29th April 2001
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Get interview savvy

Small Talk

By Nedra Wickremesinghe

Many professionals are constantly on the look out for better jobs. They strive to get into the right slot, preferably in a blue chip company that offers exciting and challenging careers.

Successful careers are not achieved by chance alone but by careful and clever strategic planning and job searching. Most young people are aware of the ruthless competition in the marketplace and know the value of searching for such job opportunities.

Armed with an impressive CV they put 'Operation Job Search' into motion. Whilst background research gives direction, networking forms the base to build up on contacts. Contacts can be vital at this stage and useful introductions and chance meetings with those with the right connections may even lead to a preliminary interview, and who knows, even a job opening.

For those who are on their own, and without any contacts, so to speak, they should do a comparative analysis of all such organizations, local, international, multi-national and see who offers the best opportunities, upward mobility, tempting benefits, prestige, job security and remuneration. Once your mind is made up as to what challenge to take, your next move should be to send in your resume with a covering letter, not necessarily to the personnel manager, but perhaps to the person hiring at your level and hope against hope that you will be called for an interview.

How you finally secure the job depends largely (other than your impressive CV) on how successful you are at the interview. Your professional presence must work to your advantage. Cultivate the art of marketing yourself as a true professional. It is the complete package the interviewers like to see, the visuals, your manners, the ability to get along with others, how diplomatically you handle the most awkward questions and how well informed you are about their organisation. Finally, you need to impress upon them that you look the part and that you will fit in with their management style.

Question: How best can I present myself at the job interview?

Answer: Arrive about 10 minutes early. This gives you time to regain your composure before you are called up. You should enter the room confidently for your interview and while walking in, smile and greet the interviewer by name. Maintain eye contact throughout. Sit only when you are asked to. Do not place anything on the interviewer's desk. It's advisable to keep your files on your lap. Appear positive and self-assured. Do not be verbose. You could pause before answering a difficult question. Thank the interviewer at the end of the meeting.

Question: What habits must I avoid at an interview so as not to appear ill mannered?

Answer: Do not fidget. Keep your hands off the interviewer's desk. Do not slouch when seated. Avoid stretching and moving your legs in a relaxed manner. Do not smoke even if you are offered a cigarette. Ask for water only if you get a bout of coughing.

When the interviewer asks you to speak about yourself, do not monopolize the conversation. Never be negative to gain the sympathy of the interviewer.

Question: I am just after my first baby and about to get an excellent job. I know for sure that they are going to ask me at the final interview whether I intend having more children. Certainly I would love to, but how do I respond to personal questions like that?

Answer: The interviewer may ask that question in order to find out whether your family obligations will get in the way of your career. Some, of course, may react to it differently by saying that the question is out of context and bungle the chance of getting that job. If you need the career break badly, it is best to be non- committal and just say with a smile, "I don't know".

If you have any questions on etiquette write in to: 'Small Talk' C/o The Sunday Times 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road

Colombo - 2

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