How to Prepare for an Interview
The first step is, of course, your correct CV and a covering letter – without them no further recruitment procedure could be followed. You should remember about these documents also during the interview itself (see below). Pay attention to detail to prevent it from bothering you later. Dress in a reticent and inconspicuous way. This is only a general rule and there are exceptions to it – a computer graphic designer applying for a job with an advertising agency dressed in a suit worn by corporation workers, will be quite a surprise and that is what you should avoid – looking completely different than the interviewer expects you to. In the USA many people resort to the help of stylists before an interview. It is about looking professional, but not to attract attention to your attire. Neat fingernails, clean hair and shoes in good condition – all this seems obvious, but there are still too many persons forgetting about it. These are factors which will not necessarily be decisive (because, for example, the recruiter himself is a slob and does not pay attention to such things), but it happens (quite often, according to some surveys) that it is the details that are the main reason for rejecting a candidate. As these are things that can easily be taken care of, they are worth doing. The interview dress code is discussed on employment webpages (e.g.: pracuj.pl).
What you need to know
The preparation for an interview also involves gaining specific information. Knowledge indispensable or useful during an interview:
- Who is the employer? Since when has it been on the market? What kind of activity does it carry out? Has it got any achievements? Visible results of its activity? Development plans?
- How would you describe the position for which you are applying? What scope of responsibilities and what development opportunities will you be given?
- What are the market trends in the branch? Technological novelties?
Remember, the more information you get on this:
- the more confident you will feel during your interview – you will make a better impression;
- and you will demonstrate that you really find the position interesting (especially if getting some information requires you to make an effort and do some work).
But do not show off your knowledge and do not try (cost what may) to show what you know. Excessive confidence can turn into, or be seen as conceit, laid-back attitude, showing off and artificial go-getting energy. Your arguments should be concrete and supported with relevant examples, expert literature, own experiences and observations.
·Phase I – introductory, so-called ice breaking, „first impression phase”
This is the time for greeting the panel, exchanging some remarks frequently unrelated to work and the interview, offering a drink, etc., however, the first impressions are sometimes decisive for the whole interview. Your body language is of paramount importance: your gestures and even your greeting, handshake, the way you walk into the interview room, how you maintain eye contact, how you keep your arms and legs (they cannot distract you – this can be practiced) and many other things – may tell about you more than you think. Recruiters know these rules, so by getting to know them you can boost your chances to make the right impression. So read an extensive article about body language.
·Phase II – formulating opinion about the candidate
Pay attention to:
- your recruiter’s questions – listen to them with understanding;
- formulate your answers correctly – the interview is also your chance to present yourself: stress your assets and strengths, competencies and their usefulness for the position, avoid talking in generalities about your competencies and professional experience if they are not directly related to the position you are applying for – unless you get that kind of question (e.g.: your interests you wrote about in your CV);
- consistency of what you say with what your application documents contain. If you are being interviewed, it means that the employer/recruiter has taken a good look at your CV and covering letter. They may ask you questions about concrete information given in those documents.
- Such questions as: how do you want to develop, what positive contribution to the company do you wish to make, how will you use your skills and experience, what are your expectations, what positive can you tell about yourself, what are your weaknesses, why do you think you will manage at this position – seem obvious, however, candidates often have massive problems with them. It is here that the above mentioned knowledge about the future place of work pays off. One thing is sure: you cannot play it by the ear and assume that things will work out.
- Standard question are those relating to your previous projects and tasks performed in the course of your previous employment or to their elements which are connected with your future position. They may ask you about team work if that is what your future job will be, also about conflicts and solving them.
- During the interview you may take notes if you know that this will not distract you and will not make you assume an uncomfortable position. If the employer passes important information during the interview, for example about the nature of the job, specificity of the position or branch, you can take down the key words or make mind maps (do remember about eye contact!). You can also ask them in advance if you may take down the most important issues. This might additionally confirm your serious attitude to the interview and – more importantly – you might have the opportunity to use your notes in the third phase of the interview. This, however, depends on the nature of the interview and does not always happen.
·Phase III – summing up
In this part of the interview you might have the opportunity to ask questions (you can then make use of your notes). You will show interest, prove that you possess the ability to focus, that you are to the point and you will come across as a matter-of-fact person.
Do not expect the recruiter to inform you about the outcome of your interview there and then (although this may happen). Most of the time there are some (or a dozen or so, or several dozens) candidates and the employer will want to have a think before making a choice. You may hear something along these famous lines: “You will hear from us…” – this may be a sign both of a positive and a negative outcome of the interview.
Remember that the person opposite you may be a professional recruiter, but also your future boss who will not be too familiar with interview rules, but who will be well prepared and you will focus solely on job-related issues (although first impressions always matter). It happens very often that in Poland recruiters are poorly qualified and do not know much about the company; recruitment services are often outsourced. Recruiters may not show you enough respect, e.g.: they take phone calls, show that they are bored, are scruffily dressed and ask unnecessary questions or those completely devoid of sense. Sometimes it is not experience that counts, but the fact that a worker is cheap. Some recruiters are not fit to do the job. That is something you have to be prepared for, because knowing what might happen will allow you to adjust to the situation.
Telephone interview, test
It also happens that some companies conduct (initial) telephone recruitment, during which they may check your language proficiency. Such phone recruitment sometimes has several phases and sometimes you get bizarre questions – depending on what the recruiter wants to find out about you – whether or not you are creative, how you cope with stress, etc. So you might get a question about being abducted by the aliens (this question was really asked during a job interview in one of the international concerns whose European office is in Cracow) and other questions, seemingly devoid of sense. However, this mainly refers to managerial (although not only) positions in big companies and corporations. Applying for summer jobs or a position in a shop you are quite unlikely to experience this kind of interview. But should it come to one, you will not offend anyone if you ask then to phone you back in some minutes – because you are on a crowded and noisy bus. This is much better than being interviewed in a situation where you cannot focus. Try to keep your voice down – do not raise it. Not everyone has a “radio voice”, but everyone is able to learn to speak in a steady voice, avoiding at all costs interjections and sounds masquerading as words, such as “well, sort of”,“as it were…”, “uhmmm” (this also refers to regular conversation).
More and more often psychological testing is used in the process of recruitment, but this also mainly refers to recruitment for companies and concerns. These tests are supposed to disclose more information about a candidate than he/she would be able to give. Projective tests are often applied. However, if they are not interpreted by a person with psychological qualifications, the results may not be objective.
Where to look for advice and information?
Keep consulting the webpages (e.g.: blog.pracuj.pl) where jobseekers post their messages – first-hand information is always the best, although you have to remain critical – a rejected candidate’s frustration may prompt him/her to be emotional, not objective and distort the real picture. Expert advice, in turn, often refers to classic situations and reality may be quite apart from the procedures described. However, the above rules, both classic and those resulting from practice and experience, always have to be taken into consideration as a possibility. The more you are prepared for, the lesser probability that that something might take you by surprise. Visit the webpage Absolwent.pl, where you can find accounts of interviews for different positions in different companies (also placement interviews).
Prepared by: Ł. Smogorowski, career advisor, Erasmus+ Eurodesk Poland