Palms sweating and hands shaking, the receptionist “un-helpingly” says “you’re the first one today huh?” as I headed to the conference room to be
interrogated interviewed for my dream job.
2 weeks of “what if, what if?” waiting had gone by, where my mind raced day and night about how to be best prepared to tackle this interview.
A lot was riding on this: my career, our future, relocating and uprooting our family!
The conference room door was in clear site and in my Sunday best, I headed straight for it.
BUT at the last moment in a big turn of events, nature called in a way like never before…
5 Minutes and an Impossible Mission
And so I look at my watch and notice that I have 5 minutes to be there, “where’s the bathroom?!”
After a bit of searching, the bathroom is now in sight and to my amazement they set up a mini kitchen right in front of the bathroom door (fire the architect!)…
A few minutes later and an odd look on the employee’s face, I was back off to the conference room.
Tip 1: Be Prepared to be Quick on Your Feet
As I arrived at the conference room door, the meeting facilitator was there to greet me and so I gave her my freshly washed hand and walked into the room.
She then showed me to my spot at the end of the longest conference table I’ve seen in my life.
The interview started and the first question came “how would you improve and increase international business relations between this company and others abroad?
My mind raced as it was tough to see how this had anything to do with the position of “Communication Consultant and Project Manager”! This is a question that someone at the operations level would get asked…
Being Quick on Your Feet
The question was in fact strategically designed to test how quick I was on my feet and how I dealt with highly pressing, cerebral answers.
They were looking at other things then the answer itself, they wanted to break any thought patterns in my mind and see what the real me did when faced with uncertainty.
I then asked them to give me a few seconds to think about it and then gave them my answer (in Portuguese of course).
The trick is to be aware that these questions can come to test you and that you want to be completely cool about it.
Here are some tips to deal with difficult questions:
- Ask them for a few seconds to think it over.
- Keep cool and calm.
- Speak clear and at a normal rate.
- Don’t be afraid to tell them that you don’t know! (but will look into it).
I gave them my best answer and then the interview proceeded into talking about the company and what I would be doing.
Tip 2: Know and Understand the Company
Fortunately, I spent some time looking into the company and checking out some of the projects they had created and worked with in the past.
It was apparent to me that they were looking for a very cut and dry individual, someone who was academically strong.
So I walked into the interview with this in mind and at heart: I needed to focus on my professional and academic strengths rather then personal witty or fun side. (which is what my video application was focused on)
You will need to know and understand the company you will be interviewing with too, so here are some methods you can use:
- Look up the company on or to see what info is out there.
- Have a good prowl of their website to understand what projects they run and create.
- Check out the projects.
- Look into the management and team to see who they are.
- Look everyone you can up on and LinkedIn to get an idea of what people are like there.
Then take the results of the above research and get an idea of some questions you might want to ask about the company.
Tip 3: Show Interest in them and the Job
Energy and passion is contagious, it’s something that easily affects other peoples actions and sets the tone for the direction of a conversation.
It comes through being truly excited about the company and job, and being convinced that it is the one. So when they ask you about your interest in the company and job, make sure that you focus on what truly appeals to you and how they will benefit from you.
Why did you apply for the job?
This is a question that often comes up during the interview process and rightfully so. The intention with this question is to give you an open platform and opportunity to share your energy and passion about the job.
It’s a very good idea to take the job profile, pick out some of the main points and incorporate them into your answer.
For example, if the requirements for the position are:
- 5 years leadership experience
- Great communication skills
- Cultural understanding
- Solar energy knowledge
Then you would probably want to aim your answer in that direction: “This job and I appear to be a great mesh, not only do I get to use my years of leadership experience in an exciting position, but the cultural understanding I’ve gain through my time in Brazil and solar energy knowledge will be put to work right away!”
Since they are looking to match your profile with the job’s, then this will plant the seeds in the right areas.
Why would you like to work here?
You may or may not get asked about why you would like to work for the company, though either way you will want to get this information into your interview somewhere.
In the back of the interviewer’s mind, they are trying to imagine you at the workplace and how you would fit in – and if they aren’t you will want to get them to do this. This is because you will be spending 44 (or so) hours a week at that workplace, it will become your home away from home and they want someone who fits in and contributes to the team.
Spend some time researching the company and understanding the work culture there: is it a suite and tie office or a place where people are more casual?
If it’s a more casual workplace then it’s a good idea to talk about how you will contribute to the work environment, make people smile and help make it a pleasant place to be.
Whereas if it’s a suite and tie office, you will want to focus on your effectivity within company structures, ability to focus on tasks and the like.
Tip 4: How to Answer Difficult Questions
During the interview you will probably get asked challenging questions that you may not know the answer to and the best thing you can do is to understand your limits.
The company knows that it will have to train you in many areas so they don’t expect you to know the answer to everything. This is why it’s always a good idea to subscribe to the “I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” philosophy – a bit like I mentioned before.
The feeling of wanting to convince them can be so overwhelming at times that we (or at least speaking for myself) tend to over rationalize or ramble when face with difficult questions.
It would even be a good idea to practice getting asked difficult questions so that you can hone your answers.
Tip 5: Follow Up
Now that the interview is over and went (hopefully) well, it’s time to follow up.
Our natural reaction after a job interview is to generally want to take a huge “sigh” of relief and forget that anything happened until they give us a phone call to offer us the job.
Though this is the last thing you want to do after have been to the grueling interview. Remember that you are probably competing against 4-6 other qualified people and they are having to base their hiring decision off of a CV and short interview, so anything to positively influence their decision is a really good idea.
You can either write an e-mail or give them a call – the most effective being calling them.
Here is a great outline for things you could say or write:
- Thank them for the interview.
- Give them an additional piece of (bonus) information not include in the interview.
- Show humility by correcting any mistakes you may have committed.
- Reaffirm how much you would like the job.
- Thank them for their time.
One of the biggest mistakes I made during my last interview was to speak to fast. For some odd reason when nervous, I am plagued by speeding up my speech tempo. So when following up with the company, I apologized for doing so and assured them that I don’t normally do this – just that there is a lot riding on the interview as it’s a really exciting opportunity (I may have used the words “dream job”).
With these 5 tips you should be on your way to acing your interview and expecting a positive call from the company. You might be wondering if I got the job or not…
Did I get the job?
Unfortunately not, but I was within inches and felt confident that these tried and true tips that other’s had taught me were put to use and that I had done my best. In the end, it was a very cut and dry government backed company, where things would be very square. And since I’m not a square person, they knew that I wouldn’t be a perfect fit despite my qualifications.
So if there was one more tip that I could give you, it would be to be yourself and don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the job. They should be convinced because of who you are – authenticity shines through!
Let me know if you have any questions, standing by at your service.
Valeu – Cheers,