Saturday, 28 September 2013

Interview Types and Tips

Interviews. For anyone looking to be employed by someone else, you will have to go to interviews. My boyfriend is currently going through this whole interview process so I thought I would use the opportunity to share with you what I learnt. During my final undergrad year I went to lots of interviews, so here are some types of interviews you can expect:
  • Assessments - you will have to complete a variety of "tests" and they're usually done by the bigger companies, although some smaller companies may do them too. They test things from how quickly you learn to hardcore technical skills to what type of person you are. Often the tests are annoying. But when I got offered my current job, a complete stranger summed me up in a few sentences which was pretty astounding - so don't assume the tests are irrelevant. They could make or break your chances of getting a further interview
  • Group sessions - in this type of interview you will be put in a room with a bunch of other hopeful applicants and given a case study. Often you are expected to play a certain role and solve a problem. Don't be fooled - it's not about coming up with a peaceful solution to the problem. The assessors want to see how you interact with other people and what sense of business you have and if you're able to look at an issue from a variety of angles. Again, these are usually done when being interviewed by a larger company.
  • Role play sessions - very similar to the group sessions, but this is where you are given a role and told to role play with employees at the company. They will give you a certain situation/case and you may or may not be given time to come up with a game plan before you start to role play.
  • Face to fact interviews - this is where you will generally meet with an HR rep and/or other employees of the company. These are probably the most difficult interviews to prepare for because you can get asked anything. At one interview for a large clothing company, I was asked about their financial report for the year. I didn't get that job. But most face to face interviews are a time to get to know you, they may ask one or two simple technical questions to assess your basic knowledge, they'll want to know your plans for the future. They will probably ask you to tell them a bit about yourself - don't tell them boring things, tell them things that will cause them to remember you.
I've been interviewed and I've also interviewed others and found it really interesting. Here are some other tips I've picked up in the process, or been given by family and friends:

  • If there's no dress code specified on the interview invitation, ALWAYS be smarter than you think you need to be. Even if they give a dress-code, it's always better to look smart, or dress slightly smarter than the dress code stipulates. A scruffy dresser will give a bad impression before you've even opened up your mouth. A professional looking outfit will give people the impression that you're capable and willing to make an effort.

Who would you hire?
An unprofessional imageA professional image

  • Don't mumble or give one word answers. It's difficult to get an impression of someone when you can't understand them or they don't elaborate on a question.
  • Have an idea of a few long term goals that you want to achieve and where you want to be a few years down the line. You may want to live close to your family. You may dream of travelling for 6 months after 5 years of work. Maybe you want to be a manager within x number of years. My long term goals are to pay off my loans and to eventually pursue a masters in biomedical engineering.
  • Who are you? You need to be able to tell the interviewers a bit about yourself. Who is Cath? If you say electrical engineer and stop talking you're not going to get very far. Tell people who you are. What makes you tick? What makes you happy? What makes you annoyed.
    I am an assistant engineer with a year and a half of experience in the maintenance department. I enjoy programming. I enjoy time to myself but I also love to be around my friends and family. I don't give up easily when faced with a challenge. Stupid people really annoy me. In my spare time I enjoy to paint and take pictures. I love seeing what South Africa and the rest of the world has to offer. I work hard, but when I'm not working, I don't want to think about work. Which "Cath" is more interesting to you?
  • Try to give as many real life examples as possible. If you're a graduate, you probably don't have work examples to give. Give examples from varsity or your personal life. Have examples ready for the following types of questions: how do you deal with difficult people? What happens when you don't want to get up in the morning? When did you have to take the lead? What do you do when you try to negotiate something with someone and they won't budge? Give an example of a time you have succeeded and what do you think went right? Give an example of a time you have failed or done something wrong and how did you deal with it?
  • Connect with your interviewers. They're people too and they're looking for people that they like and that will fit in to the current team.
  • Don't EVER tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. They can smell a phoney answer from a mile away; it sounds incredibly insincere and will probably turn them off you in a heartbeat. Instead, try to structure an answer that you can both work with. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? If you answer "Working for this company because it's the greatest company ever", you'll probably shoot yourself in the foot. Tell them that you want to be in a management position. If they're an international company, maybe you want to be in a position that allows you to travel a lot. If they're a smaller company, you might want to mention that you're interested in specialising in hardware design and they're a good company to learn hardware design from. There are no right answers. But a sincere answer will go a lot further than a fake answer.
  • Honesty is the best policy. In all my interviews I've been incredibly honest. While I was interviewing I was also planning a trip to the USA for 4 months with Frosty and some friends. I told every interviewer of this up front. I got solid offers from 2 big companies within a day of each other. If they want you, they'll be willing to wait.
  • Treat your interview experience as a chance to chat with people and practice your interview skills. Learn from each interview so that at the next one you can be better prepared. This is your chance to interview the company as well. If, after the interview, you think you wouldn't be a good fit, tell them upfront to disregard you from the rest of the hiring process.
  • Be on time. Your interviewers may be running late. But you must ensure that you're on time to your interview. Take a book to read with you in case there are delays.
  • Think up a few questions beforehand that you can ask the people interviewing you. These questions may get answered during the interview, which is fine. But it's always good to write those questions down and consult them at then end of the interview to make sure everything you want to know is covered as well.
I'm not a professional interviewer and these techniques may not work for everyone. You may get asked a completely different set of questions to the ones listed here. I'm just sharing what I've learnt, the types of questions I've been asked and a few tips from personal experience in the hope that it will help you be prepared for future interviews. If you have examples of other interesting interview questions, please leave them in the comments box below!

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