A job interview is one of the most common tools used for staff selection and assessment. The purpose of the job interview is to get a reliable evaluation of applicant’s appropriateness for the job s/he is applying for. There are no universally good or bad applicants; there are only suitable and unsuitable applicants for each specific vacancy.
Typically, each applicant is evaluated by three standard criteria:
- Whether s/he fits for the job (has abilities, knowledge, and experience)
- Applicant’s motivation and stability for the future job
- Applicant’s personal traits and suitability for employer’s corporate culture (will the applicant fit in with the organisation’s corporate culture, will s/he be able to accept the principles and standards of conduct of the organisation, etc.)
Job interview milestones – what to focus on?
- First meeting
Your first words, how confident you are in walking and a handshake, your posture and gestures – all these facilitate the establishment of contact. Do not forget that you should tune yourself into positive attitude beforehand. Maintain eye contact during conversation. You should have benevolent, open look in the eyes expressing interest and comprehension.
- Applicant’s self-presentation
The employer checks your professional knowledge, experience and attitude to work, as well as your business and personal traits. In a way, this is an exam where the employer, while talking to you, identifies for him/herself the level of your expertise. Use your “homework”. Try to convince him/her that you are the one s/he needs: keep to the point drawing on facts because your knowledge, level of your professional skills development and other personal data are easy to check.
- Answering questions
The employer evaluates your potential: professionalism, stress resistance, readiness to do specific work, and tries to figure out your demands regarding working conditions and salary. Your answers to employer’s questions must be precise and clear, and you should ask questions related to your future work. Demonstrate to your conversation partner that you are listening to him/her with great interest. Ask clarifying questions, nod where appropriate. Answer in complete sentences and try to give extensive answers.
The employer describes the job functions to an applicant. S/he is interested why do you want to work in this particular company. If the employer expressly stops at the subject of the job, internal rules and regulations, code of conduct of the organisation, it may evidence that s/he is inclined to make a decision in your favour.
- Ending the interview
The employer can end the conversation both with an offer to write an employment application, and by suggesting you to wait for the decision for some time, or s/he will turn you away as an applicant. Whatever is the job interview outcome thank the employer for the time spent.
Emotional background of a job interview
Even before the job interview the applicant feels the whole range of emotions, and his/her emotional experience can be broken down into several different stages:
The first stage is called “Emotional situation“, and it determines the perception of reality, the choice of decisions made and memorising.
Emotional situation can be external:
- Applicant’s self-presentation, answers, and behaviour
- Assessment of his/her appearance, manners/confidence in speech
- Logic answers, quick-wittedness, fitness for the position
- Applicant’s fears
- Physiological responses of his/her body
- Panic and stress
During the second stage, “Attention”, the applicant pays attention only to some aspects of the situation that s/he is in. At this stage, the applicant is focused on his/her wish to successfully pass the job interview, which can hinder him/her from picking up the signals of interviewer’s denial, discontent, and doubts.
At the third stage, “Appraisal of the event”, the applicant’s brain evaluates the situation as:
- Threatening – if an applicant feels fear, stress or panic. This, mainly, happens due to being in a state of ambivalence and uncertainty (fits or does not fit for the job)
- Awarding – if an applicant realises that the interviewer likes him/her and is very keen on
At the fourth stage, “Response”, the cascade of events leads to changes in physiology:
- Freeze response
- Physiology – elevated heart rate, increased perspiration, skin flushing, increased breathing
7 ways to regulate emotions during job interview:
- Label your emotional state.
2. Situation selection – choose the behaviour strategy even before the job interview:
- Make a list of expectable questions and prepare several answer options. Deliberately prepare to discuss the remuneration topic.
- Make sure to prepare the questions that you will ask if offered such an opportunity.
- Prepare to give the names and phone numbers of your references but do not forget to agree on this with them beforehand.
3. Situation modification
- Find the exact location of the organisation and how to get there, in this case, you will not be late. Even better to visit this place beforehand.
- Make sure to collect the information about the organisation you want to work for, about the interviewers and the job you are applying for.
- Master your answers to the most obvious questions in the form of a job interview rehearsal.
4. Attention deployment
- Shift your attention from own internal state to external environment.
- Focus on the condition of your successful experience of having an interview.
- Focus on positive feelings from having a job offer.
5. Cognitive change
- Reappraise and reinterpret – this experience seems invaluable for the future irrespective of the interview outcome.
- Distance self – in this situation you are just an observer.
6. Response modification
- When in the office try to be polite and patient with everyone.
- Enhance positive expression – smile more, express confidence, smile even when you are angry.
- Listen attentively. Follow the track of conversation defined by the interviewer.
- If you are not sure that understood the question right do not be ashamed to clarify (“Please, confirm that I understood you correctly that…”).
- Finishing the interview thank the interviewer for attention.
7. Shape the expectations properly:
- Analyse your positive and cognitive experience from previous job interviews. In this, it is essential to be honest and not to carry the optimism too far or show unrealistic expectations.
- Prepare yourself for possible refusal. With proper attitude, the refusal will not unsettle you.
The job interview not only checks the compliance of information in your CV but briefly evaluates your professional knowledge. Getting a job in many ways depends on how the first face-to-face meeting with an employer goes. If you can present a positive self-image the chances for employment will multiply even if your CV does not ideally fit for the vacancy. Your objective is to conduct the interview in such a way that when you leave the employer must have a feeling that s/he cannot manage the work without you.
Oksana Novojenina is a neuromanagement and HRM consultant. This article was first published by The Business Lounge magazine, Issue January 2018 #01