The Interview Guide

How you present and market yourself at interview is crucial in determination whether or not you  secure the job you want.
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with the best practice advice as well as hints and stips on undertaking a successful Interview from young black professionals.

Step 1 – Preparation

Preparation, preparation, preparation. The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough – it is essential for a successful interview. The better prepared you are, the more confidence you have.

The basics
Before your interview, ensure that you know the following:

  • The exact time and location of the interview, route, transport options (taxis or bus routes), parking and how long it will take to get there.
  • The interviewer’s correct title and pronunciations of his or her full name.
  • Special facts about the company – its history, financial position, mission, markets, competitors, latest news, products and services. The company’s website is often an excellent source of information. Simple internet searches can also reveal information that may not be profiled on the company’s website.
  • Facts and figures about your present or former employer. Refresh your memory on this as you will be expected to know a lot about a company for which you have previously worked.

Dress like a professional, in a smart business suit with a clean, ironed shirt and tie (or blouse) and dark shoes. Do not wear casual clothes even if you know it is company policy. This also applies to those positions that you deem as semi skilled e.g call centre.
Review your CV and job description
Review your CV and ensure you are equipped to answer questions on the details you have supplied. Be ready to use pertinent examples from your career or personal life to demonstrate your skills and competencies. Also review the job description and the core competencies of the role. Examine your suitability and prepare special examples before the interview. 

Questions to ask the interviewer
Remember that an interview is a two-way process. The interviewer will be trying to determine whether you are the right person for the role and, likewise, you should take the opportunity to determine whether the potential employer will provide the career development and challenge that you seek.
Some questions you might ask include:

  • Why the position has become available?
  • How does the position fit into the structure of the organization?
  • What training programmes are available to ensure continued personal and career development?
  • What plans does the organization have for future growth?
  • What motivated you to join the organization?

Step 2 -  The Interview

During the interview, your strengths and areas of development will be assessed. In addition, specific personal characteristics will be examined, such as attitude, stability and motivation.
Hints and tips for a successful interview
Making the right first impression (remember first impression lasts)

  • Arrive on time or a few minutes early. Late arriving for an interview is inexcusable.
  • Greet the interviewer and thank them for their time.
  • Follow the interviewer’s leads, let them set the tone of the interview

Body language

  • Shake hands firmly
  • Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting.
  • Sit upright in your chair and look alert and interested at all times
  • Be as charismatic as possible; it is very important that you demonstrate your interpersonal skills during the interview.
  • Be a good listener as well as a good talker.
  • Smile and maintain eye contact.

Marketing yourself

  • Describe your accomplishments and how they apply to the prospective role in a clear, concise way.
  • Always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on an opportunity. It is better to be in a position where you can souse from a number of offers – rather that only one.
  • Avoid enquiring about salary, holidays and bonuses at the initial interview unless you are positive that the interviewer wants to hire you. You should however, know your Market value and expect to specify your required salary or salary range.

Competency-Based interview
 Organisations are increasingly using this technique to standardize the interviewing process. Competency-based interviews (also sometimes known as behavioral interviews) focus on core competencies that are needed to be successful in a role including knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics.
You will be required to give specific examples of past situations or exercises that demonstrate your competence in particular areas. You will need to give thoughtful answers, recalling as much details as possible, ensure that you make it relevant to the position you are interviewing for.
Examples of competency-based questions
1)    Give me an example of when you had to work towards an important deadline.
How manageable were your timelines
What did you do to ensure that the deadline was met?
How would you organize your activities differently next time?

2)    Describe the last time you missed a deadline.
Why did this happen?
How responsible were you for this?
What did you do to try to overcome this problem?

3)    Give me an example of when you had to support others in a team?
Why did they need support?
What did you do to support them?
How did that change things?

4)    Describe an occasion when you had difficulties working with a team
What caused the problems?
How did you respond?
What was the outcome?

5)    Tell me about a time you were able to anticipate a problem
How did you know the problem was likely to occur?
What did you do?
How effective was your action?
6)    Give me a recent example of when you have experienced a setback?

  • Describe the situation.
  • How did you react to the problem?
  • You also need to be prepared to answer more traditional interview questions such as:
  • Why did you choose your particular career path/field?
  • What kind of a role are you seeking?
  • Why would you like to work for this organization?
  • What interests you about our product or service
  • What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?
  • What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now?
  • When was your last salary review?
  • What style of management gets the best from you?
  • What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
  •  Which job did you enjoy the most and why?
  • What have you done that shows initiative in your career?
  • What are the major weaknesses and what are your strength?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What does ‘teamwork’ mean to you?

Step 3– Closing The Interview

  • If you are interested in the position, enquire about the next interview stage. If the interviewer offers the position to you and you want it, accept on the spot. If you wish for some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date on which you can provide an answer.
  • Don’t be discouraged if no definite offer is made nor a specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to consult colleagues or interview other candidates before making a decision.
  • If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and you have already been rejected, don’t let your discouragement show. From time to time and interviewer may intend to discourage you in order to test your reaction.
  • Thank the interviewer for the time spent with you.