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What it takes to ace a job interview?

Now that you’ve used your network to grab the best opportunities, whether through job listings shared with you, or references, and your resume has made it past the ATS, all you need to do is ace your interview.

Feeling nervous?

Interview fear is REAL!!

Interview rounds can cause even the most confident and qualified of the applicants to be apprehensive, nervous - simply due to the fact that there are no second chances in the interview rounds.

Even the smallest of mistakes can be unforgiving, more so in the current job market environment. It is for this reason that applicants should spend considerable hours preparing for the interview as they only get one shot at it.

During the interview rounds, recruiters and hiring managers are trying to determine whether a candidate is a right fit for the company, team, job or not. The key to succeeding in interview rounds is expressing why you are the right fit for the job.

Jobseekers who lack the ability to express themselves and their abilities often panic during these rounds. However, people who are confident, calm and have the ability to express themselves often look forward to interviews. They view it as a perfect opportunity & platform to impress the interviewers and land that dream job.

Self-marketing and effective communication are key in helping one stand out during an interview. The interviewers are far more impressed with candidates who have a point of view and are willing to back them up with facts and logic, rather than those who are desperate and just looking for a job.

Are you having trouble landing interviews for jobs you apply for? Is there something that you are doing wrong?

How to Ace An Interview.

Succeeding in an interview is neither a matter of chance nor rocket science. All it requires is simple and easy steps in the right direction to enhance your success probability exponentially.

Having been on the hiring side of the interview table, it is ironical to notice how many candidates who land an interview, do not do basic homework before the discussion.

Nothing ruins your interview (and hence, impression), right at the start, more than coming across as completely ignorant, un-prepared and clueless about the company, business and their industry dynamics.

CDG once had a client, who got an interview call from a German apparel e-commerce giant while she was still based in India. All of her experience was in electrical industry's supply chain operations. When talking to her, it was painfully clear that she did no research to understand what an are the dynamics of such a business.

This was on an evening before her interview. You can make a smart guess if she made it to the next rounds of interview.

Question : Introspect and ASK yourself, are you also such a candidate?

So, what can YOU do to improve your chances of succeeding and standing out from your competition?

Well, here goes :

  • Research the company/ interviewer - Before you face the interview panel, make sure to research the company thoroughly. Look up the company on the internet and read through its latest business ventures and projects, research its financials, and scan through its website for relevant information. If you know the names of the interviewers, research them too. In front of the panelists, showcase your knowledge about their business and the challenges the business is facing. Make it a discussion about the business rather than about yourself. Propose insights and best practices from their competitors, acknowledging that its based on your limited understanding of the industry/company/business. Be sure to talk about the company, current trends in the industry, and future challenges and opportunities that might come their way. This will help you stand out, as it showcases the time, effort you have put in and your dedication and enthusiasm for the company & interview process. Talk as a business partner rather than a candidate.

  • Prepare the most commonly-asked questions - It is very common that certain questions are asked in almost every interview. Research such questions and prepare answers that include your qualifications and experience, to show how much you can contribute if you get the job. Focus on adapting the answers to combine the current challenges of the company to how you can help to address them. The questions are designed to bring out more professional information about you. The quality, depth & impact of those answers will set the tone for the rest of the interview discussion.

An easy way to practise is to do MOCK interviews with those in your network. This is why CDG always stresses the importance of a high quality diverse network for all professionals. Interesting read : Importance of professional network.

  • Be comfortable - Interviews are a formal occasion (virtually or in-person), so make sure you dress accordingly. Be well groomed and presentable. It is highly recommended to wear a suit. In the current situation, if it’s a virtual interview make sure to wear a formal shirt, well styled hair and well groomed face. Ask for water, since you will be doing most of the talking (or keep water at hand for virtual interviews). Make sure that you are comfortably seated, considering the discussion will be for about 30-60 minutes. In case of virtual rounds, make sure their is no background noise (if there is, apologise for it at the at the start & mute yourself when not speaking). Always carry writing material, copy of your CV and cover letter to ensure that you come across as prepared.

  • Weave performance as stories - A really good way to make a lasting impression on the interviewer is to integrate your answers for specific questions into personal stories. Telling stories about overcoming business challenges, on the job tasks shows the interviewers that you can apply problem solving skills to real life scenarios. ‘Stories’ here refer to instances in your life and real-life examples, which can help showcase your contribution to different projects and tasks in the workplace. Additionally, this creates a connection with the interviewer, adds another layer to your personality, and shows the interviewer that you haven’t just read up on the generic answers.

You will be surprised how many times the interview panel will identify with these stories, since they have been through same situations too. In a very optimistic scenario, it might be that you tell them a technique or approach used, which is exactly what they are looking for. You think they will still reject you from the interview?

  • Be humble - Interviews are NOT ABOUT YOU. They are about the VALUE, skills and experience you bring to the table. Those candidates who keep harping on about themselves are immediately red-flagged and rejected. While interviews certainly entail showing off your merit and achievements, there is a thin line between confidently talking about your achievements and coming across as a show off. Interviews are about connecting with the panel, as much as they are about your technical capabilities. This is even more important in Germany, where candidates are often introduced to their prospective teammates. The team member's feedback is critical in your final hiring decision. Always make sure to exhibit a positive and professional attitude. People who come off as unpleasant to work with are almost instantly rejected. (None of this implies that you take on a fake personality just for the sake of an interview. The focus is to be authentic and professional during the process)

  • Ask meaningful questions - Most the candidates view the interview as a one-sided discussion. Due to this, and the desperation for a job, most of them do not ask any questions. This is more pronounced in the current environment, due to the tough hiring market. However, asking relevant questions shows off your personality, ownership, and commitment, as well as your zeal and enthusiasm towards the job. Showing a backbone during an interview (or any real life negotiation for that matter), actually creates a much better and deeper impression on the other side. Candidates asking the meaningful, thought provoking questions are often welcomed by hiring managers. For example, ask questions such as -

  1. What are the biggest business challenges the team focuses on?

  2. What are the key pain points within the team/role?

  3. What is the working relation with other teams/departments?

  4. What is the career growth path of those hired for this role?

  5. Why did the position become available- was the last person promoted/ asked to leave, or did they quit? WHY did they leave or quit (salary, career growth, management issues?)

  • Patience - As much as enthusiasm can impress an interviewer, desperation on the part of the applicant is seen as a major red flag. It is important that one stays patient and calm as 2-4 weeks can often lapse between interview rounds, since these processes take time. During these periods of waiting, DO NOT spam the HR or the hiring manager with calls, messages, and emails, asking for updates. The wait can seem excruciating, but repeatedly pestering the company creates an unpleasant impression. A way to minimize this uneasiness is by discussing this during your interview - ask the interviewer how long the hiring process typically takes. Enquire whether you can follow up with them, and how (E-mail/ call) you can do so. When you do follow up with them, instead of being aggressive/desperate, ask whether there are any other questions you can answer for them.

  • Always send a ‘thank you’ note - After every interview, make it a habit to follow up with the interviewers, HR and thank them. This gesture goes a long way and gives the interviewers something to remember you by.

Interviews can be demanding and require an ample amount of preparation. However, on the flip side, if you understand these basic fundamentals and stick to your guns, you will discover that interviews are a great opportunity for you to show the interviewers what a dedicated, hard-working, and unique professional you are.

It always helps to have a mentor, who has worked and lived in Germany for some of the best brands. For personal consultation with Arun Mahajan, book a time with him.

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