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Interview Tips

What is an Interview?

An interview is a face-to-face meeting, especially for the purpose of obtaining a statement or for assessing the qualities of a candidate. It can have two objectives :

  • To obtain a statement or opinion, as is done when film stars are interviewed to get their views on any particular role, or when the Prime Minister is interviewed to get information on the result of his discussion with another political leader.
  • To assess a person for his/her suitability for a job or for admissions to educational institutions, etc.

Preparing for an Interview

  • One of the most fundamental factors that contributes to the success in an interview is the time and the quality of preparation.
  • The degree of preparedness for an interview helps reduce the uncertainty and anxiety prior to the interview.
  • The amount of effort you wish to put into the preparation should be directly proportional to the importance of the interview.

What all you need to do before an interview?

  • Learn about the company.

    It is important to know the background of the company you apply to. You must visit its website. It is important for the following reasons:

    • Selectors cannot comprehend why and how a person can say he is keen to join an company about which he knows little or nothing.
    • From the interviewer’s point of view, a good applicant is one who has done some homework about the organization/company.
  • You must prepare a brief about:
    • Yourself
    • Your strengths and weaknesses
    • Any important personal achievement
  • Refresh yourself on your subjects of Graduation.
    • The interviewers would most likely quiz you on your probable field of specialization.
    • You may like to go back to your text books and refresh your knowledge, definitions, formulae, concepts and other related issues.
    • An interviewer judges your ability to perform in future on the basis of your past performance.
  • Carry all the relevant documents as proofs.
    • You should list your achievements, academic qualifications, prior experience and extra-curricular activities.
    • Such achievements or claims may be authenticated by certificates or photographs.
    • The important ones may be photocopied and attached with the bio-data while the originals of all certificates should be neatly catalogued in a folder and kept at hand for reference should the interviewer ask for them.

Tips for an Interview

  1. Entering the room.
    • Prior to entering the interview room, adjust your attire so that it falls well.
    • Take permission before entering the room by saying, ‘May I come in Sir/Madam?’
    • If the door was closed before you entered, make sure you shut the door behind you softly.
    • Face the panel and greet them confidently.
    • If the members of the interview board want to shake hands, then offer a firm grip, maintaining eye contact, and smile gently.
    • Seek permission to sit down. If the interviewers are standing, wait for them to sit down before you sit.
    • An alert interviewee would diffuse the tense situation with light-hearted humor and immediately set a rapport with the interviewers. (But don’t tell them a joke!).
  2. Lead the interview.
    • A good interviewee would be quick to settle and begin to lead the interviewers.
  3. Show enthusiasm
    • The interviewer normally pays more attention if you display enthusiasm in whatever you say.
    • This enthusiasm comes across in the energetic way you put forward your ideas.
    • You should maintain a cheerful disposition throughout the interview as a pleasant countenance holds the interviewers’ interest.
  4. Be brief
    • Brevity is the hallmark of a good communicator.
    • It is recommended that you volunteer information, but this must be done in a lucid and to-the-point manner.
    • An over-talkative or verbose person is instantly disliked and misjudged.
  5. Don't bluff
    • If you do not know the answer to a question, it is better to acknowledge it, rather than trying to bluff your way through it. The interviewer will respect your honesty.
    • The interviewers immediately take a stance of grilling a candidate if they suspect him or her of lying.
  6. Humor
    • A little humor or wit thrown in the discussion occasionally enables the interviewer to look at the pleasant side of your personality. If it does not come naturally, do not contrive it.
  7. Interviewer fatigue
    • Most of the interviews are conducted throughout the day which generally exhausts the interviewers.
    • A little humor as a starter can ease their fatigued minds and arouse their waning interest. However, if you do not have the knack of humor, it is better not to get into it.
  8. Be well-mannered
    • The way you conduct yourself reflects your upbringing and your culture.
    • It is good to project an air of humility.
    • Over-confidence is often misinterpreted by interviewees as arrogance.
    • Polite statements are recommended.
  9. Avoid slang
    • During an interview, slang will probably not be understood, and certainly not appreciated. Your communication needs to be as formal and explicit as possible.
  10. Be poised
    • Your posture during the interview is very important as it says a lot about your personality.
    • Mannerisms such as playing with your tie, theatrical gesticulations, shaking legs or sitting with arms slung over back of adjoining chair must be avoided.
    • It is vital to be conscious of your posture and gesticulations as you are being noticed and judged all through the interview.
  11. Ask questions if necessary
    • Many interviewees believe that an interview is a one-way street. There is a hapless ‘victim’ struggling to be selected and an ‘all powerful’ being in whose hands lies the destiny of the interviewee. It is a myth.
    • You may ask a question/clarify information if necessary. It is quite in order and much appreciated by interviewers.
  12. Eye contact
    • You must maintain eye contact with the panel, all through the interview. This shows your self-confidence and honesty.
    • Many interviewees’ while answering, tend to look away. This is a sign of concealing your own anxiety, fear and lack of confidence.
  13. Listen carefully
    • It is imperative for you to listen carefully to the questions being asked.
    • If a question is not clear you should seek clarification before making any statement.
    • Seeking clarification is far better than giving an irrelevant answer.
    • It is very annoying for interviewers when an interviewee misinterprets the questions, and answers by saying something which is irrelevant.
  14. Be yourself
    • Many interviewees adopt a stance which is not their natural self.
    • It is annoying for interviewers when a candidate launches into an accent which he or she cannot sustain consistently through the interview or adopt mannerisms that are inconsistent with his/her personality.
    • Interviewers appreciate a genuine person rather than somebody who tries to pretend.
  15. Guard against

