Ahhh, job interviews. It’s the one thing that always sets a corporate warrior into fright mode. Every year, millions of workers looking for greener pastures send out resumes to employers – a quarter of which will be eligible for a chance to pass the dreaded job interview.
You can hide and sugarcoat information in your resume, but you can’t do the same for a job interview. Job interviews will always be tough. They will make or break you. You may be the most skilled employee the world has ever seen, but if you can’t communicate well during one, you won’t make the cut.
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So what’s keeping you from nailing down that job interview? Could it be your lack of confidence? Your knowledge about the company you’re applying for? The arrogant impression you make to the interviewer?
Whatever it is, here are 5 key interview tips on how to transform yourself from grit to great. We also asked yuppies from Southeast Asia about their own personal tips. Catch them at the end of the article!
1. Do your research
Most applicants overestimate their knowledge about the organization they’re aiming to join. If you’re applying for a company, being a loyalist of its products or services is not good enough – that’s like saying you’re qualified to join Facebook just because you use Facebook every day.
It takes deeper understanding of an organization’s vision, scope of operations, culture, and management style to truly appreciate it.
So where should you start? Checking the company’s website is always a good first step. The “About Us”section summarizes everything you need to know about the company from an outsider’s point of view.
Read online news articles too: what have been the company’s success points and challenges recently? Is it performing well in the market? Who are its competitors and what is its strategy in the next 5 years?
Your variety of knowledge will surely impress the recruiter as it sends the message that you are serious about this application.
Finally, don’t just end with the homework – link it back to you. Is the company’s “reason for being” aligned with your career roadmap? If your answer is yes, share this with the interviewer as it will surely drive home the message sweeter (e.g. say it like, “I live and breathe art, and working in a prestigious advertising agency that can further hone my graphics design skills is the reason why I’d like to join your organization”).
2. Master the FAQs
There are job interview questions that have stood the test of time and you have no excuse not to prepare for them. By now, you should have selected good friends or mentors who are willing to conduct mock interviews for you. Ask them to cover some of the most frequently asked questions below:
- Why are you leaving your current job and seeking opportunities elsewhere?
- Why choose us as your next potential employer? Why this industry?
- What is your ultimate career vision? How do you see yourself 3, 5, and 10 years from now?
- What do you think are your weaknesses as an employee and how do you manage them?
- Tell us a story about a challenge you encountered with a colleague at work and how you overcame it.
Practicing what and how to answer these FAQs will not only increase your confidence but also help you anticipate other questions that may be asked later.
I personally believe this is the part of the preparation process that must not be skipped at all costs. Benjamin Franklin painfully reminds us all: “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Remember that preparation breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds confidence. And when you’re confident, you become an unstoppable force who knows nothing but winning. (RELATED: How to be awesome at job interviews)
3. Dress to impress
Clothes will always set the tone the moment you enter the interview room. Consider yourself as a gift and your clothes as the gift wrapper. A beautiful gift wrapper makes the receiver excited, and more so when the quality of content matches the wrapper too! Aim to look sharp on this special day as it might change your interviewer’s mood and impressions. Indeed, we don’t exaggerate when we say that looks can kill.
Manila stylist, Dette Lindres, who offers personal branding services to yuppies, suggests that your choice of color is critical: white, black and blue are best suited for management positions because they convey leadership and power. Purple and pastel colors meanwhile convey creativity suited for artistic jobs. (READ: 23 looks to update your office wardrobe)
“Avoid loud colors like yellow or orange which can make you look unprofessional,”she adds. Finally, stick to classics: long-sleeves and slacks for males, and pencil skirt with blouse or a one-piece dress in solid color. Wearing your favorite or lucky shirt that makes you comfortable also helps.
4. Clean up your social media profile
When we say “clean up,” we assume that everyone in this world has his fair share of incriminating posts on the Internet. Beware that HR recruiters check candidates’ profile online and judge you based on what they see. Yes, first impressions might not reflect the real you, but first impressions also last, so do your part to make a good one.
