Advanced Guide To Mastering Interviews
WINNING BODY LANGUAGE
Think of the times when you are coerced into going to a social function or a birthday that you don’t want to go to. You travel to the place whining about why you have to go and wondering how to manage the impending boredom. But when you reach there, your complaints magically change into smiles and warm greetings. You end up saying, “It’s so nice to see you!” instead of saying something like, “Argh! I hate my life!”
We play several roles in our lives. We’re playing a different role in front of our parents, professors, other students, close friends, at work, etc. When you go for an interview, you are entering into a role-play. You must be switched on from the outset, because you have very limited time to make an impression. The role requires you to market yourself, be more talkative, and focus on the positives. Thus, if you find such things difficult, you must pay careful attention to preparing better.
Whether you “sell” yourself, or say everything nonchalantly and honestly is your call. But you have to mention how you’ll add value to them throughout the interview! If you want to MASTER interviews, practice the following part like you’re auditioning for a million-dollar role in a big movie:
Adopt the style in which you would speak to a professor you respect very much and whom you’ve spoken to multiple times. So you would automatically smile when you see him/her, you retain eye contact, your face is pleasant, you’re honest, you speak with enthusiasm, you accept your contradictions/mistakes, you’re candid, etc. This is an area you should focus on, because this is the game-changer (the tone, language, and style). The only way to know you’re doing this right, unfortunately, is to get feedback from people or do engage in such interactions as much as you can.
INTRODUCTION: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
The answer to this question is basically a quick recap of your CV, mainly your work experience or other skills relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re below 21, you can mention a few of the following:
- An achievement in your high school (academic or co-curricular). (Avoid this if you have enough things to talk about post high school.)
- Highlights of what you’ve done in your college, in co-curriculars, and in your academics.
- Internship/work experience – emphasise the things you’ve done where you added value to the company, and also try to connect it with the skills required in the job you’ve applied for.
- End with what you are currently seeking.
If you’ve done Master’s, just use the above, except don’t go as far back as high school. So stick to 1-2 highlights from your Bachelor’s, and then move the focus to the last 2 years.
If you’re above 25, then again, focus little on the things you did in your education, and more on the last few years. As a general guideline, refrain from things that were more than 4-5 years old.
At the end of your response, it’s good to add what you’re now looking for. So, something like, “Currently, I’m seeking a position that allows me to use my expertise in technology and marketing.” Secondly, once you’ve finished your responses, stop, nod, smile, make eye contact with everyone. This is the proper way of indicating that you’ve answered the question and are awaiting the next one.
Sample answer for a Bachelor’s student:
I went to Bombay Scottish School, where I was the sports head for 2 consecutive years. I’m presently in my final year of BBA (or I’ve recently completed my BBA). During my college, I actively participated in various extra-curricular activities like debating, and organizing cultural fests. I’ve also interned with company A where I consistently exceeded expectations as the business development executive for region X.
Sample answer for someone who’s done a Master’s:
I’m presently in my final year of MBA (or I’ve recently completed my MBA). In college, I have actively participated in various extra-curricular activities like debating, and organizing cultural fests. In my final year, I have performed in the top 10 percentile of the batch, and also represented my college at the ABC Competition. I have won numerous awards (or academic awards) throughout my school/college life. As for my work experience, I’ve interned with company A where I consistently exceeded expectations as the business development executive for region X. I also worked wit Company B where I was responsible for streamlining the online sales process and achieved a conversion rate of 95% throughout.
For someone who’s more experienced:
If your education is relevant and has weightage, mention it in 1-2 lines. But overall, just talk about your work achievements and relevant experience, emphasising the most recent work you’ve done.
HOW TO BE CONVINCING!
Everything you say in the interview such as “I work well under pressure, I am a team player, etc.,” must be backed up by evidence of having demonstrated these skills. You can’t just say “I will be able to do well in this job.” Every statement must be substantiated. For example:
- I’m extremely dedicated/hardworking. While doing full-time college, I also worked part-time throughout, and was an active member of the college fests.
- I’m really interested in the field of Finance, I have been investing some money in stocks, and have also studied extra courses on Finance, apart from the college curriculum.
- I will be able to do well in this job. I already have some experience working in a related field where I was one of the top performers. I did well in my academics also especially in the relevant subjects.
- The job I’m applying for requires skills X and Y, and I have experience doing this during my College fest where I was part of a team that did …
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS? WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU?
