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Whether you’re just thinking about a career change or are in the middle of a major job hunt, tips from the experts are always useful. The SheSaid career guru is here to help. Brush up on your interview techniques, write a better resume, be prepared with some intelligent questions at your interview.

Company research

Interview preparation

Dos and don’ts at the interview

Questions you may be asked

How to answer questions professionally

Questions you should ask

At the end of the interview

Company research

Research the company that you are interviewing with. With the amount of information readily available over the web, you should be able to find out all you need to know. Alternatively, if the company is a listed company, call their head office and request the latest copy of their annual report (they are obliged to send it to you). If you need information on stock market performance, the world’s stock exchanges have extensive reference information available.

Useful sites:

http://www.comsec.com.au (Australian Equities)

http://www.nasdaq.com.au (US Innovative stocks)

http://www.wallstreet.com (US mainboard listing)

http://www.lse.co.uk (UK mainboard stocks)

http://www.ofxdev.co.uk (UK innovative stocks)

If you are using the services of a recruitment company, make sure that they supply you with information on the company, or at least direct you to where you can find the relevant information.

Interview preparation

This is your big chance to make a lasting impression. You have no excuse for not being fully prepared and organised. Chances are, if you’re not, the next person will be!

Make sure you know what you have written on your CV. Interviewers will ask you about it.

Have the correct time, location and pronunciation of the person’s name that will be interviewing you. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there do not be late!

Prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask, and don’t hesitate to take it out from your bag to read from the list. We all get nervous in interviews, and it is horrible to remember when you’ve left that you forgot to ask something critical. Asking questions shows the interviewer that you have prepared for the meeting.

Wear your most businesslike and appropriate outfit. Make sure your shoes are clean and well heeled, and that your jewellery is appropriate. Remember: it is easy to be quirky once you actually have the job.

Dos and don’ts at the interview

Always remember that you are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to fill a vacancy.

Do fill it out any application forms neatly and completely

Do greet the interviewer by name

Do shake hands firmly. (This is so important. A weak handshake can take the whole interview to overcome.)

Do wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair, look alert and interested at all times. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile!

Do be enthusiastic – nothing is more attractive.

Do look a prospective employer in the eye when you speak – very important!

Do follow the interviewer’s lead, but try to obtain a full description of the position and duties expected early on so that you can relay your appropriate background and skills.

Do keep in mind that only you can sell yourself and make the interviewer aware of the potential benefit you could be to the organisation. Think like the interviewer: what would you want to hear?

Do keep in mind that there may be more than one role on offer in the organisation. Remain positive throughout the interview.

Don’t smoke, even if the interviewer smokes and offers you a cigarette.

Don’t answer questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Always give an example as it helps to reinforce what you are saying.

Don’t lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as much to the point as possible.

Don’t make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.

Don’t ask about salary, holidays, bonuses, etc. at the initial interview unless you are positive the interviewer is interested in hiring you.

Questions you may be asked

There are some questions that invariably come up at interviews. You look professional and polished if you can answer them intelligently instead of trying to think on your feet (or more likely your backside!)

Why did you choose a career in this particular industry?

What do you know about our company?

What do you know about this particular job?

Why would you like to work for our company?

What interests you about our product/services?

What style of management gets the best results from you?

What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?

Which did you enjoy the most, and why?

What have you done that shows initiative in your career?

What are your major weaknesses and what are your strengths?

What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?

Are you willing to relocate?

What are your hobbies?

What does “teamwork” mean to you?

What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now?

How to answer questions professionally

On a general note, keep the answers to these questions short and professional. Nobody likes to interview someone who rambles on. Where possible, give an example, as it helps to anchor what you have just said in the interviewer’s mind.

What style of management gets the best results from you?

“I like a participative style of management. In my current role, my boss and I have a meeting every Monday morning, and together, we determine the priorities of the week. Each afternoon at 5pm, I update her as to the events of the day, and what goals have been achieved. As such, we find that we work as a very productive team more than achieve the targets we set on Monday.”

Alternatively, “I like a fairly hands-off style of management. In my current role, I am given a task and when it is completed I let my boss know. Using this approach together we have successfully delivered four projects on time …”

Be careful of strengths and weaknesses questions, and again give an example. ‘Weaknesses’ is one area where if you don’t prepare beforehand you may tell your interviewer what they really are! Instead, the trick to this question is to think about a weakness that could just as easily be considered a strength.

“As I like everything to be correct, when under situations of extreme pressure I tend to not delegate as effectively as usual. However, I am aware of this situation, and am consciously trying to overcome this situation.”

Which, in reality, probably means you become a control freak when stressed! However, what the interviewer hears is that you ‘like everything to be correct’, and that only in times of extreme pressure do you operate less effectively. But who does? The interviewer will also appreciate it that you know of this perceived ‘weakness’ and are trying to improve on it.

Remember: don’t lie! Just be smart, but not a smart-arse!

Questions you should ask

Looking and sounding prepared is important. Don’t be afraid to refer to a notebook during the meeting.

Is there a detailed position description available?

Why is the position available?

How would you describe the culture of the company?

In you opinion, what are the company’s best-selling products or services?

Why do you think that is?

What kind of training will I receive?

What kinds of people have done well within the organisation? Why?

What is the company’s strategy for the next year? Where are they trying to position themselves in the market?

What value are you expecting me to add to the team?

What do you see the career progression for this role being?

At the end of the interview

Ask what the next step is from here. Let the interviewer know you are interested in pursuing the opportunity further, without being overbearing. If you are offered the position and you are comfortable and happy with everything discussed, including salary, accept the position on the spot, subject to receiving the offer in writing. If you wish time to think it over, be tactful in asking for that time. Agree on a definite time when you will come back with your answer. NEVER resign from a permanent role without a written offer from your ‘future’ employer.

Most interviewers will not make an offer in the interview. Don’t let this discourage you. It is all part of the process. The general line is: “I am interviewing other candidates…”

Always remember to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. Let them know that you hope to hear from them soon. Remember to shake the interviewer’s hand and smile. Walk away knowing you have done all you can do.