Perform at par during job interviews
THE ACTUAL INTERVIEW
CREATING FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Finally, you've gotten the call. The company you're applying to, asked you to come for an interview. Trumpets blare and the heavens themselves seem to open with the promise of a new beginning. This might be your chance!
Ok. Now that you've shouted yourself hoarse, you can float back to earth now. Gently. Slowly. Put some earplugs on to shut out for a moment the cries of hosannas. It's time to get your bearings back and get down to earth.
These interviews - and the ones that might follow it - are stairs leading to a pinnacle of opportunities. Those who climb it successfully and pass get a job; those who slip fall down the rung and have to start all over again by knocking on the next door. Because chances are, this one would have closed.
First rule: Dress your best
I don't care if you belong to Generation X or Generation Y, but your chronological chromosome is no excuse to come in with colored hair, a scrounged blouse, or rainbow jackets. You may be the best designer in town, but "cool" comes second only to the classic character traits that recruiters always look for: reliability, competence, and integrity. The managers interviewing you don't ask that you try to look like a junior version of the nearest banker, but they would want to trust your looks. It is true that there are some companies and industries that do away with the dress code - but that's a right you have to earn once you've proven yourself in these companies with your work.
At first base, you still have to look respectable and dignified. Remember, you are looking to work with people in business that means business - and that means business attire. Again, this does not mean anything fancy or a wardrobe that costs a month's salary.
Ladies, a black skirt is highly recommended. The neutral color speaks of class, elegance and maturity. A neatly pressed long-sleeved blouse or polo on top is the clincher. It combines with the black skirt to project a winner's straightforwardness and aggressiveness - at the same time enhancing your femininity.
Men, the white polo shirts you wear must be crispy clean. You cannot settle for grunge white, dirty-white or so-so-white. It has to be immaculate white that has been pressed by your mom or your girlfriend to perfection. No wrinkles or creases should know. In lieu of a white polo, wear something light, like mild blue or green. Light colors sharpen your aura without making you appear too threatening.
Second rule: Come in fifteen minutes before the actual interview time
Yep, the age-old rule still applies. The traffic gridlock, the pouring rain and (especially) a late-night gimmick no longer hold water as excuses. Don't underestimate the value of punctuality; applicants who come in earlier than usual project an image of responsibility, duty, and propriety. Remember what your mom or your priest taught you: "How can you be trusted with the big things if you can't be trusted with the small ones?"
An applicant who comes in late communicates the following messages to his would-be recruiter:
a) he will be late turning in his assignments and projects;
b) he will be late in getting the job done; and
c) he is not serious in getting this job because he did not come on time.
Leave your point of origin at least 30 minutes before the normal commute time. If it takes only 45 minutes to travel from your home in Makati to the employer's company in Ortigas, hit the streets one hour and 15 minutes before. If jaunting from Malate to Alabang takes two hours, leave two hours and a half before. Make allowance for every possible cause of delay: sudden thunderstorms that break into little floods, car collisions that freeze traffic, unannounced rerouting of roads or the excavation and rebuilding of streets that will play havoc with your sense of direction.
Remember: these little incidents may not be your fault, but they are not excuses in creating a first bad impression for your recruiters.
First impressions do count. Forget that popular saying about "Never judge a book by its cover." Employers, managers, and recruiters do. They place a lot of importance on their first opinions of you the minute they see you. They need the best people they can find for their company and will not take second stringers. That means - they can't afford to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Which means: you can't make excuses for yourselves; no matter how justified you think your reasons may be.
Arriving 15 minutes earlier will also give you time to breathe, relax, and review the questions your recruiter might ask you. Those extra 15 minutes can also give you time to assess the company. Browse through the newsletters and magazines they have displayed in their rack; find out the company's core strength, its most important values, its standing in the industry, the style of its corporate culture. Listen to the receptionist as she takes her calls. What kind of companies partners with your would-be employer? Is its client base among the top of the line or starting out? Is the bulk of its workforce made up of salesmen, creatives, or business development experts?
Don't keep your mind idle. Every bit of information will help in your pitch a few minutes later. For example, in applying for a corporate communications post, you had assumed that the bulk of the work would be on internal newsletters and public relations releases. A quick look at the company brochure, though, shows that the newly launched website will be heavily used to promote products and services. Immediately, you have to ask yourself the following questions: "Obviously, this website is important. How will the corporate communications job dove-tail into its content management? How much work can I expect to contribute? How much do I know about web content writing and management? Or web design and programming? What should I answer if the recruiter asks me about this area?"
Third rule: Act with professional decorum
Some recruiters are very stiff and business like, with poker faces that don't betray their opinions of you. Others are affable, congenial, and apparently eager to help you out. Don't let their outward guise influence your behavior and answers. In short, don't let the seemingly strict ones strike down your confidence - and don't let the seemingly encouraging ones relax you into behaving in a very familiar, easy-going manner.
The interview is a screening and a sales presentation in one. You're there to pitch yourself to these very important people to prove to them that you are the right person for the job. Every question they ask, regardless of the tone of voice or smiling face is meant to probe your weakness and your strength. Recruiters have the advantage of taking whatever you say against you. That means you also become a lawyer presenting and defending your case.
Project that confidence, even if you don't feel like it. Keep a firm grip on that handshake. Look at your recruiter directly in the eyes, serenely, not challenging. If your interviewer is a little less formal, then be a little warmer, without crossing the boundary line into over-familiarity.
Finally, as your recruiter starts firing off questions, keep one ear to the ground. Answer each question properly and completely - but always anticipate the over-all direction of his questions, so your mind can snap up the "right" answers.