.
The pressure of looking professional, trying to impress an interviewer, and not coming off as nervous or overly confident are the main reasons for stress among interviewees, according to recruitment experts.
“The current job market is extremely competitive and candidates have one shot to showcase their capabilities and interest in the role when they are invited for an interview,” says Deepa Sud, chief executive of Plum Jobs, a Dubai executive search consultancy.
About 40 per cent of interviewers reject a candidate due to their lack of confidence during an interview, 65 per cent veto those who fail to make eye contact and 20 per cent don’t take into consideration candidates who sit with their arms crossed, according to a survey by career advice website WhatToBecome.
Furthermore, 71 per cent of interviewers say they would pass on a candidate who is not appropriately dressed, 47 per cent wouldn’t choose an applicant with little knowledge of the company and 76 per cent would reject candidates who appear arrogant.
Here, recruitment experts offer their top tips on how to prepare for a job interview and questions to ask after the process.
Research and prepare
Read up on the company and prepare what you are going to say and listen carefully, says Nevin Lewis, chief executive of Black & Grey HR.
“Understand the company’s story and tell a story about who you want to be,” he adds.
It’s crucial that candidates visit the company’s website and social channels and educate themselves about the business mission, goals and core values.
“I always advise candidates to look beyond the company website — to check out a prospective employer’s social media profile and articles in the press,” says Zahra Clark, head of Mena operations at Tiger Recruitment.
“Doing the proper research gives you a well-rounded view of the company and allows you to ask more insightful questions.”
The interview is a good chance to observe the work environment and the office to get a feel of the company’s culture, says Waleed Anwar, managing director of Dubai-based recruitment company Upfront HR. Try to arrive early to do this.
Dress for the occasion
Pay attention to appearance because everyone makes first impressions based on how you look, Mr Lewis recommends.
Dress the part, always attend the interview looking presentable and take care of your grooming, says Mr Anwar.
Often, candidates forget this part and miss out on opportunities due to their attire or grooming, he says.
“Regardless of whether it’s a video or face-to-face interview, it’s important to choose the appropriate attire and pay attention to personal grooming,” says Ms Clark.
“Bear in mind that each organisation will have different expectations for how their employees should present. For example, a professional services company may expect a more conservative dress code compared with a tech start-up. We generally advise stepping up the professional presentation one notch to the employer’s dress code, just to be on the safe side.”
It takes only 27 seconds for people to make a first impression, according to a study of 2,000 Americans by Dollar Shave Club. About 69 per cent of people said they form a first impression of someone before they’ve even had a chance to speak, the poll found.
How you introduce yourself, shake the interviewer’s hand or interact in the initial conversation all play a role in your interview success, says Ms Clark.
“So, arrive on time, remember good posture, a friendly greeting, and — most importantly — smile,” she says.
“The same is true if you are interviewing via video call. Log on punctually, make eye contact with the camera, and smile and nod to show that you are listening to the interviewer and engaging with what they are saying.”
Body language, eye contact
The job applicant’s body language and eye contact are very important during the interview, according to Mr Anwar.
“How you sit can show confidence [sitting up straight], maintain good eye contact with the interviewer and others in the room, and limit hand movement to express yourself if needed,” he suggests.
Seventy per cent of recruiters read body language and 58 per cent ask situational questions to determine the candidates’ ability to work under specific circumstances and situations using a particular set of skills, according to statistics from the WhatToBecome survey.
Candidates must smile, be friendly and relaxed, and maintain a positive future outlook, according to Mr Lewis.
“Just be yourself. Be honest, authentic and the best version of yourself,” he says. “Highlight your personality, energy, character, skills, knowledge and confidence.”
Never lie during an interview, says Ms Sud of Plum Jobs. You will get caught out at some point.
“When being interviewed for a job, show genuine enthusiasm for the role and company that you want to join,” she adds.
Effective body language can help you convey confidence and interest in the role, whether your interview is face-to-face or via video call, according to Ms Clark.
“Pay careful attention to your posture: avoid slouching and sit up straight. Maintain eye contact throughout and avoid fidgeting. If you are a nervous fidgeter, try holding your hands on your lap and relax your shoulders,” she recommends.
“Don’t cross your arms on your chest, as this can be interpreted as being quite hostile. We also recommend steering clear of excessive hand gestures, which can distract from what you’re saying.”
Make sure you listen to the questions carefully before answering to avoid asking the interviewer to repeat the questions, Mr Anwar recommends.
“Answer the questions by relating them to your current role or the position you are applying for and giving relevant examples,” he says.
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Mr Lewis advises applicants to answer each question briefly. Talk to one person about one thing at a time, he says.
“Tell the interviewer how you envision contributing value, given an opportunity,” Mr Lewis adds.
Always ask questions in an interview, Ms Clark insists. Not doing so can put you at a disadvantage as it might suggest a lack of interest in the role and the business. However, with the right preparation, questions are the perfect opportunity to show you’ve done your homework and set yourself apart from other applicants, she says.
“Avoid answering questions with a simple yes or no. One-word responses can shut down the conversation and give the interviewer limited information about you,” Ms Clark says.
“Instead, expand on your answers and ensure you showcase your skills and talents within your responses. Having examples ready to support your points will stand you in good stead.”
When speaking about their work experience, it is worth structuring your responses to the relevant skills that you have for the role, according to Ms Sud.
“Give examples of how you have accomplished similar tasks and responsibilities and demonstrate your soft skills and learning capabilities,” she suggests.
When asked about salary expectations, be realistic and reasonable, Ms Sud suggests.
“Avoid stating a high figure in the hope of a negotiation — it is a turn-off for most companies,” she says.
About 91 per cent of employers expect the interviewee to know the salary before the interview, according to data from the WhatToBecome survey.
Be polite and firm. Polite aims to show your courtesy and respect, while assertive aims to show your enthusiasm for the interview and more, Mr Lewis recommends.
After the interview
It is good practice to send a short and polite thank you message or email to the company or recruiter within 24 hours of the interview, says Mr Anwar.
In this note, reinforce your interest in the job and maybe mention one key aspect that you look forward to working on or someone you look forward to working with, he adds.
“If you do not hear back after the recruitment timeline they initially indicated, follow up professionally,” Ms Sud suggests.
If you haven’t done this before the interview, you should always connect with the interviewers on LinkedIn, according to Mr Anwar.
Most importantly, relax and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, he says.
Move on to the next application and wait for feedback. If you don’t hear from them in the agreed time frame, follow up. This will give you peace of mind and closure, he adds.