THE JOB INTERVIEW
A. PREPARATION BEFOREHAND
1 Getting information about the company/organisation
Most interviewers will ask you what you know about their
organisation and also why you would like to join them. If
you have done enough research prior to the interview,
these should be easy questions to answer
1.1 How and where do I obtain information about companies?
? Most companies will send you some company information
if you phone and ask for brochures, annual reports or
other information. These documents can help you to
evaluate a company’s performance by looking at areas
such as the chairman’s report, financial statements and
the accountant’s report.
Company information is also obtainable from:
? The NMMU Student Counselling, Career and
? The Career Resource Centres at the NMMU Student
Counselling, Career and Development Services on the
? University and public libraries.
The business sections often have informative articles on
companies, new products or latest achievements. In the
‘employment advertised ‘ section you will be able to get an
idea of which companies offer the sort of employment
opportunities related to your field of study.
? The Internet
Many companies have a website that will give you current information on the company.
? Company talks on campus
Attending the talks that companies give on campus can be a useful way of finding out more about a company. These presentations are advertised via e-mail throughout the year, especially from July to September. At these talks there is often an opportunity to ask questions. They also provide an opportunity to network.
? Friends and acquaintances
Get the help from people you know to make contact with relevant employees who work at organisations/ companies in which you are interested This is a good way to find out more about the company /organisation and its corporate culture..
? Informational Interviews
This involves arranging an appointment with someone in an organization for the purpose of gathering information. Make sure that you have read up about the company before this interview so as to avoid asking questions that are in print somewhere. These interviews will provide you with valuable insights in terms of what it is like to work in that company.
? Company Exhibitions
Local companies and organizations often participate in Trade Fairs, where they exhibit their products and services. Such events can give you an idea of the different brands in a particular product field and provide you with an opportunity to compare companies. Furthermore such events can provide the opportunity for you to determine the core business of your target companies.
? Vacation work
This is a key part of researching companies. Vacation work enables you to really experience the working
environment and to compare your skills, knowledge and values to those required in the company. Use your
vacation work opportunities to learn as much as you can about a company and volunteer for tasks that will provide you with broad view of the sort of projects that are
? Volunteer work
This involves offering your services, without pay, for a brief, limited period of time. This can also be a useful way of expanding your network of contacts
? Contact with professional bodies/ associations
Professional bodies often offer lectures and seminars for members on topics of importance in that profession.
Attending such events as a student member can provide you with insight into leading organizations in your field and their areas of specialization
1.2 What sort of information should I be finding out?
? Where the company is located- head office and branches.
? Whether the company is local, national or international ? The size of the company/ organization
? What their main products or services are
? Whether they have recently launched any new products or services
? The history of the company
? The key role-players in the organization e.g. CEO ? Who their main competitors are
? What sort of work is done at that company
? What the prevalent corporate culture of the organization is e.g. work atmosphere, internal relations.
Researching organizations allows you to identify the differences between them. Your knowledge of the
organisation will enable you to show the interviewer that
you have done your homework, that you have come
prepared, have taken initiative and that you are enthusiastic.
Company information places you in a position to be able to specify the extent to which your unique qualities, skills and qualifications and experience are in line with what is required by the company. You are also better equipped to ask intelligent and informed questions.
2 Find out who is going to interview you
It could be one individual or a panel interview conducted by several people. This could take place face-to face or via video conferencing or a telephone interview. Take your CV and your portfolio (which provide evidence of your work and the skills you have developed.) to the interview.
3 Find out where the interview is to take place, what
time and how you will get there
Get clear directions. Determine how long it will take you to
get there and allow extra time, especially if you are making use of public transport. It is very important that you are not late for the interview.
4 Be prepared for the types of questions the interviewer
Carefully consider the best way to structure your answers. If you have prepared properly, you will be in a better position to answer questions, especially those that require quick thinking in a stressful situation. (Refer to pamphlet number 8 published by Student Counselling, Career and Development Services entitled Questions in job
5 Prepare to dress appropriately
It is important that you look professional and are clean,
neat and well-groomed. Unruly hair should be neatly tied
? A suit is optional, but if you decide on this, preferably
wear a dark shade.
? Smart, tailored trousers (not jeans) and jacket are also
? Wear a long-sleeved shirt and a tie.
? Smart shoes (not tackies) with dark socks .
? Skirt (knee length and not short or clingy) or
? A jacket or smart blouse/shirt (no plunging necklines)
? Long, flowing garments should be reserved for
? Avoid shawls and capes. Tying a jersey around your
hips is taboo.
