You have found the ideal job. You have prepared a killer resume and covering letter. You have applied for the ideal job, and thereafter you have secured and attended an interview with the relevant person for that job. Everything went according to plan. Surprise, surprise, you were not offered the job. What could have gone wrong? Here are some essential tips to be taken into consideration before, during and after the all-important interview.
What to do before the interview
With the advancement of information technology, potential employers may with just a click, Google and find out more about you. As such, build an online presence. Monitor your social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and the like to ensure they contain accurate as well as positive information about you. An easy way is to Google yourself on the Internet. Eliminate any disclosure of ‘too much information’ that is considered private, or worse, information which is not true or defamatory about you. Maintain a healthy level of professionalism in your social networking. Bear in mind that you are a professional. At the very least, have a LinkedIn account that states your complete work history. This will help to “promote” yourself in the job market.
Do not waste time applying for jobs that you are not qualified for. Only apply for those that match your field of study, work experience or relevant skills. Employers always state specific requirements in their job ads in order to get the most suitable candidates. Know your strengths and interests. If your interest is in the corporate commercial area, do not waste time applying for litigation practitioners’ positions. Focus on your search for your ideal job that matches your qualifications and interests. Thereafter, prepare your covering letter and resume by factoring in your relevant qualifications, skills (both soft and technical skills) and experience. This will show potential employers that you are the most suitable candidate for the job.
- Covering letter and resume
The covering letter and resume should be checked and re-checked for spelling errors, typos and grammatical mistakes. Get your facts right. It would reflect very badly on your character if a covering letter is done haphazardly with typos. A resume containing inaccurate information or typos regarding graduation date and exam result / score for a certain subject could also lead to potential misrepresentation. Do not use bullet points in a covering letter. Always use full sentences and paragraphs.
It is important to conduct any relevant in-depth research that could tell you more about the company. You have to know the company, its work, key personnel, work culture and ethics, as well as its competitors. Information may be accessible on the internet, the company’s website, press releases etc. For example, if you are applying for the position of legal executive in a public-listed company, its annual reports accessible on the Internet. Whereas if you are applying for a legal practitioner’s position in a law firm, details of the firm are obtainable on the Malaysian Bar website.
It is useful to find information related to the company’s latest business expansion abroad, change in board members, recent charity event, or an all important deal awarded to the company. In the case of a legal firm, knowledge of its latest successful corporate exercise in listing a company on the Main Board of the stock exchange may impress the person who interviews you.
List out typical questions and answers in relation to the job and yourself, and then prepare the best answers to these questions. (Visit this site to see the Top 100 Interview Questions for Lawyers.) Write them all out and keep improving on them to generate the best flow of thought and to ensure consistency throughout. This can be kept for future interview sessions as well. Be ready to highlight knowledge, skills and experience gained and how you can utilize them to contribute to the company if you are hired. Be certain of your current and future career plans. Prepare questions that you may have for the interviewers on the job and company as well. This is the best way to show your interest in the company and the job.
- Rehearse the interview session
Get someone to practise and rehearse a trial interview session with you. This helps you to be familiar with your answers. You could also rehearse in front of a mirror to see your facial expressions as well as your body language. Practise the scenario as many times as possible to cultivate self-confidence. Rehearse what you are going to say to avoid sounding like you are reading straight out from a prepared speech. Ensure fluency and clarity. Lawyers, or lawyer-wanabes, are by nature, ozzing with self-confidence. It is important not to sound over-confident to the extent of being arrogant or rude.
- Confirmation of interview
It is advisable to re-confirm the interview session with the relevant person in charge at least one day before the scheduled interview, ie date, time, venue, interviewer’s name and contact details. Certain companies do not require photocopies of relevant certificates. Check on what the necessary documents you have to bring. To be on the safe side, bring at least two extra sets of the covering letter and resume (one for yourself and the other for the interviewer).
During the interview
Dress in work attire which is formal and neat. Avoid colours that are too bright or clothes that are too tight or revealing. Generally, a handsome coat or blazer, or a nice jacket for the ladies to pair with, will make a professional impression. For litigation practitioners, the best attire would be court attire (minus the robe, please). Make sure you are well groomed, with tidy hair, trimmed fingernails and fresh breath. There is no reason to under-dress yourself (wearing jeans or slippers), but do not wear perfume or cologne that is too overpowering, or wear too much makeup. Project an image which you want your future bosses and colleagues to recognize you by.