The answer should ideally be tailored for the job you’re applying. Pick the strengths you have that are connected to the job duties/required skill-set. Secondly, when asked to mention your strengths, back up each statement rather than giving a 5-word reply for each strength – see the section on “how to be convincing.” Be ready with 2-3 strengths.
Examples of responses:
- I am very good at managing people. I have been an HOD for several of my college fests.
- I’m technically strong. I have an advanced knowledge of the… I have scored high in subjects like…
- I work extremely well under pressure, and have performed above expectations in Company A, where we faced high-pressure situations all the time.
The answer should differ if they ask you why you should be hired. Strengths is more generic, but this second question has to be solely relate to the job. So if one of your strengths is knowledge of Advanced Excel, it wouldn’t be an apt answer to “why should you be hired” for an HR role that doesn’t require Advanced Excel. For the question, “why should you be hired,” mention 2-3 reasons. Example:
- Mention your skills/experience (give PROOF; e.g., “I’ve handled the core part of this job in my last internship successfully”. Feel free to list several points here, as long as they’re all solid and backed up with practical work/references.)
- Talk about your interest/passion in the specific area of work
- Mention a few of your personal qualities that would help you succeed in this role.
You don’t want to mention how “this would be a great learning experience” for you or any of those clichés. Don’t insult the capitalists by asking them to pay you just so you could “learn”. They don’t care! Instead, show them how you can add value to them.
WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES? WHY SHOULD WE NOT HIRE YOU?
Be honest, but pick the “harmless” ones that wouldn’t interfere in your ability to carry out the task at hand. (Otherwise you shouldn’t be applying there in the first place anyway!) Examples:
- I’m not very good with number-crunching or data analysis. (Don’t mention this for a job that requires this skill.)
- I’m not very good with academics. (If your scores are low, you can mention this because it will be obvious to them anyway.)
- My English isn’t very good. (Again, if it’s true, the recruiter would have already noticed, and would appreciate your honest assessment.)
- I trust people easily and get taken for granted.
- I am very self-critical and put myself under unnecessary pressure.
- I’m not very good at judging people in the first meeting. (And no one expects this of you anyway…the CIA failed to judge Bin Laden, too!)
The ones you don’t want to mention are mostly about character and discipline. And whatever you do, don’t say “I don’t like working with people/teams” – you’ll be working for a business, not for a Buddhist Monk in the Himalayas.
HANDLING A “STRESS INTERVIEW”
Sometimes people want to see how you respond under duress. They might deliberately confuse you, ask something you’re not supposed to know, or ask something they know that you don’t know. This is one game you just cannot lose, if you follow my two rules:
- The winner is the person who stays cool and holds a pleasant smile. Whether or not you know the answer is inconsequential.
- Think before attempting a question. If you start answering a question you don’t know (maybe something outside of your domain/field), you’ve already lost.
Avoid writing things on your CV that you don’t know fully, or that you aren’t updated about. Also, don’t answer questions you don’t know. If you don’t know something, just say, “I’m sorry I don’t know that.” If they keep asking you something related to that, keep saying, “I’m not sure”, “I have no idea”. What else are you going to do anyway – look like a kid who’s been caught cheating in an exam? If you get tangled up in circles about an answer you gave and you’re not sure or if they’re asking you the same thing repeatedly, just say you’re not sure! Remember, if you’re cool and giving a pleasant look, you’re going to win. However, you’re also supposed to know “basic things” about the field or subject you’re claiming to be good at. If you don’t know that, then you should acknowledge and apologise, if you feel they aren’t happy with your response. “I’m sorry I know that’s something I’m supposed to know…”
One strategy you can use is this: “I’m not sure about the marketing strategy of Cadbury, but I do know something about Netflix’s advertisement strategy, can I talk about that?” Or even asking the interviewer to test you on something else. “I’m sorry my knowledge about the stocks is very limited, but if you ask me something about the recent budget, I would know.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
HOW TO ANSWER BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS?
Behavioural questions are used to convince recruiters about your skills. These are in the form of questions such as:
- Tell me about a time when you handled a crisis.
- Why do you feel you would be able to manage a team this size?
- How do you know you’ll be able to sell this product?
- Tell us about a time when you exceeded expectations.