Do you have a public video on YouTube featuring your awesome drunk-dancing moves? Delete those. Did you just describe yourself as “Beyonce’s bootylicious twin” on your Twitter profile? Change that too, please.
Customizing your online profile to position yourself to a target audience is called ORP (Online Reputation Management) which you can do either by yourself, or by hiring a professional social media expert. Don’t have a LinkedIn account yet or have one that’s incomplete with no profile picture? That’s part of ORP too that you shouldn’t miss.
5. Ask and talk back
A job interview should never be a one-way street. You’re not just here to be tested by the interviewer, you’re also here to find out if the job is the right one for you (unless you’re desperate for a job which is a different story altogether).
There are many jobs out there that are advertised with beautiful adjectives but aren’t really what they promise to be. This is your golden opportunity to find out its authenticity. Consider asking the following questions:
- What is the work culture in the company?
- How big is this department and who will I report to? What is the scope of work of my potential boss?
- What is expected of the employee in her first 90 days at work?
- What are other career opportunities in the company should I succeed in this role?
You might get indirect answers, but it is your duty to get clues about the position you’re taking. Will your working style match with the people? Is this a newly created position that the company is experimenting on? Did someone resign perhaps because there was just too much on her plate? Or did she leave a bad boss that’s just waiting for his next victim like you? Is this really a marketing job or a sales job disguised as “marketing”? How much time will I be spending in the office or in the field?
Remember that this is your only window of opportunity to know your employer and your job intimately before you say yes, so milk it!
When you’re done with the interview
After you’ve sweat it out, don’t forget to ask the interviewer for the next steps: will someone contact you to give feedback, or should you follow-up in a week’s time otherwise? There will be polite recruiters who generously inform you via e-mail about the results and there will be some who expect you to understand that silence means “I’m sorry.” The key is to understand that everyone’s time is important, and making someone wait (for nothing) is simply rude.
Finally, it is never the end of the world if you fail an interview. Just like love, there are many factors to consider why both of you were never meant to be. As long as you’ve done your best to prepare, use the defeat as a means to fuel your hunger to ace the next one.
The worst thing to do is to lose hope immediately on Day 1 even if there are plenty of fish in the sea. And when you’re all primed and ready, say it with me: “I’m a gladiator. A gladiator in a suit.” Good luck!
I asked some folks from Southeast Asia to share their tips on how to prepare for an interview. Here’s what they had to say:
Reserve time to compose yourself
There was one time when I was slightly late for an interview and this diminished my confidence all throughout. I felt so guilty I couldn’t concentrate on the questions. I learned my lesson well: buffer at least an hour before the interview. This time is crucial because it allows you to imagine yourself in the interview and doing everything right. Mental preparation is always the key!
– Julia Ho, 24, government analyst from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Say it in numbers, not just words
When talking about achievements from your past company, don’t just say what you did in words (e.g. I successfully launched a new product). Say it in numbers (ex. I launched a new product that increased the company’s annual sales by +20%). Recruiters want to hear statistics and figures because it gives a more accurate measure of your success.
– Nica Marquez, 26, brand manager from Manila, Philippines
Turn the Tables Around
The best people to ask if the company has great culture are its own employees. I bravely ask my interviewer about his personal experiences in the company: what he likes about it, and how he has grown through the years. I check his body language and facial gestures when he answers this question. You’ll be amazed to get some clues if the company is worth aspiring for.
– Xuan Le, 25, travel guide from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Jonathan Yabut is the winner of the hit reality business TV show, The Apprentice Asia, and was popularly known in the show for his people skills, leadership and passionate speeches in the “boardroom.” He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the Chief of Staff of AirAsia reporting to Malaysian business mogul, Tony Fernandes. Apart from work, he engages in motivational talks about youth, leadership and entrepreneurship across Southeast Asia and is represented by the London Speaker Bureau. He recently launched his book about his journey to becoming the first Asian Apprentice, From Grit to Great. Visit his website at jonathanyabut.com