Find out the necessary logistics on how to get to the interview venue, how long you will take to reach there, and where to park your car. If you are taking public transportation, prepare the necessary cab fare or loose change to avoid any possible delay. Make sure you arrive at the interview venue at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time. Avoid arriving too early as well, as it may project an image of not being professional or bad time management. Have time for yourself to collect your thoughts and relax for the interview. If you will be slightly late for the appointment, make sure the relevant person, that is, the HR manager or the interviewer, is notified, and also indicate your estimated arrival time.
Smile, offer a firm handshake (it should be strong and forthright, and last as long as the interviewer hold your hand), introduce yourself by pronouncing your name clearly, make eye contact with the interviewer and maintain eye contact when addressing any question or answer. Do not interrupt the interviewer when he or she is speaking.
Present yourself confidently and be alert at all times. Do not slough in your chair. Sit up straight by leaning your body slightly bent forward. Turn off you mobile phone or put it in the silent mode. Do not check any incoming call or any text message during the interview.
Speak with clear intonation. Do not swear. Avoid slang and local dialects (unless the interviewer initiates it otherwise. Even so, keep it to a minimum). By all means, do not fake a foreign accent. Be yourself. Still, remember to smile and maintain eye contact.
Bring a pen and notebook or a piece of paper to take notes. Jot down useful information shared by the interviewers. It shows your interest in the company and, more importantly, it shows you are interested in what the interviewer is telling you. Write down questions that you may have as the interview progresses. Normally you will be asked if you have any questions towards the end of the interview. Make sure you have your pen and paper ready before the interview starts, and not fumbling them helplessly from your bag/briefcase during the interview.
Do not bring up monetary/remuneration issues like salary, benefits, company trips, overtime pay and the like during the first interview unless the interviewer raisesthem. Mentioning these issues prematurely will reflect negatively that you are valuing monetary benefits rather than what the job could offer, ie learning curve, professional guidance or career advancement. Take the opportunity to express your willingness to work hard and long hours in order to get a job done. Do not indicate a figure for salary straight away. When asked about this, indicate that you are interested in evaluating the entire package on what the job could offer, rather than salary alone.
Do not bad-mouth your previous employer, colleagues or company. Any grudge or frustration over the previous employment should not be brought up. Indicate that you are looking for a different working culture, fresh aspect of work or a more suitable working environment. If you were laid off or terminated from your previous employment, do not appear weak or apologetic. Be confident of your abilities. You do not have to elaborate in detail about the termination. Prepare a list of references from the company that terminated you if possible or from other previous employers that could prove you are a solid performer.
Never ever lie about your qualifications and work experience. Be honest about what you have done in your previous employments. If you have not done a certain aspect of work, own up to it honestly, but indicate that based on your related work experience, you will be able to pick it up in a short period of time if you are given the opportunity. If you are not comfortable to discuss certain private issues like family history, tell the interviewer politely that you like to keep certain matters confidential. Also reassurehim/her that your family issues will not in any way affect your work performance.
Close the interview by expressing your keen interest in joining the company and making a positive contribution to it Sound genuine and keen without being desperate, no matter how zealous you are. Enquire about your capability to take up this job, and the possible time to get any feedback from the company. This will give you a general idea of whether you have made a good first impression and be well on your way in securing this job.
After the interview
Drop a thank-you note to the interviewer by email. Thank him/her for the time spent on interviewing you. (You do have all their name cards during the interview, right?). Or take it a step further by sending a hand-written note. Be sure to reiterate your keen interest in joining the company and put in one killer point on how you can contribute to the company if you are given the opportunity.
Bear in mind that hiring managers are most likely busy people with a lot of tasks at hand, juggling vacancies in the company, arranging interview dates, short-listing suitable candidates and so on. Though it is polite to follow up, do not bug them with consistent email or phone calls. Be patient as the hiring process can take a while. Annoying the hiring manager is the last thing that you want to get yourself into.
On a final note, there is no such thing as being over-prepared for an interview. It is worthwhile to make careful preparation in the hope of securing a dream job. Even if you fail at one or two interviews (who doesn’t?), do not be discouraged. Move on, knowing that you are well geared for the next interview.
This article is written by Tan Ai Nin, a legal recruitment consultant ineLawyer.com.my. eLawyer Recruitment Service specializes in assisting law firms and corporations in the recruitment of legal talents.
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