    A candidate must guard against the following:

    • Poor physical projection
    • Lack of courtesy and manners
    • Being overaggressive
    • Dishonesty
    • Lack of enthusisasm
    • Lack of eye contact
    • Lack of knowledge
    • Being non-punctual
    • Extreme opinions
    • Superficial answers
    • Bluffing
    • Casual Approach

Typical Questions

Q. Tell me about yourself

  • This is a very general question in which you can say almost anything about yourself.
  • Prepare well for this question so that you can tell about those things which are important such as your basic details, personality traits, achievements, aspirations, motivations and ambitions.
  • Remember that a two-sentence answer will only convey how little there is to know about you.
  • You should be able to say a lot without being verbose or self-opinionated.
  • The answer should be such that it gives a definite direction to the interview.

Q. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • This is a question that has stumped many an interviewee.
  • It is asked to ascertain how much you know about yourself, since a person who knows oneself well is likely to be more effective in life.
  • Many interviewees find it difficult to express their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Interviewees try to give a weakness that will not jeopardize their chances in the interview.
  • Interviewers view statements of weaknesses as being very disarming. So prepare well in advance as to what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you intend to improve on your weaknesses.

Q. Tell us about your family background.

  • This question is asked by interviewers in order to determine the social, cultural, religious and economic milieu you have come from.
  • It gives the interviewer a clue about your attitude and values.
  • The best approach for such a question is to bring out not only the facts of parentage and background but also some of the principles they have taught you. Mention family values.
  • Most interviewees simply mention their father’s name and occupation. They may sometimes tell about their brothers and sisters with special emphasis of those who may have done well in life.

Q. Why did you choose your particular field of specialization?

  • This question is asked to get to know your attitude and personal qualities and to understand if you have a flair for the subject or not.
  • It is advisable at this point to link your personality traits with the requirement of the specialization. For example, you may say, “I choose to be in marketing/sales job because I am an extrovert and love travelling. I like meeting people and this field of specialization gives me the opportunity to do so.”

Q. Why do you consider yourself suitable for the job?

  • The panel is concerned whether you have the requisite knowledge, skills and attitude that they are looking for in the prospective candidate.
  • They are also concerned with your personal profile, which includes your psychological and emotional make up, upbringing, values and motivation.

