Entering a new workplace is daunting, and even the most powerful businesspeople recall at least one awkward job interview from their early days. For interviews, practice makes perfect – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t read up on some key skills to give you an advantage on your competition.
Than Thanaren and Nuon Chanthou, professionals from human resources consultancy Saint Blanquat & A., deal with job seekers every day. In the search for a cheat sheet to the interview process, we asked them for some tips. We also got the opinion of Sok Naty, head of human resources at a large pharmaceutical company, giving us the employer’s perspective on hiring and firing.
The first and most important thing to do before an interview is preparation: Make sure you research the company, the job requirements, and think about what you can bring to the workplace. The reason is quite simple: “If someone is prepared, they don’t look silly. You can feel if people don’t prepare. Some don’t even read the job description – just the title!” says Thanaren. “The candidate needs to be able to find the address, and make sure they know where they’re going so they arrive on time,” adds Chanthou. “Come a bit earlier to be ready and organised, so that the interviewer feels the candidate is really interested.”
Everyone agreed that your appearance says a lot about you as a candidate. Smart and clean is always good, but “it depends on the industry – someone who works in fashion or creative industries has to dress with character. Hospitality and construction, it would be different: overdressing is bad for hands-on jobs. Their clothes have to fit the environment,” says Thanaren.
Being well presented and prepared helps candidates relax, which is perfect: the interviewer wants to feel warmth and genuine personality shine through in the interview. “The first impression is the most important. If I have a good first impression the interview usually goes well. The candidate must always be smiley, friendly and make eye contact,” says Chanthou. Attitude can make or break an entry level candidate: “We’ll give young people with no experience a chance if they have a good personality that fits. Everyone starts somewhere,” says Thanaren.
A person’s attitude is very important, agrees Naty, but he also tends to look for a demonstration of critical ability during the interview. “We look for attitude, integrity, lateral thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills,” he says. So make sure you’re prepared for some left field topics.
There’s a fine balance when it comes to confidence; some candidates can go too far. “I don’t like over-confidence, and people who don’t listen,” says Thanaren. “In a job we all work together. I can tell if people are reliable or not after an hour. Sometimes you can tell if people can only do 10% of what they say.” Nervous over-talking is a danger too. “Some candidates have a bad tendency of not providing direct, concise information and go round in circles,” says Naty.
There are the right questions to ask in an interview – and the wrong ones. “Asking when they will get feedback is good, and questions that make people sound interested in the position. But too many questions about salary and whether they’re really qualified aren’t good at all,” Chanthou says. Naty agrees: “If they think a lot about pay, we doubt their commitment and how far they can go, and how much extra effort they can give to the company.”
If a tricky question surprises you, don’t panic, Thanaren says. “Say that personally you don’t know the answer, but you’re going to find out and get back to them.” If asked about their weaknesses, interviewees should “state some clearly and say how they can improve. If they know they can show achievement in overcoming their flaws – and can show a precise example of this – they’re a strong candidate. If people don’t know or understand their weaknesses, they can’t do their job well,” according to Naty.
Chanthou advises on finishing the interview on a high note. “Thank the interviewer for their time. Show confidence. Have the appropriate goodbye greeting so the interviewer feels warmly towards them afterward. One or two days later, call or email to follow up it up – that gives you an advantage and shows you’re committed.”
Text by Eve Watling | Illustration by Cedrick Ragel