I finally got the invitation mail for an interview in 2016 after sending out too many applications. I was too excited! I was to meet with the CEO of the organization.
I made sure I practiced a lot before the interview. On the day of the interview, I got to the location and began to wait for the CEO to arrive. And so, the ‘kata kata’ began! First, it took the CEO 4hrs to arrive. When she finally came, I was called into her office and sent back three times.
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When we finally started, the questions I expected began, until the question I didn’t expect rolled in: ‘what are the 10 things you know about my state’ ‘can you work on the weekends” In my mind, I was like ‘ah ah, how dis wan tek concern this interview’. I was angry and shocked at the same time, no practice could have prepared me for that question, and of course, I didn’t get the job.
To be completely honest, I don’t think interviews are a true test of competency. You have to be selected as the best candidate from a pool of people who might be just as competent or even more competent than you are. Not to mention that the interviewer(s) will choose to work with you based on their own personal bias; this can be shared orientation, religion, mindset, or values. My first interview sessions were the worst! I would practice in front of the mirror countless times and then when I get in front of the interviewer, I become shaky and forget everything. Of course, I wouldn’t land the role because of anxiety.
This described me too much because I have never had an outgoing or expressive personality which partly made me always struggle with interviews. But over time, I have learned how to ace interviews despite not being so ‘outgoing’.
The real secret about acing an interview is to have the right knowledge of the problem that the company is trying to solve by opening the role, come up with a unique solution through research and brainstorming with friends or people in that similar field; analyzing your competency and aligning it with it how to solve the problem. When you have these points together, then you:
Anticipate the questions: If it is your first time being at an interview, try to research the questions that you might be asked. The general questions can be about talking through your skills and competencies with your past experiences or talking about your strengths and weaknesses. But for specifically skilled roles, try to anticipate questions based on specific skills related to the role. This could be leadership, managing failure, or documentation, and think through the experiences you want to share in reference to these skills. Even though you do not really have job experience, you can share experiences from school to show that you have these skills. If you are given a question you did not anticipate, simply say, ‘that’s a really good question, I have never been asked that question before, please give me a minute to gather my thoughts while we move on with other questions you have for me”. It will give you time to think of what to say.
Storify your answers: People have emotions, they can connect to real-life scenarios. So, for each question, present a scenario that is relatable. You necessarily do not need to have experienced this around the workplace, a lot of the time, interviewers just want to check your personality fit as much as your skillset.
Read the room: Because you will always be interviewed by different individuals, it is important to know who is talking to you. For example, if you are speaking with a person who is an ‘officer’, tendencies are that they will want to hear more about your expertise in terms of your daily routine work but if you are talking to a director, then they will be looking out for what strategies you have to improve what is existing as the routine.
Speak the language: Every sector has its language, and your competency will be judged based on how you use this language. If you are working in international development for example, then words like transformational change, unlocking potential, realizing shared goals, mainstreaming, emerging approach, and behavioral change are your best friends. This might not apply on a general scale, but it will put you a step further if you speak with the words that your interviewers like to hear.
It took me a while before I got to master these steps but practice does make perfect! I hope you ace the next interview!
Rachel Ewere Ogunlana is a communications specialist with about 10 years of experience. When she is not working, she is writing or simply loving the air with a book in her hand. Follow her on twitter @rachelogunlana