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I have attended countless interviews and I have also conducted countless interviews. Sadly enough, many people do not follow the basic etiquette when they come to the interview, and these mistakes cost them an opportunity to get a job.

Through this article, I hope to give some helpful tips to those individuals who are unsure about handling interviews or who have not been able to land their dream job yet.

Preparation Tips

These tips should help you prepare ahead of your interview:

  • Learn about the company – Before you attend any interview, you should do a thorough research on the company for which you are attending the interview. You don’t want to appear ignorant about the kind of business the company does.
  • Understand the job opening – You should get a basic understanding of the role for which you are being interviewed. You need not know all the details, but you do need to know if your experience is suitable for the opening and whether your skills would prove useful.
  • Update your resume – Depending on the job opening, you may want to highlight those skill sets that are required to be successful for the role for which you are being interviewed. An interviewer usually scans resumes, and if you place the most relevant information at the beginning, it will immediately make the interviewer more interested in you. Also, ensure that your resume does not contain any typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors (since I come from the technical writing field, whenever I see poor language editing in a candidate’s resume, I immediately place the resume in the reject pile). Your resume should be neatly typed, arranged chronologically with your most recent experience at the beginning, and should not contain any errors. And, you should NEVER falsify any information in your resume. Why? Because, in case you are given an offer and you decide to accept, the company will most probably conduct a background check on you and if anything does not match with your resume, the offer stands nullified. And you are also blacklisted by the HR team. Forever.
  • Refresh your memory – If you have been out of touch with certain technical concepts or tools, go ahead and refresh your knowledge so that you can answer the questions confidently.

Basic Etiquette on Interview Day

  • Be on time – Unfortunately, although this seems to be a very basic etiquette, many interview candidates fail to follow it. Believe me, as an interviewer, it makes me very irritated when an interview candidate does not show respect for other people’s time.
  • Dress smart – Wear neatly-pressed clothes. Do not wear casual attire (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, floaters, etc). Make sure you take a shower and you comb your hair. Unless you are the next Einstein and you already have made a name for yourself (in which case you shouldn’t be reading this article!), an interviewer would get the wrong impression about you.
  • Bring your resume copy – I remember one instance when a candidate came in for a walk-in interview without a copy of her resume. When questioned, she said that she was environment-conscious and did not want to increase the carbon footprint (noble thoughts, but not a great excuse!). Well, all I can say is that her footprint did not reach the interview room! So, make sure you bring a copy so that the interviewer can use it as reference during the interview.

Handling Questions during the Interview

  • Gauge your interviewer – Some interviewers do not smile and seem very distant. Some interviewers are very stern and at times, rude. And some are very friendly and make you feel instantly comfortable. Although you do not need to hide the person you are, ensure that you do not make your interviewer uncomfortable by being either too obnoxious or too quiet. Strike the right balance in your attitude and your responses. A smile may work wonders for you during the interview, but don’t keep on smiling all the time. Remain true to yourself.
  • Take the center seat – Whether you are being interviewed by one person or a panel, make sure that you take the center seat that allows you to face your interviewer(s) face-to-face.
  • Do not pretend – If you do not know the answer to a question, do not reply with some mumbo jumbo. Just say that you do not know the answer. And for good measure, you can say that you can find out the answer and let them know later.
  • Listen carefully – Listen to the questions carefully before replying. Do not listen to half the question, and then answer based on assumptions about the full question. You may end up making a big fool of yourself.
  • Answer to the point – Do not reply with a short story. Answer to the point. You will quickly lose the interviewer’s attention if you launch into a 1000-word reply for a simple question.
  • Do not interrupt – Do not interrupt the interviewer when he or she is talking. That’s simply bad manners. Wait for the interviewer to finish before replying.
  • Be expressive – Use hand movements to emphasize a point you are making. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Use appropriate voice intonations to be more expressive about your answers. Nothing throws off interviewers more than a monotonous, robot-like candidate.

Tips on Answering Some Common Questions

  • What are your strengths? Please don’t give answers like “I work hard,” “I am sincere,” “I am passionate about working,” or “I am intelligent.” Frankly speaking, as an interviewer, I would expect you to be all of the above or there is no point in hiring you if you don’t have even one of these qualities. And this is not a strength, this is a necessity. So, how should you answer such a question? You can talk about your in-depth understanding of a certain technology or process. You can talk about your ability to handle difficult customers or people with ease. You can talk about how you try to think differently to arrive at a better solution. Again, do not say anything that is not about you or your abilities. Be truthful.
  • What are your weaknesses? We all have areas where we are weak or where we need to improve. If you want that job, please don’t go into all your negative traits. Talk about those traits that may hamper your performance in the role for which you are being considered. Also add what corrective actions you have taken to overcome these weaknesses. For example, let’s say you are being interviewed for a sales executive role, and you are basically an introvert by nature. If you are asked this question, your response could be something on the lines of “I am an introvert by nature, but I made myself a target of meeting one new person every week to overcome this weakness, so that I can be successful at my work.”
  • Where do you see yourself in 3/5 years? Be realistic. Don’t say stuff like “I want to be the President of my country” or “I want to be the catalyst for world peace.” Don’t get me wrong – you may very well be capable of doing all these things, but from an interviewer’s perspective, your reply needs to be of relevance to the position your are applying for in the company. So, talk about your aspirations for growth within the company’s hierarchy.

Wrapping up the Interview

Usually at the end of the interview, the interviewer asks you whether you have any questions. So, here are some tips on what questions you could ask and what questions you should not ask:

Good questions:

  • Can you elaborate a little more about my role in the team? Ask this question only if the interviewer has not already explained what role you are being considered for.
  • Is there a platform within the company that encourages and promotes innovative thinking? This is a very good question to ask, but be prepared for a reverse question from the interviewer about examples of your innovative thinking.
  • Do you encourage training and skills enhancements within the organization? This is also a very good question because it implies that you are open to learning new skills and broaden your exposure.
  • Would I get opportunities to work on different technologies or the latest trends in the industry? Another great question to ask because it shows your willingness to explore new avenues.

Avoidable questions:

  • What salary can I expect? That is a question that HR will answer if you clear the technical/business round of interviews. Salary is naturally going to be one of the top questions on your mind, but that is something that has to be discussed with HR, not the technical interviewer.
  • Will I have to travel a lot for this job? This question implies that you may not be open to travel. You can always tell the interviewer that you have some personal constraints that prevent you from traveling frequently. That is fine. But you should not appear as though you are completely against travel.
  • What are the extracurricular activities that employees are active in? This looks like you have not come to work, but to entertain yourself. You don’t want to give that impression to the interviewer.

Well, I hope this article proves to be helpful to those of you who have trouble clearing interviews. It is not comprehensive, but I am sure it will be helpful. All the best for your upcoming interview!