Preparing for a job interview


Job interviews are a two-way process. They offer an opportunity for the candidate, as well as the prospective employer, to ask questions. Asking the right questions can help candidates find the right job with the right company

Being well prepared for a job interview can make all the difference. Doing homework on the company and the industry can ensure that candidates have a steady stream of relevant answers when the interviewer starts asking questions.

But what is just as important is for candidates to have some questions of their own ready. This shows that the candidate is thinking about what has been said and is trying to better understand what is required.

Active listener, active contributor

The candidate should be an active listener, as well as an active contributor. Nothing loses the goodwill or interest of an employer more than a candidate who consistently misses the point and is not focused on what is being asked.

This is often a result of nerves. If this is the case, the candidate should just pull back and concentrate on the point of the question. Asking for clarification buys thinking time and teases out more information.

To make sure that the next job is a positive career move and not a leap into the great unknown requires rigorous preparation. Prospective employers, for their part, are not charities or foundations. They need candidates who can meet their requirements and bring something extra to the business.

A two-way street

Candidates should find out what they will be getting from their prospective employers. Not just in terms of remuneration, though it is important to think this through and to discuss it at the right stage, but also in terms of personal and career development. The interview process is the first step in the relationship and needs to be a two-way street.

The two key questions are: is this the right company for me and is this the right job for me? Some of that information can be found in company brochures and websites, but it is also crucial to make use of the interview process.

Find out what happened to predecessors

Candidates should ask what has happened to the last three people who did the job they are applying for. Have they been promoted through the ranks of the company and are they now enjoying heady perks at the top of the ladder, or have they been shuffled off sideways into a dead-end job?

Perhaps the predecessors no longer work for the company. If so, did the job catapult them into the managing director’s chair in a rival company or did they leave because the job was heading nowhere?

If predecessors are now doing exactly the sort of job the candidate is dreaming of, then the job could be perfect. If they are not, deciding whether the position is the right one may require further thought.

If applying to a multinational firm because the idea of travelling appeals, the candidate should find out what the opportunities for international experience are. It is all a matter of asking the right questions and finding out exactly what the scope is before accepting the job.

Think big, but watch the detail

The candidate should take a careful look at the employer and its departments. Also get a clear picture of where the company is going strategically. There is no point getting the ideal job in a company that will cease trading in a year.

On the other hand, an employer might not be able to offer the ideal job now, but it may offer great opportunities for the future. It is important to find out what the aspirations of prospective employers are. If a candidate is looking for US job experience, a company that is just about to expand across the Atlantic could offer them a valuable opportunity.

To an outsider, the most mundane job can look glamorous if it is in the right wrapping. It is up to a candidate to peel off the layers and get down to the true essence of a position.

That involves doing some background research, talking to people who work for the company and using that information to ask the right questions in the interview. Making an informed decision is at the heart of changing jobs.

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