? Wear medium-heeled, smart shoes or smart sandals
(no tackies /sneakers)
? Apply make-up tastefully and with moderation. .
B BEHAVIOUR DURING THE INTERVIEW
1 At the start of an interview introduce yourself, shake the
interviewer’s hand and wait to be offered a seat.
2 Pay attention to your body language.
Nonverbal communication is 90% of the total message
conveyed. What we convey with our bodies often speaks
louder than our words. You can use body language to your
advantage in the interview situation.
Here are some tips:
? Sit upright and lean slightly forward in your chair
(indicates interest and attention); ? Do not slouch. Try not to fidget or shift around in
? Smile (indicates you are friendly, alert and co-
? Make eye-contact frequently with the interviewer
(conveys confidence, co-operation, empathy) ? Pay attention to your tone of voice - loud enough, but
not too loud. A strong voice conveys confidence. ? Take your time to answer questions - this will prevent
you from providing a poor answer. ? Speak clearly and thoughtfully - be sure to speak at an
appropriate volume and do not speak too quickly. ? Sit facing the interviewer (conveys attention and
? Nod your head from time to time (indicates that you
understand and are paying attention) ? Get rid of nervous habits e.g.: smoking, chewing gum,
looking at your watch, playing with your fingers,
tapping your feet etc
C TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
1 Individual interviews
These are one-on-one.
2 Panel interviews
These days panel interviews are frequently used in the
process of selecting employees. The panel may consist of
a variety of people from the organisation, but often will
include a human resources manager, someone from
senior management, other managers/ supervisors in the
particular section/department into which the position falls
and a representative from a trade union.
Each panel member is usually assigned the task of asking
questions on a particular aspect e.g. a member may try to rattle you to see how you work under pressure. When asked a question in a panel interview, address your answer to the person who has questioned you, but include the others in your more general eye contact.
3 Sequential interviews
It is also possible to have a series of on-on-one interviews with two or more people from the organization. All these people can ask you the same questions. Do not complain that you have already answered the question before. Treat each interviewing session as something new and
approach it with a positive and enthusiastic attitude, remembering that all the interviewers will compare their impressions of you.
4 Plant visits
The plant or office visit is designed to see whether you fit into the organization. It is also an opportunity for you to show interest and enthusiasm and to impress all those staff members with whom you come into contact. In your walk-about show genuine interest, ask intelligent questions, including reference to the facts you learnt when you researched the company. While on a plant visit, make use of the opportunity to gain an impression of the work atmosphere.
5 Assessment centres
This is quite a common form of selection and is used mostly by larger organizations. It generally lasts one or two days The assessment may include various team/ group and individual activities and presentations. Psychometric
testing of aptitude, personality, language and numeracy may be conducted as part of the selection process)
INTERVIEW DO’S AND DON’TS
? Agree to the interview on the date suggested by the
company unless this is absolutely impossible. If you can’t
make the suggested time, ask them to suggest an
? Research the company’s past, and its present and future
? Prepare a list of intelligent questions about the position
and the company.
? Rehearse your answers to the’ stock’ interview questions,
but don’t recite your answers word for word so that they
sound as though you have learnt them by heart. ? Arrive on time.
? Dress simply, neatly and elegantly.
? Make certified copies of relevant personal documents
such as degree certificates.. and update and revise your
portfolio, if you have one, to take with you. ? Smile and be pleasant.
? Establish eye-contact with the interviewer and maintain it
throughout the interview.
? Pay attention to what the interviewer says.
? Answer questions honestly and fully.
? Speak slowly and clearly.
? Be positive about your future.
? Show confidence in your abilities.
? Ask the pertinent questions you have prepared.
? Co-operate when asked to undergo tests.
? Treat all subsequent interviews like the first one.
? Consult pamphlet number 8: Questions in the interview.
(Available from Student Counselling, Career and
? Send a short letter or e-mail to express your thanks for
having the opportunity to attend the interview and re-
iterate your interest in the job.
Don’t: ? Party the night before the interview and arrive bleary-eyed. ? Arrive laden with shopping, or take anyone else along for
moral support. ? Have a drink on the way there to steady your nerves. ? Smoke.
? Engage in irritating mannerisms.
? Interrupt the interviewer.
? Gush or giggle.
? Be passive.
? Gossip about your current employer or criticize your
former boss. ? Linger when the interview is over.
? Push the interviewer for a decision.
? Become aggressive if you are not offered the job. ? Pester the interviewer with telephone calls afterwards. ? Accept tea or coffee. Politely decline. You will thereby
avoid the embarrassment of upsetting your cup in a
moment of nervous agitation!
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