You can answer such questions using the “STAR” technique (Google it). Start with the Situation – background or context, then Task – what you were required to do, then Action – what did you actually do, and Result – what the outcome was. An example of the answer to the 2nd question above:
There was a time during my first job where I was coordinating with another department. There was a lot of rift between the departments because everyone had their own deadlines and their own focus areas. (Situation.) I was supposed to manage their expectations and convince them to work more smoothly with our team. (Task.) I first convinced my colleagues within my team to begin by helping them. We provided them our resources/contacts so they could increase their goals of acquiring more funds for the program. Then slowly we started establishing better relations. (Action.) Eventually we got along really well and the other department also didn’t mind helping us out. (Result.) So I think managing people comes naturally to me, and I will be able to handle a team this big easily.
Make sure you practice 2-3 such common questions. The good thing is if you have 2-3 situations in your mind, you can connect them to multiple different questions. For example, the above response I fleshed out can also be used to answering questions related to: “Tell us a time when you showed Leadership,” “… teamwork,” “…how you managed a challenging task,” etc.
WHAT IS YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENT?
“I’m interested in the profile and growth at this time, not the salary. I understand your company has a fair, competitive salary structure, which is good enough for me.” “I can’t say how much, I’ve not yet begun working full-time. I’ll leave that to you.” Don’t give any figure if you’re not sure, regardless of how many times they ask you.
However, if you have 2 or more years’ of work experience, or if you are clear about a particular figure in your mind, then by all means, let them know. But you must know your own market value, and what the company usually offers.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR INTERVIEW IS GOING TERRIBLY?
During your interview, you may realise that you aren’t doing very well. Maybe you’re nervous, you didn’t prepare well, you said the wrong things, or any other reasons. If towards the end of the interview, you feel that this is the case, you can STILL get through… if you have 2-3 solid reasons for “why you should be hired.” So, all you have to do is, before leaving the room, tell them: “I realize the interview didn’t go well, but I feel I’m an excellent candidate for this profile because…. (give the reasons you have for the question, “why should we hire you?)”
Or you could say, “I’m sorry I was really nervous, I’m actually pretty bad with interviews although my communication in other areas is very good. I’d like to say that I’m really suited to this role because… (give the reasons you have for the question, “why should we hire you?)”
You could even say this right at the end when they ask you to leave or when they ask, “Do you have any questions for us?”
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US?
You can ask: “Is this going to be a sales-only profile or is it going to progress towards a marketing role later?” “Is there a particular technical background you’re looking for in the candidate?” If you don’t have a genuine question, don’t try to sound desperate or intellectual. Saying, “no, everything’s clear”, is perfectly alright.
NERVOUSNESS AND ANXIETY
A common reason why interviews don’t go well is because of the anxiety we face. To ease your nerves before the interview:
- Notice where the anxiety is coming from (hands shaking, heart beating really fast, etc.)
- Notice what you’re saying to yourself. “I’m so screwed! I have no idea what’ll happen! What will I say in the interview? Will I be able to answer the question?”
- Reply to these questions with the following:
- “I will answer what I know, and say, ‘I don’t know’ for the other questions. It’s not like panicking will help me come up with answers.”
- I have 2-3 reasons why they should hire me for this role. If they like me for who I am and what value I can add, then that is exactly the kind of company I’ll be successful in.
- I will achieve my life goals one way or another. One job or one recruiter’s decision is too insignificant to change my entire life. Being desperate will only make me choose the wrong job or become more nervous.
- Ask yourself: “What can I do to increase my chances?” “What can I read about?” Make sure you do whatever is in your control to prepare better.
- Getting the job is not in my control. Doing better than I did in the last interview is. That is what I’m going to try.
- Focussing on the above self-talk. Just ask yourself what advice you would give to your best friend who’s getting nervous. Make sure you’re breathing deeply.
- Look at the “What if they ask this or that; I’m so screwed” thoughts with contempt. Hype yourself up like sportspeople do, pump your fist, get excited for facing a challenge, and say, “I’m going to move ONE step closer to mastering interviews. All I need to do is do better than the last time. I just need to tell them clear reasons as to why they should hire me. One interview will not define my career. ”
For more on eliminating anxiety follow the Instagram page @animeshgupta01
(If you are someone who trains people on interview-skills or if you are going to be a part of any Personality Development classes in Mumbai, make sure you focus on your body language and style of presentation which is most appropriate for the job you’re applying for.)
Posted by: Animesh Gupta