After long, tiring hours of job hunting, you’ve finally bagged yourself an interview for your dream job. You know you can do it – but you have a crazy-short amount of time to convince your prospective new employer of that. And also, that you’re a sane, pleasant individual who plays well with others. No pressure. If your heart’s pounding right about now, it’s normal. But with a bit of prep, that new role will be yours. Here, the job interview tips you need to know…
Do your homework
Knowing how to answer the “tell us about yourself” question is all good and well. But what you really need to know more about is the company and the position you’ve applied for. “This prevents nervousness and will help you answer questions with more ease and less uhhmms and aahhhs,” says Maggie Coetzee, arecruitment consultant. “The more you know, the better,” agrees HR practitioner Jill Ockhuis. “Cover the basics, at least, like what they do, where they’re based, office locations (if international or local), the company’s values and anything that is currently trending in the news about the company.”
Sinenhlanhla Ndlela, founder and owner of Yococo ice cream, recently expanded her business, which meant hiring new staff. She says doing a little research gives you a picture of what you’re getting yourself into and, more importantly, it’ll convey a good picture of preparation and a genuine sense of interest in the company. “I once interviewed a candidate who had been following the company from the early days and she was aware of the subtle changes we’d gone through, which was very impressive to me because upon answering my questions you could tell that she knew what she was talking about.”
Dress the part
How you dress is very important – that’s what you’ll be judged on before you even open your mouth. From your clothes to your make-up and even your hairdo, your presentation is a reflection of your personality. When in doubt, go for business formal – nothing revealing or too bright. It’s rarely appropriate to “dress down” for an interview, regardless of the company dress code. “Never wear jeans, even when it’s an informal company,” says Coetzee.
Fashion expert Anja Joubert says you can’t really go wrong with a relaxed, tailored look. “A crisp white shirt with a great pair of trousers, leather shoes – maybe a pair of brogues – and a bit of jewellery. Keep it simple, but stylish.” And, for goodness’ sake, take a few extra minutes to clean yourself up and press your clothes. “Having dirty hair and wearing wrinkled clothes just shows that you don’t care and gives off an impression that could automatically label the quality of work you’ll be delivering,” cautions Coetzee.
As for make-up, “It’s acceptable, just don’t overdo it,” says Yali Joyi. As executive manager at Okhahlamba Municipality, Joyi sits in on all interviews for junior recruitments and has the final say over who gets hired. “I’ve had to interview people who had so much make-up, I was actually distracted. It was like I was talking to a doll. I cannot take you seriously looking like a doll. You have to look like you’re going to work – not entering a beauty pageant,” she says. Her advice: “Stay away from ‘Instagram-worthy’ make-up – the fresh-faced and natural look always wins.”
Arrive on time
Punctuality is everything – do not be late. “It could potentially cost you a job because you’d already be giving off bad vibes to your potential employer,” says Ndlela. However, if you’re in a situation that you can’t avoid, “Call in advance, apologise and give a really good reason why,” she adds. Leaving early to beat traffic? Good plan – but don’t show up too early, either. Your interviewer will have planned her schedule and may feel annoyed at being surprised. Aim to be there about five to 10 minutes before the time, advises Coetzee. “That’ll give you a moment to sit, pull yourself towards yourself and gather your thoughts,” she says. If you do happen to arrive early, grab a coffee nearby and head on over at the agreed-upon time.
Show your best side
Confidence is key. Remember the basics: eye contact, good handshake, smile. Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to fumble the simplest rules of etiquette when you’re nervous. “Most people fail to control their state of mind which elevates interview anxiety,” says Joyi. “HR and line managers look for someone they can relate to and work well with, as well as the rest of the team and external clients,” adds Ockhuis. “If you’re confident, then we can assume you know what you’re doing or talking about.”
Allegro Dinkwanyane, founder and CEO of Orgella Media and on Forbes’ 2017 30 Under 30 list, says something as simple and effortless as a genuine smile gives off positive energy. “When I interview someone, the first thing I always look for is a smile. It’s a natural ice-breaker, warm and welcoming,” she says. “Speak clearly and at the correct pace, so that everyone in the room can hear you, and make eye contact with the interviewer – otherwise you give the impression that you’re not interested or serious about the job,” says Coetzee. When you’re answering questions, take your time. “Give yourself a second to understand the question and if you don’t understand it, ask for clarification,” says Joyi. Most importantly, don’t oversell yourself. “Be realistic about your future and expectations and be careful not to promise things you can’t deliver,” says Coetzee.