In today’s highly competitive job market, the hard work of finding and landing one’s dream job can often lead to disappointment and despondency, which can cause applicants to drop the ball when they finally get invited for an interview.
But understanding the issues that could raise a red flag over their candidacy, and those that will make them stand out among their peers, can go a long way to ensuring they land the job offer they have been searching for, an expert says.
“By the time you step into an interview room, you have come so far,” says Nomawabo May, Team Leader: Student Advisor Department at Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 students annually.
“You’ve spent months or years gaining a qualification and some experience. You’ve made an extra effort to complement your first qualification with another one to make you stand out from the crowd, and you’ve probably applied for many positions and been rejected. Now, finally, your CV is past the shortlisting phase, and you may be tempted to feel that things are in the bag.
“However, you still have to pass the interview hurdle, where you will be compared to others who will have similar qualifications and experience, so you need to put in that last bit of time and effort to make it count,” she says.
May says there are 7 definite no-no’s that are likely to get a frown at best and a rejection at worst from a future employer.
So, to avoid having to go back to the drawing board, applicants must ensure that they do not:
“Companies look for ‘fit’ during the interview to see which of the similar candidates will be best for them. Doing your research beforehand, about the job requirements, about the company, and about how your qualifications and experience will match their needs, will give you the confidence to shine under pressure,” says May.
ARRIVE LATE OR FLUSTERED
It is important to determine exactly where the interview will take place – at head office, a branch office, or elsewhere – and where exactly in the building, says May.
Then one also needs to determine how you are going to get there in time and make provision for delays.
“Plan to get there with at least an hour to spare, which will allow you to calm your nerves and focus your thoughts on meeting your interviewers,” she says.
“While you might be tempted to stand out and showcase your unique personality through what you are wearing, you still need to ensure that you wear fits the culture of both the company and the job,” says May.
“Don’t let your clothing, makeup, tattoos or piercings shout louder than what you are able to bring to the company and the position.”
LET NEGATIVITY OVERSHADOW THEIR ABILITY
It is important to be positive and magnanimous, even if the reason you are looking for a new position is that your previous employer was terrible. If you are already negative during the interview, it is easy for the interviewer to view that negativity as part of your approach to life and work, and the logical assumption is that it will be brought into the new environment.
“Even if you had a really bad experience with your previous position or boss, try to find the positives and highlight these. Also, don’t take the bait to spill on your previous company, which could well be a competitor of the one at which are interviewing. Demonstrate that you can maintain confidentiality and remain ethical and that you can be trusted,” says May.
EMBROIDER ON QUALIFICATIONS OR EXPERIENCE, OR LIE
Be prepared to explain issues that may be raised in the interview room – a gap in employment, questions arising from a social media search of your name, or negative feedback from a previous employer.
“Few people have a spotless past with no wobbles. Be honest and positive about what happened and what you have learned, and how you have grown since. Most importantly, do not claim to have qualifications or experience that you don’t. If you are still completing a course, say so. Don’t pretend to already have done so, for instance.”
FORGET PHONE (AND GENERAL) MANNERS
“Candidates should ensure they put their phones on silent or even better, switch them off during the interview,” says May.
When in that room, nothing is more important than the task at hand, which requires focus and concentration. Furthermore, glancing at incoming messages or checking the time sends a very bad signal.
When asked whether you would like to drink something, it is also good to settle for a glass of water.
“Having to fumble with a coffee cup, sugar and milk, or eating snacks that have been placed out adds extra stress. Spills and crumbs detract from focus.”
FORGET TO LET THEIR PERSONALITY SHINE THROUGH
“It is important to prepare what you will say to demonstrate that you are able to handle challenges, conflict in the workplace, stress and pressure,” says May.
“You need to prepare examples of how your soft skills have come to the fore in the past, to demonstrate that you will be a welcome addition on top of what you bring in terms of skills and experience.”
“The importance of adequate preparation for the interview can’t be overstated,” says May.
“Knowing what you want to say and how you are going to say it will take the sting out of the stress and allow your personality to shine through. Ultimately, people want to appoint people they think will be a pleasure to work with. Handling your interview with confidence and good humour is sure to make you stand out from the crowd.”