5 Golden Rules for Successful Job Interviews

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1. Research the company
Researching the company before your interview is essential. Failure to do so will be picked up by the interviewer and make you look unprepared, or worse, uninterested in the company.

Visit the company's website to find out exactly what they do. This will help you to have a well-informed conversation - especially when it comes to those classic questions, "why do you want to work for us?" and "what do you know about our company?"

It's also useful to read about the company's history to find out how long they have been around, how they've developed, their current position in the industry and who their competitors are.

If the company does not have a website, do a Google search for them as they may be listed on business directories such as Hotfrog, Cylex Business Directory or Yellow Pages.

2. Know what you can bring to the table
Interviews are about assessing your suitability for a position. This 'assessment' is largely based on how you present yourself during the interview, so be prepared to explain how your strengths relate to the company's goals and business - and how you'll contribute to the success of the company.

Read the job description and 'candidate requirements' carefully. Think of specific examples from your previous roles that will help you demonstrate that you have the skills and competencies needed. Include concrete examples. For example, if you claim to be a great team player, give an example of a situation in which you used this competency and explain how your contribution led to a positive outcome. But don't go into too much detail: limit your answers to two to three minutes - unless the interviewer asks for more detail.

3. Prepare your own questions
It's important to have a few questions of your own to ask at the end of an interview. This will show your enthusiasm, credibility and interest for the job - and the company as a whole.

Good questions to ask include those about career development and training opportunities. You could ask the interviewer to describe the kinds of projects you'd be involved with, or how your performance will be assessed. Or you could ask the what they'd like to be able to say about the person they hire a year from now.

Don't ask about benefits, salary or annual leave, however, as this could give the wrong impression. These issues should be discussed at later point in the recruitment process, for example, in the second interview. That said, if the interviewer asks for your salary expectations, enquire about the salary range they are offering and let them know if you are comfortable with it. Some employers may ask for your last pay slip, so don't inflate your salary - always be sincere about your expectations.

4. Look smart not sharp
Stick to the basic rule of interviews: rather be overdressed than underdressed! Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed. Ladies, keep your cleavage covered and guys, shave beforehand. If you smoke, refrain from having a cigarette a few hours before the interview as the smell can stick to your clothing. And don't overcomplicate things with distracting accessories or excessive make-up. You want the interviewer to focus on your answers, not your eye shadow!

If you have tattoos or piercings, consider how these will impact your assessment during the interview. While 'body decoration' may have nothing to do with your ability to perform on the job, the interviewer may not be as open-minded. To play it safe, remove any visible piercings before the interview and be prepared to only wear them when you are not at work, if you get the job.

5. Be on time and one step ahead
There's never an excuse for arriving late; not even delays with public transport or traffic jams will get you off the hook. In fact, transport problems can trigger a red flag for the interviewer as s/he will be thinking how you'll get to work on time if offered the job.

If you do find yourself running late, call the company to let them know. Ultimately, however, you should aim to arrive 30 minutes early so you have time to catch your breath and go through your pitch in your mind.
And to show your attention to detail, bring along any documentation the interviewer may need. This includes a copy of your ID or passport, relevant certificates or qualifications, portfolios of past projects, as well as a copy of your CV in case the interviewer does not have the original one on hand.

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Kati Mhone is a career and business coach based in Gauteng. For more information, visit www.coachingwithkati.co.za

Content courtesy Career Planet. Visit www.careerplanet.co.za for more career tips.