Sunday, June 08, 2008

Things to Remember for the Next Interview

Not that I'm anything of an expert, but as I've recently changed jobs, I thought of some things that I ought to record to look at later when I need it. And if it helps someone else as well, that's a great bonus.

After my interviews for the new job, when I was going through the mandatory sleepless nights of anticipation, I remember telling the Guy, "You know, I realise that till date, I've got every job I really wanted - yeah, there's only been two of them, but still... I'm scared that I'll find it really difficult to deal with rejection."

As it turns out, I did have to deal with rejection in a way, because I didn't hear from them for weeks and I am too practical to remain optimistic in spite of that. I was wondering what went wrong, what signs I misread, because I was so sure it had gone well. This coincided with a particularly bad phase at work, which made it much more difficult. And then the call came after all, and the victory was sweeter than it would have been if I'd got it straight away.

So I'm going to put down here some things that I think helped me and that I should remember for the future.

First, keep an open mind. When I first got the call for this job, I didn't think I was interested. I was preoccupied with something right then, I wasn't told the exact job profile and didn't know it was something I would love to do, and I wasn't sure I was ready to leave my current job. But fortunately, I agreed to go along and take the interview. If nothing else it would help me prepare, I thought, because I was planning on changing jobs sometime in the future. If I had said no then, I wouldn't even have known what I'd missed.

Next and possibly most important: an interview is a two-way process. While the prospective employer evaluates your fit to the job, you check them out and try to find out if you want to work with them and if the job really excites you. One very positive side effect of this is that you are less nervous at the interview (which is very important if you are as prone to nervousness as I am) as you have an agenda of your own. It helps if you look at the website and the job profile and compile a list of questions that you want to ask about the company and the job. Apart from helping you gain information to help your decision (of whether you really do want the job), this creates a positive impression on the interviewer: you come across as confident, interested and well-prepared. So take the interview as a conversation between two people who are interested in doing business with each other, for that's what it is.

In a similar vein, to keep up your self-confidence (of course, if you have enough already, you don't need this), try to remember that you've already created a good first impression. This is especially true for candidates with a little experience, but might also hold for fresh graduates. They wanted an interview because they've seen your résumé and liked it.

That brings me to the next thing: read your résumé. Your interviewer will - ideally - have read it. They might ask you questions related to something you've written in there. You might find it easier to pick up something from there and elaborate on it to make a point.

Also, think about what you've done in the last few years that's relevant to this job. Think about the successes you've had, and try to articulate that to yourself in a few sentences. Think about the failures you've had, the projects that didn't work out, and what you learned from them. Think about what you've done out of work - some social group you're involved in, some sport you play that promotes teamwork. Think about what you would do for them if you were given the job. I'm in marketing, so one of the things I thought about was having paid search ads on Google. If you're in HR, you could talk about how you'd like the hiring process to be, or an idea you have to improve employee morale. They might already be doing it, in which case you've demonstrated your knowledge and enthusiasm on the subject. If they aren't, you've earned yourself some bonus points.

Think about why you're the right candidate. They might ask you that straight out. (I was asked that, and I don't think I gave a very good answer - the one place in the interview where I fumbled.) Even if they don't, to demonstrate this is the whole reason for the interview.

One circumstance that made it much easier for me was that my first and most important interview was over the phone. I am much more comfortable over the phone than in person: I find it easier to concentrate on what I'm saying if I don't have to worry about whether my posture is right or how to steady my trembling hands.

By the end of the interview, the interviewer who is now my boss hinted that he liked me and said that I would have to go down to the office in town for a meeting with a couple of people there. By then I knew what the job involved, and I was very excited. So I was more nervous for the face-to-face meeting because I hadn't anticipated the earlier one - I'd treated it as an exercise rather than an interview. Sometimes it pays to not be prepared.

It wasn't just the job description that made me decide to take the job, though. When I was on the phone, I realised that I was enjoying the conversation, that I already liked the guy. I also liked the head of the India office when I met him. It's extremely important to work with, or at least report to, people that you like and respect. (I've written before about how lucky I've been in this regard.)

It's been a month at the new job, and it's been exciting and challenging so far: and excitement and challenges was exactly what I'd been pining for earlier. So I seem to have made a good decision (or been plain lucky, whichever way you look at it). And I'm hoping I won't need to look at this page any time soon.


Maitreyee said...

Thanks for posting!!

i-me-moi said...

:) ... congratulations.

Unmana said...

Thanks, you two.