5 Tips To Successfully Navigate Your Job Interview

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A job interview can feel like running out in the middle of an unstable rope-bridge, Indiana Jones-like, with enemies encroaching both behind and ahead of you. There can always be both too little and too much of something; the point is to get it just right.

#1 Confidence

Too little confidence is a no-brainer. You may look appealing, have a matching resume, and possess desirable skills. However, too much timidity, such as looking at the floor instead of directly at the Interviewer when speaking, mumbling or being inaudible, or generally seeming miserable to be there, will usually disqualify the candidate on the basis that they cannot possibly represent the company, irrespective of their other abilities. Learn to enjoy the challenge of the interview.

Too much confidence is equally to be avoided. This may seem counterintuitive, but few Interviewers appreciate individuals who may seem arrogant to the point of brazenness and who project themselves as too big to learn on the job (unless you’re applying to work for Donald Trump, but let’s hope it never, ever, comes to that). Try to match your confidence level between realistic expectations for your level of experience and the job level you’re applying for.

#2 Dress

Too little concern for your sense of dress will give the immediate impression of sloppiness. Obviously, many tech and other contemporary companies have a laid back dress code; this still doesn’t mean you can come to the interview hung-over and looking like you just rolled out of bed. Measure your sense of dress according the corporate or other culture you interpret from your research of the company; a jacket won’t hurt either way, and being well-dressed and primed in general is a plus.

Too much concern for the dress code can overshoot the mark. Just as there’s no point in wearing a three-piece suit if interviewing for a language institute or to work on the lower rungs of the waste management industry, you also don’t need to out-match the CEO’s wardrobe. In a more entrepreneurial culture, you need to show some convergence with that culture, where the Steve Jobs turtle-neck might well do. Again, open jacket never bad. Open, and going places. The tie can always be added.

#3 Demeanour

Too little attention paid to your demeanour might cost you points even if what you’re saying is like the sound of heavenly angels to the Interviewer. Pay attention to whether you’re prone to slouch, shrug your shoulders, have a habit of crossing your arms in conversation or have some tic that prevents you from addressing the Interviewer directly, as none of these will fly and can undermine an otherwise good presentation. Have body language that is open and welcoming, but not confrontational or lazy.

Too much attention paid to your demeanour can give the impression of getting in the Interviewer’s face. If you go around strutting like a peacock or as if you just won the Presidency when interviewing for an internship, you’ll give the impression of overshooting both your mark and your place (trust me on that one!), which is an indication you might not fit into your designated position or the company culture, causing the Interviewer to think twice.

#4 Matching

Too little emphasis in the course of your presentation on how your skill set and experience match the position will cause the Interviewer to wonder why you’re even there. You should be looking to balance a reasonable expectation of what your background has enabled you to accomplish with the requirements of the job, showing openness to learning and demonstrated creativity in problem-solving areas that can help bridge the gap between where you’ve been and where you’re going. Don’t just pretend you’re automatically perfect for the job.

Too much emphasis on your achievements and skills at the expense of demonstrating understanding of what the position requires and presenting how you propose to achieve this will, again, suggest a mismatch between your current level and the position, whatever the truth of it. Why would someone hire someone who has already achieved “perfection” (see again: Trump, Donald J., sarcasm very much intended), and more to the point, why would such an “extraordinary” individual be asking for a job?

#5 Research

Too little research about the position and company is another no-brainer. You cannot go to an interview hoping to wing it on the basis of your background alone, and showing up prepared with adequate research about the company is just as important as showing up, well, washed and clean. You won’t be expected to know everything but you will be expected to demonstrate both some knowledge of, and interest in, the company more broadly, and of the job description and how both you and it fit into the overall matrix more specifically.

Too much research about the position and company can seem as if you’re over-compensating for a lack in other areas, such as experience or a broader bird’s-eye view of what the position entails. There’s little point in bombarding the Interviewer with information (financials available online, etc.) they likely already know; far more important to demonstrate how your processing and (necessarily limited) analysis of relevant information about the company leads you to suggest that you’re the right employee the company is looking for, and that you can connect the dots the way they need you to do.

Run out on that unstable rope-bridge, by all means. After all, you have no choice. But remember to cut the ropes at the exact right point.

This is the second installment (first one can be found here) in a series of columns. In future installments, I’ll be addressing all aspects of the employment process, from promoting one’s strongest attributes, to fielding questions about employers’ needs, bridging the gap between these and educational background, to presentational and oratorical tips, and onto marketing one’s startup experience (!) – and beyond.



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