Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér
Preparation is the key to doing well at a job interview, writes journalist and author Steen Kræmer Rasmussen in a new book. Here is his useful advice in an interview with Pejling.
How do you characterise an applicant who is standing strong for the interview?
“It is an applicant who has prepared. There is nothing more annoying to the employer than an applicant who comes unprepared. It is important to look into the company and find out how it works. It is also good to know the pains and challenges they have, because when we know the company, it is easier to target the way we appear. It is no good to go in there and be yourself. The best thing to do is to be the version of yourself which is a good fit for the company,” says Steen Kræmer Rasmussen, who is answering questions from Pejling.
What does it mean to target your appearance?
“It is to think about how you will fit into the company. For instance, a company that works with semiconductors may ask what experience you have with those. Then you can target your answer to whether they are looking for someone who is strong practically or theoretically. In some cases, it might be a good idea to say: ‘I am strong when it comes to this; I worked with it during my internship’. In other cases, it might be better to say that you have looked into the theory behind it.”
Few companies show you their pains. How do you find them?
“No, I have never seen a job listing where it says that they have issues with making materials stick. A job listing is also a profile ad, which is read by investors, collaboration partners, and all kinds of people. So they won’t write their pains in neon. Therefore it is not enough to read the listing and the website. It takes a bigger effort, but then you gain a great advantage.”
What more can you do?
“At infomedia.dk you can find a goldmine of information. There are 196 million articles and TV-shows, and at the library and most education institutions, there are free subscriptions to the media archive. If there is something you wish to know, that is where to go. It can also be a good idea to call someone who used to work in the company. Or an old study buddy who may work in the business. The telephone is extremely effective, if we know whom to call, and sometimes you may even call someone you don’t know. For instance, you can call someone who has an equivalent job in a different company, and ask what the job is about and what issues they face.”
Is it acceptable to call a stranger?
“Yes, just remember to smile into your phone. You can hear it: ‘Hi, my name is this and this – I am calling because I am trying to gain some knowledge. I have a job interview for a position which is similar to yours. I am trying to find out what is good to say’. If they are busy, ask if there is a better time. But remember to smile and ask nicely: ‘What makes you good as a project leader? What do you do that you are proud of?’ Ask open-ended questions and ask them to explain in depth.”
What if you are not the open type?
“If you don’t want to talk about yourself or are introverted, you don’t have to hold back. Because even if you are introverted, you can still call and ask professional questions about, say, ball bearings. Remember that you are not calling to talk about yourself, but about something relevant to the job. People often want to talk when you show you are interested.”
What do you do with all that knowledge at the interview?
“To signal that it is a very exciting project they are doing. To say something that makes them happy, compliment them about something. And of course to tell them why you are right for the job. But in reality, the interview is not about presenting yourself. The interview should have a dialogue between equal parties. Just like they show interest in you, you should show interest in them. We would rather hire someone who has the skills to keep a conversation going than someone who just crawls. And you have to gain knowledge from the meeting as well, so you can decide if you want to work there.”
the most important tips
- Prepare – read everything you can find about the company and the people you are going to meet: online, in the press, in business media. You have to know the company and their challenges.
- Bring questions on a piece of paper. Use the questions to engage in a dialogue and ask in depth-questions. Always have a question ready for the end when they ask if you have more questions.
- Bring stories that link your experiences and results to the company’s needs and demands for the job. The stories can elaborate on what you wrote in the résumé: which work related challenges you experienced during your study, study job, or during volunteer work, and how you solved it.
The frequent questions
Before going in to a job interview, it may be a good idea to prepare answers for the most common questions. Practice saying your answers aloud, and let your answers point in one direction: you are the right one for the job.
- Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are you most proud of during your career/what is your biggest success?
- What is the biggest compliment you have received?
- What is the biggest mistake you have made?
- How do you work in a team?
- What expectations do you have for your boss?
- What experiences do you have with xxx?
- Tell us about your career so far/a conflict you have been in/a case where you were in disagreement with your colleague or boss.
Interview over phone or video
You may be asked for an interview over phone or video, especially when the employer wants to screen a large number of applicants. For this, the rules are the same as for regular interviews: prepare, and have relevant questions and stories ready.
Furthermore, you have to give a nice first impression:
- Be ready at the agreed time. Greet them nicely, and say that you are happy that they want to talk to you.
- Be prepared for small talk. You can, for instance, ask about what is happening in the business – preferably something positive.
- Smile when it is relevant and natural. This also goes for over the phone. You can tell by the voice if someone is smiling.
- Dress so that the clothes match your professional attire – even for phone interviews. If you are sharply dressed, you will feel more professional. Remember to also wear a complete outfit if you’re on a video call so it does not get embarrassing if you have to get up and get something.
- Keep your tech in check: charge your device. Make sure you have a good phone signal or WiFi. Use a buttonhole microphone or a headset so the sound is good. Test it all before the interview.