Congrats, you're hired! Interview preparation for your dream job
Do your research, don’t dress like a slob, and for the love of God, don’t mention Andy the giant turtle
If there are two things I’m absolutely certain about in life, it’s that the Earth is not a flat disc that’s balanced on top of a giant turtle named Andy, and that I’ve never had a job interview where I’ve not mentioned my theories disproving the fact that our planet is a flat disc balanced on top of a turtle named Andy. Shivani Bhardwaj, former HR manager at Wipro, Pune, confirms that rambling on about nonsense instead of sticking to my interview preparation is probably not a good idea.
“If you have a lot of nervous energy, it will show in your body language. Figure out the best way for you to calm down before the interview starts, and avoid too much caffeine before going in,” she says. According to her, interview preparation is half the battle won. “The interview process can be very lengthy, so a little prep beforehand can make it run smoothly and help you make a solid first impression,” she says.
Interview preparation: the basics
Research the company
A surprising number of people forget to research the company where they’ve applied for a job. “It’s a very common mistake. An employer will expect you to know about the company and will definitely ask how you see yourself fitting in,” says Bhardwaj, adding that this will also help you tailor a winning answer for the question ‘Why do you want to work here?’
She suggests thoroughly stalking their website and all of its social media pages. You can also reach out to the prospective employer for more information on the job you’ve applied for.
Practice your responses
“If you’re really nervous about the interview, practicing beforehand with a friend can help,” says Bhardwaj, “You can record yourself giving the practice interview as this will help you see what you might be doing wrong and review your performance.”
You don’t need to memorise your answers, but it will help to have a general idea of what you can say in response to common interview questions. Another thing that you need to prepare and practice for is to ask your prospective employer questions about the job. “This shows that you’re proactive and can help you assess whether the company or the position is a good fit for you,” she says.
Interview preparation includes being ready for all formats
“Make sure you know what type of interview you will have, so that you can prepare accordingly—don’t hesitate to ask the person who has arranged your meeting,” says Bhardwaj. Broadly, there can be three types of interviews: Phone and video, lunch or dinner, and group discussions.
“For both phone and video interviews, you’ll need to find a quiet place where you can give the interview without any interruptions,” she says. “Make sure beforehand that everything is in working order, and keep backups, like portable internet in case your WiFi goes down during the interview.”
If it’s a casual interview, over a meal or a coffee, you still need to adhere to some basic rules. “Get to the restaurant a little early, and even if you feel it’s an informal interview, do not dress casually,” she asserts, “Reviewing the menu of the place beforehand is also a good idea.”
A general rule to follow, irrespective of the type is to always be on time—“On time here means at least ten minutes early. Make sure you take the traffic conditions into account before you leave your house,” says Bhardwaj. Arriving late will lead to a bad first impression, leave you stressed and affect your interview performance.
For group interviews, where you’re either interviewed by a panel or along with other candidates, you need to be a good listener. “One of the major things that can help you stand out in group discussions is your ability to listen,” says Bhardwaj, “Hear what the other candidates are saying, so that you can inform your responses accordingly. This will also project your ability to work as a team player.”
What do I say during the interview?
So debunking conspiracy theories is firmly off the table, unless you’re interviewing for a job that needs you to debunk conspiracy theories—then, you do you. While there’s no cheat sheet to prepare exactly what you’re going to say in an interview, here’s a list of common questions that usually go a long way in determining whether you’d be hired or not and can catch you off-guard…
Tell me about yourself…
When your potential employers ask you to tell them about yourself, they don’t want to know how hurt you felt when your best friend chose to sit with another girl back in third grade and how that’s where your trust issues stem from. Not surprisingly, the interviewer wants to know how well you fit the job profile. “It’s a delicate balance,” says Bhardwaj, “You need to tell them about yourself by giving them just the right amount of personal information.”
According to her, it’s best to start with your personal interests or hobbies, that may not relate directly to the job you’ve applied for. You can also share a fun anecdote that will give them a sense of your personality. “Keep it short and don’t ramble. This is a question that’s almost always asked in any interview, so make sure you prepare a good answer.”
What do you consider to be your biggest strengths?
“It’s best to be honest in any job interview,” says Bhardwaj, “More often than not, the interviewers can sense when you’re being insincere, or giving them an answer you think they want to hear.”
This doesn’t mean that you can list your ability to perform all the raps from Gully Boy without misplacing a lyric. It’s impressive, but it won’t do you any favours in a job interview (that’s just the kind of world we live in). “Keep the skills relevant to the job you’ve applied for and cite examples of how those skills have helped you with a professional achievement in the past. For instance, you can talk about your ability to focus, or how you’re a team player.”
What are your biggest weaknesses?
With this question, they want to gauge is how self-aware you really are. “You have to be careful with what you answer to this question,” warns Bhardwaj, “You might think telling them that there’s nothing wrong with you might make you more appealing for them to hire, but it can be the opposite too.” She suggests thinking of something that might not raise any major red flags (like compulsive pet kidnap) and also including how you’re trying to improve on that particular aspect.
Why are you leaving your current job?
You might be leaving your current job because your boss is basically a demon, complete with a horned head and a spiked tail, but there’s no need to bad-mouth them to your interviewer. “Whether you’re leaving your current job on bad terms or not, don’t bring any negativity in front of your potential employer,” says Bhardwaj, “It’ll only reflect badly on you. Instead, you can tell them that you’re grateful for everything you learned at your current job, but you feel it’s time to grow more and explore other opportunities.”
What do you think we can do better or differently?
This is where your interview preparation on the company will come in handy. “It’s an opportunity to show your employer that you can come up with creative ideas and be an asset to the company,” says Bhardwaj, “Prepare beforehand. Research what the competitors of the company are doing differently and pitch ideas that are realistic and innovative.”
According to her, this will also help you plug in your skills and how you can bring something new to the table. Don’t use this question to kiss up to the interviewer, but don’t go overboard with your criticism either. “Strike a balance,” says Bhardwaj.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
It goes without saying that the answer to this question should not be ‘hopefully dead to finally end the misery of this soulless existence’. “The interviewer usually asks this question to gauge your ambition and judge whether the job position is a reasonable step for you towards that goal,” says Bhardwaj, “You can be sure that this question will be asked, so make sure you have an answer prepared that is realistic and shows that you have the urge to grow in the job.”
Post the interview, even if they don’t confirm or deny if you got the job, trying to sell the position to you, questions on when you can start, and salary figures are a dead giveaway. On your end, a follow up message helps remind the employer about you, and their response can help you gauge the success of your interview. “If you think the interview didn’t go well, or the chemistry felt off, consider this a learning experience and apply it to the next job interview,” says Bhardwaj.
In conclusion, remember to do your research, don’t dress like a slob, be on time, and for the love of God, do not mention giant turtles and a flat Earth.
Styling: Divya Gursahani, Makeup: Riddhima Sharma, Hair: Krisann Figueiredo, Model: Archana Nair/ Inega
Blouse and sari; both Raw Mango