Know the Interviewer

  • Most of you would be interested in knowing what interviewers are like.
  • All interviewers are different as they have different personalities with different values, cultural backgrounds and thought processes.
  • Not all interviewers are trained in the skill of interviewing; hence, their styles vary largely.
  • The major challenge that all interviewers face is that of selecting the right person.

Some of the qualities of the interviewers are given below:

  • A good interviewer strives for continuous growth and competence in the art of interviewing. He approaches the task through inquiry, seeking new and better ways to interview.
  • In the course of an interview, the interviewer learns from the candidates’ new ideas and concepts, and constantly evaluates them.
  • The interviewer too prepares for the interview. He updates himself/herself with the latest knowledge on the discipline for which the interview is taking place. He/she does not want to look like a fool in front of the candidate and knows what questions he or she should ask.
  • The interviewer is extremely cautious about making judgements on the qualities of a candidate that are objective.
  • The interviewer is conscious of being a representative of the company. He/she would like to project a positive image of the organization.
  • The interviewer is very comfortable about telling a candidate that why he/she is rejected. He takes into account the feelings of hurt and rejection of the unsuccessful candidate.
  • The interviewer believes that knowledge is more important for success than academic qualification.
  • The interviewer wants the interviewee to volunteer information, but wishes to retain the right to stop the interviewee from carrying on talking.

Most candidates are unaware of the above characteristics. Knowledge of these will give you the confidence that the interviewer you are dealing with is also a human being and not an object of awe and fear.

There are many interviewers who have a dominant stance in the process of interviews. These may be classified as:

  • The braggart
    • He loves talking about his own achievements and experiences.
    • He has an overwhelming need to prove his self-worth.
    • Suggested Approach: An interviewee is, thus, his ‘captive audience’. The braggart learns very little about the interviewee. It is best to listen to him but use your own right to offer information about yourself.
  • The persecutor
    • He regards the interviewee as a whipping board.
    • He is persecuted by others and, in turn, persecutes the hapless candidate by asking questions which he knows cannot be answered.
    • He prides himself in persecuting the interviewee.
    • Suggested Approach: In such a case, humility is the best stance to take but politely assert yourself in telling him what you know.
  • The dreamer
    • He is the one who will let the interviewee do all the talking.
    • He punctuates the proceeding with brief questions.
    • He sometimes appears distracted as though he is thinking of something else.
    • He may not maintain eye contact. Probably, he has trained his mind to simultaneously ponder upon your communication as well as think of something else.
    • More often, he is fully concentrating on what is being said by the interviewee.
    • Suggested Approach: You must respond to this type of interviewer by saying as much as you can. You will have to ‘sell’ yourself in order to make an impression on him.
  • The professor
    • He has the patronizing air of one who is a know-all.
    • He gives those supercilious smiles which have a discomforting effect on the interviewee.
    • His questions will be perfect.
    • He would, however, like to end the interview by giving advice and counsel.
    • Suggested Approach: Show genuine interest in his advice and acknowledge it.
  • The programmer
    • He approaches the interview as though it was a programme with a defined schedule.
    • He has decided precisely what he wants to know and would have, more often than not, written down his questions.
    • It is best to answer the questions in a to-the-point and lucid manner.
    • Suggested Approach: He would like answers given in a logical form; hence, it is best to give point-wise answers.
  • The friend
    • He has a very open and casual style.
    • He may get very personal and crack a number of jokes.
    • Inspite of the light-hearted atmosphere, he or she very often gets to know a lot about you.
    • Suggested Approach: Respond to his friendliness with poise and balance; smile and acknowledge his humor.
  • The harassed
    • He is the person who is not organized.
    • He will be often distracted by phone calls, by giving instructions to someone or reading a memo.
    • He asks you questions but his mind is elsewhere.
    • Suggested Approach: You have to capture his attention, so that he focuses on you and your answers.

The Bottom Line

Managing yourself effectively under all circumstances is critical to your success. Tell yourself that you are as much an architect of a good interview as the panel. You will enjoy the experience with this perspective.