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Last updated on 2/18/22

How to attend a job interview successfully

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This chapter is a little different, but it has its place in the course. Attending a job interview is a seated version of public speaking.

Moreover, it’s a situation that concerns everybody. The stakes are often high: it’s about getting a job, successfully selling yourself and demonstrating your skills. Consequently, it can be a source of stress.

Prepare yourself as well as you can

As with every type of spoken presentation, you need to be prepared. It’s said that success at an interview is 70% preparation.

Inform yourself about your interviewer(s)

The essential thing that you must do is to ensure you know:

The mission of the company you’re applying to

Get as much information as you can from the Internet about that company: Wikipedia, press articles, social networks etc. Read and store information. On the one hand, this will reassure you, and on the other, it will enable you to set up a rapport during the interview, by showing that you are motivated.

Who you will encounter during the interview

What is that person’s profession/job? What’s their status in the company? What’s their decision-making power? You can, in the first instance, look up their profile on a professional social networking site and, if you’ve already communicated by email or phone, analyse what that tells you about their character.

Why do that?

Because when you meet them in person, you’ll have the impression of already knowing them a bit; you won’t be in completely unknown territory, which will increase your chances of keeping your composure during the interview.

Where the interview will take place

Don’t risk arriving late on the big day. Check that you know the exact address and how to get there. That will allow you to check your itinerary, plan how much time you need to get there and even  anticipate some room for manoeuvre in case of e.g. traffic jams, delays on the underground etc.

Know your strengths and skills

Next, make an honest assessment of your strengths and of what will make that company prepared to pay you a salary. In other words, what are your skills? Is your profile unusual? Also, what’s your experience in the field and how can you turn it to your advantage?

Prepare yourself for particular questions

Don’t set off for an interview without having given yourself a half-hour to anticipate what you might be asked. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything, but at least be prepared for:

Being asked to take a few minutes to introduce yourself

This is essential and there’s a good chance that the interview will begin with it. In chronological order, or as a mind map (however you prefer) write down / draw a diagram of / describe your personal history. Choose an original angle to tell it from; it must be unique and, above all, positive. Also, prepare yourself for having to tell it briefly. You might be asked to take two minutes to introduce yourself.

Being asked questions about your values/strengths/qualities/weaknesses

Don't say that you’re a “perfectionist” – it's been flogged to death and people say it to avoid revealing a weakness. Be honest; consider your true strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has them, and trying to hide them can come across as suspect, dishonest and superficial.

The trick is to declare your weakness, but follow that immediately with an explanation that explains why you’re conscious of it and how you manage to overcome it from day to day. For example, add an anecdote describing the proud moment when you managed to overcome your weakness and demonstrate courage/professionalism/maturity/wisdom etc.

Communicate your message with impact

Get your appearance right

Your appearance should be correct and suitable.

Even if you’re going to an interview in a young, dynamic start-up, and you don’t have to arrive in a suit and tie, still make an effort with your appearance. To some extent it will reveal aspects of your personality and will show that you are able to stay professional in all situations.

Your posture must be irreproachable.

As you enter the room, before sitting down, shake your interviewer’s hand firmly. Be careful, don’t wring their hand, but also don’t give a limp handshake; that would be interpreted as a lack of assurance and/or motivation.

Hold yourself straight, feet flat on the ground, forearms resting on the edge of the table.

Don’t look at the table or elsewhere when you speak, but look at your interviewer’s eyes.

Don’t play with things on the table, e.g. a pen. That’s considered a sign of nervousness and perceived as very irritating by the person sitting opposite you.

Express yourself in an assertive manner

Avoid words that can indicate any shakiness and that show hesitation, doubt or lack of confidence in oneself such as “I think”, “I try”, “I believe”, “The problem is that”.

Instead of that, opt for a positive and assertive vocabulary: “I’m certain that”, “I’m convinced that”.

Avoid negative turns of phrase and make mainly positive statements.

Don’t say: “I don’t think of myself as being someone who easily loses their motivation.”

Say: “I’m very motivated and always ready to bounce back.”

It goes without saying, but don’t try to tell a joke or to make your interviewer laugh, even if they seem benevolent. That’s not what you’re there for.

Ask questions

Asking questions shows your interest in the job.

That would reveal a very negative aspect of your personality.

Opt for questions on the company’s mission, values and culture. Be really interested in the company’s corporate life. Try to find out more. After all, you also have to decide whether it suits you.

Give relevant answers to questions

Answering questions doesn’t mean:

“Do you think you’re suitable for the post?”

“Yes.”

😰

Or even:

“What is your main weakness?”

“I’m shy.”

😓

Don’t stop there, take it further. You can’t just leave it at that with the interviewer. They want to know who you are: show them. Every answer you give must be justified, explained and show your analytical abilities. Give constructed responses. It will demonstrate your strengths, even while you’re talking about a weakness. 😎

Have the last word: it’s up to you to conclude the interview

At the end of the interview, it’s up to you to conclude it; don’t let the interviewer tell you he’ll call you back. Make a brief conclusion, to go back over the important points:

  • List the reasons that you are suitable for the post;

  • Reiterate your motivation for the job;

  • State again when you will be available to start the job, and that you remain available to give additional information;

  • Thank them and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.

That way, the ball is in the interviewer’s court.

Demonstrate your ability to be flexible

During an interview, it can happen that the interviewer changes language without warning you. For example, you’ve been speaking English for five minutes and, suddenly, the interviewer asks you a question in Spanish.

Don’t panic. There are two possible reasons for this:

  1. The post explicitly requires mastery of Spanish, and the interviewer wants to check that you are proficient in the language. Normally, if you have applied, it’s because you speak Spanish. So, relax and show that you speak Spanish.

  2. Or, the job doesn’t explicitly require mastery of Spanish and the interviewer wants to test your ability to manage stress and be flexible. Smile, take a second to breathe and reply in Spanish as well as you can, without worrying about your accent.

You could also be asked to do an exercise, or to take an IQ type test during the interview. So, perform the exercise.

Let’s recap!

  • 70% of the success of an interview depends on preparation:

    • Learn about the company's mission and the person you will meet.

    • Outline your strengths and skills.

    • Check the address for your appointment.

  • During the interview:

    • Dress professionally.

    • Your posture should be infallible.

    • Introduce yourself in 2 minutes with originality and your unique style.

    • Use positive and confident vocabulary and expressions.

    • Show your interest in the role by asking questions.

    • Demonstrate your ability to analyze by giving structured answers.

    • Conclude the interview by going over the important point and reiterating your motivation to take up the position.

    • If the recruiter asks you a question in another language, don't panic. Be confident and reply in the best way you can without worrying about your accent.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement