The 10 Commandments of Interviewing
How you interview can make or break your shot at an excellent job opportunity. Take the advice of our expert guest blogger to get it right the first time and secure a coveted role in a competitive job market.
According to a recent World Bank report published early this year, one in every five Kenyan youth of working age has no job. The report further indicated that in a country where the total working-age population is estimated to be 25.5 million people, youth unemployment is estimated to be 17.3 per cent.
According to the World Bank economist Apurva Sanghi, the unemployment problem is compounded by the fact that Kenya’s ability to create new jobs has lagged behind population growth, resulting in narrow formal opportunities, especially for entry-level workers from college.
Other unemployment causes highlighted in the report are the lack of a quality and innovation-driven education system that is aligned with market needs as well a not-so-generous government that fails to provide a conducive business environment for private companies to thrive and create jobs.
The same World Bank report indicates that unemployment has been supported by the view among companies that fresh graduates lack specialized skills and experience needed to apply themselves in the job market. While there may be no jobs, the question is if young people are armed with the requirements necessary for the few opportunities available.
My experience as a youth practitioner and a professional business developer who has been involved in a number of youth projects has shown me that a vast majority of youth, despite possessing high qualifications, are not employable.
As such, my advice to the job seekers is to adhere to these simple ‘10 interviewing commandments.’
Be original and authentic
Never forward your resume from the previous application you made. Always initiate a new email correspondence for every application you do. No one needs to see how many other applications you have made and to whom. Structure a brief introduction and attach your documents as required.
Be knowledgeable about the institution of interest
It inspires confidence in the interviewer if you demonstrate that you understand their company and what they do. This gives you an edge to reason out what value you will bring on board. The ‘I don’t know’ answer in an interview is not only careless but rude.
Be formal and official
Language is key throughout the job hunting process. As such, ensure that you are formal in how you write and speak. Avoid slang and short forms like ‘coz’, ‘b4’, ‘esp’, ‘pple’, etc. Not everyone understands what you say. Distinguish between your WhatsApp chats with official business conversations.
Be thorough in your application
There is nothing that switches off the attention and interest of the HR professionals who review resumes like a poorly written application. Always proofread and edit the tenses. Your language and tone must be valid, modest, decent and never authoritative. You must demonstrate your competences without nagging or sounding desperate.
You must possess soft skills
Arm yourself with simple soft skills like punctuality and office etiquette. Not every employer will have the patience to train you to write an email or introduction letter.
Whether you walk, ride or drive to an interview, take time to the organise yourself before entering the interview room. Be at the interview venue early enough to ‘wipe your sweat’, dust off your shoes and dispose off your chewing gum. Never enter the interview room chewing or with a cap on or hands in your pockets. Organise your set of documents too.
Be respectful and disciplined
Discipline is not only what you say but also how you conduct yourself. There are basic manners that you must demonstrate in public, especially in the vicinity of your interview venue. Applying makeup and polishing your shoes at the reception of your interview venue will surely discredit you. Avoid getting too engrossed in your phone, too.
Be smart and decent
Unless you are showing up for an interview as a night club attendant, don’t wear your crop-top and handkerchief dresses. Downsize on your metallic ornaments and rings on your tongue, nose, cheeks, etc. Avoid turning up for an interview with multi-coloured braids, too. You are to be an executive who will formally interact with clients. Guys, keep off your tight trousers, caps and open chests.
Be relaxed and practice good hygiene
Confidence during an interview is key. To cultivate confidence, avoid holding your hands below the table and maintain eye contact with the panelist. Having a pen and a notebook will help you concentrate and overcome tension by scribbling simple notes, questions and, importantly, the names of your interviewers. If you are a smoker, avoid attending an interview smelling cigarettes or alcohol.
You must think and ask questions.
You can expect to be asked questions you may not know the answer to, so you must be ready to think fast and offer feedback. Always ask them to repeat questions if you couldn’t hear them the first time or didn’t understand it. Preferably, paraphrase the question to assess if you got it right. This also gives you time to process and organise your response.
If possible, once you realize the interview is coming to a close and even before they offer you the opportunity, hijack the opportunity to ask the panelist questions. However, ensure that your question is in line with the nature of business or operations of the company.
Submitted by Ndereba Mwangi, a professional business developer working to provide software and systems integration to the financial sector in over 23 countries in Africa. Ndereba is also involved with youth programmes that build the capacity of the young people through institutions such as UNESCO, UNCTAD and government agencies. He also volunteers as the coordinator of the Economic Management Pillar under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism – Youth Working Group, Kenya.
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