October 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Interview skills are learnt. Do your pre-interview homework, learn what questions you can anticipate and how best answer them. Practice and preparation are key for a successful interview. Your CV has impressed, your research and networking activities have paid off and you have landed an Interview with your company of choice. Now to make sure you turn this Interview into a pot of gold and secure the job of your dreams. Below are some general tips and guidelines that should assist you through the Interview:
Most of you will have researched your company of choice thoroughly in order to get to this point. For those who haven’t, it is essential that you do some background research on the company and the job before you walk in that door. The Interviewer will expect you to know a little about the industry and the company and will be very impressed if you are familiar with specific events, news and concerns relating to the business. Newspapers, industry and trade magazines, local libraries and the Internet are all a good source of information. Feel free to pick up the phone and ask the company for their annual reports any marketing materials – most companies are more than happy to oblige. The very minimum information you will want to know is what the company does, what job you are applying for and any well-known news pertaining to the company eg. Merger, big scandal, new CEO.
2. Be prepared
For those of you who were cubscouts, we are not suggesting ropes and a tent. We would however recommend you take with you a notebook and extra copies of your CV (in many cases the employer will have misplaced it, have an unclear copy or simply expect you to provide it). In many types of jobs, you may want to take with you examples of your work eg. past creative work if you are in advertising, design or similar roles, architectural plans you are proud of if you are an architect, an example of something you have had published in a journal etc. Employers are usually very impressed to see examples of your work – it shows you have taken initiative and it makes their decision much easier.
One other thing we recommend you bring with you for Middle Eastern job interviews is your college graduation certificate(s) where available. Employers often specifically request to see this, so you should be prepared.
3. Dress for success
Your first Interview is the first impression an employer will have of you and it is essential to make a favorable first impact. You should always plan to dress conservatively for the first Interview even if the job involves casual wear. You can always dress down in later meetings. Generally, the image you want that first meeting is clean, well-groomed and conservative.
Men should wear dark suits, preferably in navy or charcoal grey. Pinstripes are fine. We recommend you wear a white shirt which should be crisply ironed with a conservative necktie. Socks and shoes should be dark, preferably black. Jewellery on men is usually not favourably looked upon at the Interview stage – you can always dig out the hairdye and that amethyst ring from your great granddad after you have secured the job.
Women are also advised to wear dark suits for that first Interview. In the Middle East it is advisable that skirts are below the knee and not exorbitantly figure hugging. Trouser suits are more casual but quite acceptable these days. Blouses can be any colour but again we recommend they are on the conservative side in cut and print. As a general rule of thumb shoes should be dark, with a low-to-moderate conservative heel and no stilletos. If the weather permits (often not the case in the Middle East) it is highly advisable to wear skin-colour tights with your shoes. Excessive jewelery looks unprofessional and we would advise you to keep it to the minimum: earrings, wedding ring(s) and maybe a pendant or a brooch or a simple bracelet. Long dangly busy earrings are generally unprofessional looking. Finally, wear your hair cleanly washed and well-groomed; if it is long and unruly, we recommend sweeping it off your face in a simple style that will allow the Interviewer to see your face and eyes. The first interview will give you a feel for the company culture and you can choose to tailor your look accordingly thereafter.
In the Middle East and other Asian countries, dress allowances are usually made for local attire in the domestic companies. A Kuwaiti man may be expected to show up for an interview at any company in Kuwait in a Dishdash for example and the same may apply across the board in the Gulf. General Western dress code rules are often relaxed in Middle Eastern companies to allow for the diversity of our work cultures with Saris, Dishdashes and different types of headdress being very permissible and quite common in the local companies.
4. Be punctual
Make sure you arrive for the Interview a good 15 minutes early. Allow yourself plenty of time for any potential mishaps eg traffic jams, unclear directions, public transportation difficulties etc.
5. Attitude counts
This is the time to show off your interpersonal skills. Employers are looking for certain key character traits and you need to demonstrate them at the Interview. Keep the following in mind:
- Listening skills. Make sure you let the Interviewer complete his sentences and you don’t interrupt. At the same time, show interest in what he is saying and encourage him to talk and ask questions. Good listening skills and a friendly pleasant demeanor are key attributes in any job.
- Enthusiasm. In many cases, you will not be ideally qualified for the position, or you may have a steep learning curve ahead of you. You need to demonstrate to the Employer that you are extremely interested in the position and love what you do! Enthusiasm is contagious and employers are always keen to add enthusiastic members to their team. Your positive attitude will also rub off on the interviewer as long as it is genuine and not overplayed and he will leave the Interview with a favorable ‘feel’ about you.
- Eye contact. Maintain eye contact with the Interviewer. Looking away continuously suggests distractibility and disinterest. Looking down suggests shyness and lack of confidence. By all means though keep it natural and feel free to nod your head and smile and even laugh where appropriate.
- Flexibility. You need to demonstrate to the Interviewer that you are flexible, ie willing and able to adapt readily to new environments, demands, people, work styles etc. The Interview is a good place to demonstrate this. Be sensitive to the Interviewer’s personal style by paying attention to his general behavior, his demeanor, his office space and the types of questions he asks and tailor your answers accordingly.
- Professionalism. Above all, BE PROFESSIONAL! Respect the Interviewer-Interviewee boundaries at all times and do not behave in an overly friendly or casual fashion with the Interviewer. Avoid bringing up any of your personal life unless in a directly relevant manner, do not comment on politics, religion or any other controversial topics dear to your heart, do not stray from the Interview topics unless you have a common interest such as golf, and keep your answers factual, honest and professional.
6. Have the answers
There is no telling what style an Interviewer will take and what questions he will come up with. Interviews range from the very structured and professional ones conducted by HR departments in multinationals and banks, to ad hoc conversations in small outfits where the employer may ask you to simply talk about yourself. In most large corporations however, certain questions are very standard and we recommend you take the time to really think about them, develop answers and find evidence to support your answers from past experiences and qualifications.