All you needed to know about job interviews

Now that we crossed the 'first impression' barrier, let us go one-step ahead in the interview process, i.e. the questions asked. Interviews are tough exercises whereby representatives of the company try to ascertain the best-fit candidate for a particular job description. Hence, this would definitely not be a friendly or informal exchange of ideas.

You need to be prepared to project the right picture that matches as closely as possible to what they are seeking. The following tips may be kept in mind:

Be prepared - Rehearse well the standard interview questions tweaked to match the present job requirements. The following are 10 of the most popular question asked at any interview:

  • Tell me something about yourself? - be ready with a gist of your past career, achievement and qualifications (200 - 400 words max); you should not talk more than 2 minutes.
  • Why do you think you should be hired? - explain briefly how your expertise, qualification and career objective matches with that of the company; you could also specify what value you plan to bring in
  • Tell me about your strengths - give your best skills/ qualifications/ experience that are best matched with the requirement of the job
  • Tell me about your weaknesses. Be careful here. You are not here for candid confessions; project a weakness that is actually a strength (eg. 'I am sometimes obsessed with details, but I am learning to overcome it' or ' I am very hyper and restless when I have a tough-deadline task, but I am learning to relax by successfully delegating' etc)
  • What remuneration would you expect? - this is the answer you would give only after you got the job. Research well the market and find out what is the running rate for the job you are applying. Just because your last job paid you US per week, it does not mean that this one should do so, too. To that rate, you add the normal yearly increments that you would get for every year of relevant experience you have and then a 10% bonus and quote that number. It will also help to know what they pay for that job in the company you are being interviewed.

If asked before you are offered the job, be vague and give an average range, since your answer would become a qualifying factor for the job.

  • What among your experience would help you in the present job? - this is where your homework would come to rescue. You should know what the present job entails and thereby match your past experience and skills to it.
  • Where do you plan to be 5 years form now? Speak briefly on your career objective and emphasize that your are an ambitious person who want to grow professionally
  • What would be the feedback of your ex-employers? - Be brief on this - emphasize on one point that would describe you best
  • Why do you want to work with us? - Here is the time for some major flattery. Explain why this company is your dream company (if not why you are happy to be part of it) and how such an employment is part of your professional and career objective
  • Tell me something about your family. - Keep the information flow here at the minimum. As I mentioned before, this is not a friendly and open conversation, and he/she is not interested in your family - but only to see how they would fit into the job requirements.

These are the commonly asked questions. However, there will always be more. And no book ever would be able to give you the 'right' answer to every question. However, if you have a method to find out the best answer, then it will be easy for you to answer any question by applying the 'formula'.

I give you one such formula. It has three main features, which if mastered can help you face any interview with poise and confidence. There are three important features that you should keep in mind:

Read between the lines - keep in mind that no question should actually be taken at the face value. The interviewer is here to find out whether you are the best fit for the job. Hence his/her question will always have these hidden search keys:

  • Are you the right person for my company
  • Is your attitude right for my team and the job
  • Are you a qualitative worker
  • Is your experience going to help our company and job?
  • Are you serious about this job, or is this a stepping-stone in your career?

Your answers should be formulated keeping this direction in mind. You are here to convince the interviewer that you are the best fit on all fronts (or at least a majority of them).

Do not volunteer information - Always answer briefly and to the point. Do not ever volunteer too much information. More often than not, this harms rather than helps.

Stay focused on the real issue - The real issue is - You are here to get a job and the interviewer is here to get a person for the job. Hence, getting the interviewer to choose you is the only issue here. Always stay focused on this aspect. Be careful and prepared to cover your bases particularly about any weaknesses (less qualified, less or no experience, gap between jobs, etc).

You should sell yourself as the best product they would ever find - in every question you answer.

Closing The Deal

The exit style is as important as the first two components of the interview, i.e. the first impression and the answering of questions sessions. In the end, before you would leave the room, thank them and in only one or two sentences reiterate why you would be the best fit for the job (have this sentence worked out at home, as it might not possible for you to think so fast on your feet when you are at the interview). Express the fact that you are really anxious to have this job (in a positive and professional way, not survival life-and-death way) and lastly, request a time when you should get back to them to learn about the status of the interview.

Do not forget the last step - send a thank you note to each and every person on the interview panel and if possible attach a GIST note to it

How to negotiate salary during the interview

Money matters are often the most difficult to discuss. However, they are also the most critical. Lack of salary negotiation skills can set you back for thousands in the long run. Think of it this way, you are not able to quote your price, you will never get what you deserve.

Here are a few tips that would help you accomplish this task successfully:

  • Perfect timing - As every important thing in life, for this aspect too, timing is very significant. Salary negotiations cannot and should not be entered into until you are offered the job. If you discuss this matter before the job is yours, this could form a critical point in their decision to take you in or reject you. Hence, keep the salary negotiations for after the 'deal' is signed.
  • Perfect diplomacy - Avoid being pinned down with this question if it is asked too early during the interview or before they have committed the job to you. If pressed for an answer, you could always give them a range that covers what they are paying the present market rates. Always be prepared for this question by analyzing the market trends, and gaining sufficient information regarding the pay scales the company offers to their employees in the position you are applying for.
  • Perfect exit - Never show you are too happy with what you are offered -or they might add a few extras to your job specifications. Similarly, never say 'No' when you are offered too little either. You need to check all the other benefits - often these work out to a neat packet (these would include housing, company car, medical benefits, travel allowances, study/training leave, etc).If you still feel it is not going to work out for you, send a regret note requesting to be considered for opening with better paying options.